Megacolon in Cats

by candy47

Not just a simple case of constipation. My cat was diagnosed with 'megacolon' it's an enlarged colon and must be treated by a veterinarian.

I met Suzanna in April, 2001 when she ran up to me as I got out of my car in the driveway of my home. She was so skinny I could see her ribs and spine. She had bald spots all over her tiny body and open wounds that were dripping blood. We went directly to the vet, where it was determined that she was about 3 months old, and after an overnight stay at the vet, Strawberry Ling and I had a new roommate. (Strawberry wasn't happy about that at all, but that's a story for another time.)
I noticed right away that Suzanna wasn't having daily bowel movements, it was just about every other day. It took almost two months for her to get healthy and fit. She gained weight, her hair grew back, her wounds healed and she was happy and frisky. The bowel movement issue was still the same, about every other day.
Fast forward eleven years to March of 2012, that's when the bowel issue became a real problem.

This article is an account of our personal experience and is not a substitute for advice or treatment by a veterinarian.

 

Suzanna the Green Eyed Lady
Suzanna the Green Eyed Lady
photo by candy47

I Thought She Was Constipated

March 2012 Suzanna hadn't 'pooped' for 2 full days. I put a little bit of mineral oil in her food as a stool softener. I had given her mineral oil many times over the years, with positive results. I waited another day but still nothing. She stopped eating. She would lick up all the gravy around the meat in her dish, but wasn't actually eating anything. It seemed like a case of constipation, so I took her to the vet where she was given a comprehensive physical exam, an enema and a prescription for Lactulose (a stool softener.) The Lactulose did soften the stool as intended, but when the prescription ran out, she didn't return to her 'regular' routine of every other day.

Symptoms and Tests

The beginning of June 2012, Suzanna hasn’t had a bowel movement for 3 days. She’s been taking Lactulose as prescribed and an occasional dose of mineral oil, but she’s blocked. My plan was to take her to the vet when I got home from work. I went home at noon just to check on her and what I saw was a horror. My house looked like a crime scene. There was bloody feces everywhere…on the floor, the furniture, the bed. I raced around looking for her because we were going to the vet NOW! Never mind going back to work. Suzanna walked out from the closet where she was hiding and vomited blood…all blood.This visit to the vet required an overnight stay, 2 enemas, x-rays, a sedative for the enemas, a pain suppressor, a blood test, antibiotics, MiraLAX and Cisapride. The presence of blood was a result of irritation to the intestines due to the blockage of fecal matter. After the enemas were performed, the bleeding stopped.Suzanna was diagnosed with having an enlarged colon, also known as megacolon.

Signs of Megacolon

These are the signs that Suzanna displayed
  • Infrequent bowel movements

  • Straining when trying to 'go'

  • Very hard and dry stools

  • Stools are larger in diameter than usual

  • Several trips to the litter box with no results

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Megacolon

How we treated it

What Is Megacolon?
The colon is a cylindrical organ, continuous with the rectum, that is stimulated by nerves from the spinal cord to push fecal matter from the body. If the nerves do not function properly, the wall of the colon will not contract, enlarging the diameter of the colon and compromising it’s ability to push. Fecal matter will accumulate in the colon causing severe constipation or obstipation. (obstipation is an extreme form of constipation that does not respond to common treatment of constipation.) This enlargement of the colon is known as megacolon.

What Causes Megacolon?
An injury to the spinal cord can cause megacolon as well as tumors, hairballs and foreign objects. In many cases, as with Suzanna, the cause could not be determined. When the cause of the disease cannot be determined, it is known as idiopathic megacolon. The disease usually occurs in older cats.

How Is Megacolon Treated?
Surgery to remove the unresponsive section of the colon is an option but not always necessary…at least not at the onset of the condition.

A manageable approach involves a high-fiber diet, stool softeners and a colon wall stimulant. Suzanna is on the manageable approach regimen. We changed her diet and she will take medicine for the rest of her life, unless the condition worsens, then we will resort to surgery.

Suzanna’s medication is MiraLAX (over-the-counter stool softener) twice a day and Cisapride (colon wall stimulant) twice a day. Suzanna will be taking both of these for the rest of her life.

Cisapride

Cisapride is available by prescription only from a veterinarian and must be given in precise dosages and at precise times. The purpose of Cisapride is to stimulate the wall of the colon so that the muscles will contract and push fecal matter out of your cat's body avoiding constipation.

A Veterinarian Explains Megacolon

One minute video - it's worth watching

Sad News

We were managing Suzanna's megacolon with daily medication, but then in December of 2013 she was diagnosed with cancer. Suzanna passed away December 30, 2013. My Pretending to be good!heart is broken.

 

If Tears Could Build a Stairway....

In memory of your beloved pet

This is my cat Suzanna, but you can insert a picture of your beloved pet instead.  The name can be changed and so can the background color.  This ornament is completely customizable. 

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Updated: 04/27/2016, candy47
 
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candy47 on 08/02/2015

Thank you blackspanielgallery

blackspanielgallery on 08/02/2015

I had no idea of this condition, and sorry to hear your cat passed.

candy47 on 09/22/2014

Losing a pet is so difficult, they're family. I've seen a few familiar faces here from Squidoo, we're all still learning the ropes here on Wizz, but I like it!

MBC on 09/22/2014

So sorry you lost her. Nice to see a familiar face here (I came from Squidoo). I just published my first article here. The learning curve is not fun! I learned a lot from your article.

davestone13 on 08/30/2014

I hadn't heard of this either, although we've had cats with constipation problems, which we were able to resolve with stool softeners and/or a switch to 100% wet food. I found this article really enlightening.

We usually outlive our pets and seeing them go is much like seeing a child die. They are so dependent on us, so trusting, and it hurts when we can't help enough.

Terrific article, and I hope there are many more to come.

RuthCox on 08/29/2014

I had not heard of Megacolon before this and I am sure this information will be of value to many. Sad to read that cancer took Suzanna from you.

Merry on 08/29/2014

I'm so sorry you've lost your sweet cat. What a blessing she found you. You've included so much good information here. Hope it spreads the word.

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