Megacolon in Cats

Overview of Megacolon in Cats

Megacolon is a condition of extreme dilation and poor motility of the colon, usually combined with accumulation of fecal material and the inability to evacuate it. The majority of cases (62 percent) are “primary” or “idiopathic,” which means there is no obvious reason for the condition. Some cases are “secondary,” meaning that something has interfered with normal defecation for a prolonged period of time, causing chronic constipation, with megacolon occurring as a sequela. Recent studies have shown that cats with idiopathic megacolon have a defect in the ability of the muscle in the colon to contract.

Megacolon can occur in any age, breed, or sex of cat, however, most cases are seen in middle aged cats (average age is 5.8 years). Most cases are in males (70 percent males, 30 percent females). Megacolon can be a frustrating and difficult condition.

What to Watch For

Diagnosis of Megacolon in Cats

Megacolon is typically diagnosed based on history and physical exam finding. Determining the severity and any underlying causes requires diagnostic tests. Tests may include:

Treatment of Megacolon in Cats

Treatment for megacolon is aimed at removing the fecal matter and trying to correct any underlying causes of megacolon. Treatment may include:

Home Care and Prevention

Home care for megacolon is to maintain a proper diet and exercise. This can help the cat to eliminate feces. Also important is the administration of all prescribed medication.

If you find your cat straining excessively, vomiting or not eating, or if there is or no stool production, prompt examination and treatment by your veterinarian is recommended.

Prevention of megacolon can be difficult. Proper diet, exercise and regular grooming can help reduce the risk of constipation. Preventing constipation in cats with megacolon may require the occasional use of laxatives.

In-depth Information on Feline Megacolon

Constipation is a clinical sign characterized by absent, infrequent, or difficult defecation associated with retention of feces within the colon and rectum. In cats, the colon has evolved to serve two functions: extraction of water and electrolytes from the colon contents and to control defecation. Anything that prevents normal defecation for a prolonged period of time can lead to megacolon, which is a condition of extreme dilation of the colon with inability to expel feces.

There are a variety of conditions that lead to megacolon.

Recent research has shown that cats with idiopathic megacolon have a defect in the muscle present in the walls of the colon.

Although most cats with the disorder are brought to the veterinarian because of reduced, absent, or painful defecation ranging from days to weeks, some cats will be seen to have blood in their feces, or diarrhea. This is because the dry hard feces can irritate the lining of the colon and cause it to produce blood and excessive mucus, which can be mistaken for diarrhea. The prolonged inability to defecate can also lead to some non-specific systemic signs such as weight loss, poor or absent appetite, lethargy, and vomiting.

Diagnosing the underlying potential cause of megacolon can be difficult. Various diagnostic tests are recommended to evaluate the overall health of your cat as well as try to find an underlying cause.

Diagnosis In-depth

Therapy In-depth

The therapy for megacolon depends on several factors including the severity of the constipation and fecal impaction and the underlying cause. Initial episodes of constipation, if mild, may not need any therapy at all. Mild or moderate episodes that recur usually require some kind of treatment. There are many treatment options. The most successful therapy usually involves a combination of treatment interventions.

Follow-up Care for Cats with Megacolon

Optimal treatment for your cat requires a combination of home and professional veterinary care. Follow-up can be critical, especially if your cat does not rapidly improve. Administer all prescribed medication as directed. Alert your veterinarian if you are experience problems treating your cat.

Feed a diet high in fiber to bulk up the feces and help attract water to the stool, improving its consistency. Regular grooming is recommended, as impaction of the colon with ingested hair (as well as other foreign material) is a very common cause of constipation in the cat. Regular exercise has been found to help prevent or minimize recurrences of constipation and the occasional use of laxatives when excessively firm stool is noticed in the litter box may be helpful.