For the Constipated Cat (chs. 74-75)

For the Constipated CatUnfortunately, many cats as they get older can have problems with constipation. This can be a very frustrating problem to deal with. In some cases, if the cat gets too constipated he or she can require a hospital stay with IV fluids. In some very severe cases a cat will need an anesthetic to have some stool manually dislodged. This can be very expensive and is quite hard on the cat.

There are many different types of treatments for constipation in cats. The purpose of me writing this tip is not to tell you how to treat your cat, but instead to give you some advice on how to work with your vet to save some money while you treat this problem. My first tip is not to wait too long. If your cat is straining to defecate or has gone several days without a bowel movement then see the vet that day. If we wait too long then the treatment will be much more expensive. Sometimes if we catch things early we can get away with a single enema which is much less expensive.

It is also a good idea to have your vet do some geriatric bloodwork on your cat. Initially this will add to the expense. However, some cats can be constipated because of an underlying problem such as a kidney condition. Again, if we catch this early it will be much easier and less expensive to treat. Many vets will prescribe a medication called lactulose for your cat. This tends to work extremely well to soften the stool. It is usually much less expensive to purchase lactulose at the pharmacy than to buy it from your vet. No prescription is required to purchase this medication.
NOTE: Please do not purchase any of the medications I mention without speaking to your vet first for dosage information.

You can also ask your vet about using something called Miralax granules. These are available at the pharmacy and are not very expensive. They can be sprinkled on your catʼs food and cats tend to tolerate the taste of them better than other medications (like lactulose).

I will often use a product called a Microlax enema. This is a small container of solution that is inserted into the catʼs anus and then squeezed. If your vet needs to give repeated enemas you can ask if you can save money by buying a Microlax enema (or equivalent product) to administer at home. This is generally safe. However, if your vet feels your cat is extremely constipated or if your cat is really unwell there can be some risks involved so they may not agree to dispense the product. It is generally much less expensive to buy a single enema and administer it at home than to have a vet administer one in the hospital.


Have you seen parasites in your petʼs stool? The most common parasites are roundworms (look like spaghetti) and tapeworms (look like either rice or 1 cm long flat strips).

I had mentioned in a previous tip to stay away from the “medicine” section of the pet store. However, in many cases the over the counter medicines for roundworms and tapeworms are equally as effective.

Be sure to follow the directions. If your pet has roundworms he or she needs to be retreated 10-14 days after the initial treatment.

As a point of interest, if your pet has tapeworms these parasites come from what is called an intermediate host. This means that your pet got them either from eating an infected mouse or that your pet has had fleas. As mentioned before, pet store flea products do not tend to work well.

If your pet continues to show signs of parasites after this treatment (or if you just want to be certain) it is a good idea to have your vet check a stool sample and do some lab tests to make sure there are not other parasites present. While over the counter medicines tend to do a good job for roundworms and tapeworms they are not always as good for other parasites.

Article by Dr. Marie

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