Cats are prone to urinary tract and bowel disorders, but perhaps one of the most serious is feline megacolon. As its name suggests, this condition occurs when your cat's colon grows stretched and distended, typically due to an extended bout of constipation. Megacolon can lead to potentially fatal ruptures and backups if it isn't recognized and treated quickly, and, while other treatments may be available, surgery is often the only option to save your pet.
Recognizing the Symptoms of Megacolon
The most obvious sign that your cat is suffering from megacolon will likely be an episode of severe constipation, followed by a refusal to eat or drink water. In most cases, the constipation will persist until the problem is treated. You may notice your cat acting lethargic and or sensitive around its belly as well. Feline megacolon is diagnosed at a veterinarian's office using x-rays to examine the colon and the extent of its expansion.
Exploring Non-Surgical Options
At first, particularly if the colon has not been stretched very far, your veterinarian may try to solve the issue without surgery. This is typically accomplished through laxatives and by manually massaging the compacted stool trapped in the colon. In addition, your vet will be able to make your cat more comfortable and make sure it is not dehydrated, which can both be caused by and contribute to constipation.
Removing the Excess Colon Tissue
Unfortunately, while these remedies may provide relief for a time, they are often only useful for managing the condition instead of curing it. A subtotal colectomy is a more permanent solution, removing part of the distended colon so that waste can no longer become trapped and compacted inside it. This is a full surgery, and it can be expensive, but it is often the only way to save your cat from the eventually fatal complications of chronic constipation. The good news is that the surgery itself is relatively uncomplicated, and your pet should be back to normal following a brief recovery period.
Helping Your Cat Recover from the Surgery
For the first month or so after a colectomy, your cat may experience irregular bowel movements and be slow to get back on its feet. This is normal, but you will need to keep an eye out for signs of rare complications. If you notice that your cat is straining to defecate, refusing to eat or producing bloody stools, for example, you should return to your vet's office to check that everything is healing as planned. In most cases, cats make a full recovery and go on to lead long, productive lives, so don't wait to seek veterinary help if you have noticed your own pet straining in the litter box recently.
If you have any questions, be sure to speak with a veterinarian like those at the Coastal Carolina Animal Hospital.