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.