Constipated Kitty (Warning - LONG)

manda3183May 23, 2010

Hi All - I haven't been on the forum in quite awhile, but have had a scare recently and am hoping for some advice.

A couple weeks ago, on Mother's Day, I awoke at about 4am to the sound of one of my cats vomiting. I turned on the lights to discover that my elder cat (4 years) was vomiting over and over, and I began cleaning up behind her as she ran away from me. Soon, my husband awoke, and went downstairs to check on her and to look for additional messes to clean up. At this point, he found her vomiting blood and we rushed her to the emergency vet.

At the vet, they determined that she was extremely constipated. I was told that this is sometimes caused by stress. She had gotten her yearly shots earlier in the week, first time at a new vet as we moved just less than a year ago. So, I guessed that perhaps this was the cause, or at least what may have aggravated the situation. I was instructed to give her Lactulose at varying amounts and number of times per day, for the next week, and to call in a couple days with an update. We'll call the vet we saw at the emergency visit Dr. X

The vet we saw was not one of the regular vets, so when I called back I spoke with a different vet. We'll call this one Dr. Z. Dr. Z wanted me to bring my cat in for additional x-rays to see how she was doing, and I explained that I was concerned that it was the initial vet visit that set this off, and that I preferred not to bring her in unless absolutely necessary. Dr. Z informed me that cats once a cat has been put on Laculose, it is likely that they will need to take it for life.

So, a few days later I called back at night to talk to Dr. X, who agreed that I should NOT bring my pet back in due to the stress that it seems to cause her, and instructed me a regiment of lowering the dosage and intervals in which it is given to help wean my cat off of it. She did say that in many cases if a cat has problems with constipation once, that it is often a recurring problem and MAY need to be treated on a permanent basis, but that she wants it to be the least amount given as possible if at all.

So, we follow these instructions, and a few days after getting the dose to 1 small amount per day, my cat vomited 3 times. One evening, that my husband failed to inform me of, and 2 times the next morning. Now, granted, there was a lot of hair in one of these messes, so it may have just been a hairball. This particular cat has always had minor stomach issues. Just to be sure, I called the vet, and again spoke with Dr. Z., who now told me (actually, I didn't speak with the vet this time, just a receptionist relaying the vets message) to up the dose to twice a day indefinitely.

This seems a bit excessive to me, and I definitely feel like I am getting very mixed responses from the 2 vets. Dr. X truly seems to have the best intentions for my cat (and my finances) at heart. Dr. Z may well know what they are doing and also have best intentions at heart, but right from the beginning indicated a permanent fix and wanting to do X-rays on a more regular basis, which is $$$! I should point out that Dr. X is emergency vet only, and Dr. Z is a regular vet at the clinic I take my pets to.

So... I am curious who out there has had a constipated cat, what the treatment was, and how long the treatment lasted. Any additional advice would be appreciated. I am kind of unsure where to go from here... and whether I should seek advice from a vet somewhere not associated with my 24 hour clinic for another opinion.

Thank you!

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You need to find out if your cat has a megacolon. Is it stooling now?

    Bookmark   May 23, 2010 at 8:57PM
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Manda, has your cat had more regular BMs since she was put on lactulose?--you do not say.

Hairballs could be a factor.

Also, I found 'strange' that it seems to have started soon after her vaccinations--It reminds me too much of my own cat not to mention it, and it all started with vomiting and constipation, and we also had just moved. I am now very leery of (actually against) vaccinations, especially in combo.

This said, I am surprised you don't mention a diet change. If she is on a high carb dry food, and I would try to get her on a different diet. I haven't heard of lactulose as a lifetine solution.

Also, I am afraid that an X-ray might provide you with some answers (a blockage somewhere?), and I would go for it. If that does not show anything, I would go for some bloodwork. Did she have a thorough exam at the emergency room?

Best of luck to your kitty,

    Bookmark   May 24, 2010 at 6:19AM
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I am so sorry your kitty isn't feeling well. Hope she gets well soon.
As 1 of my cats became older she had some trouble with constipation. After a full axam, our vet suggested canned pumpkin on a daily basis. It was a few years ago (she has now passed :( )but I believe it was a teaspoon each day. Believe it or not, she loved it!
Good Luck and I hope your kitty feels better soon!

    Bookmark   May 24, 2010 at 8:32AM
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Boy, do I have a website for you!

Feline Constipation.Org

This website explains just about everything you might ever want or need to know about constipation in cats, including the full array of remedies and management strategies. It's a rather lengthy and heavy read, but it covers everything.

The link below is much less inclusive, but it covers the basics of constipation treatments, including lactulose. You may find it easier to start with this link:

Here is a link that might be useful: feline constipation remedies

    Bookmark   May 24, 2010 at 11:28AM
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Thanks for the information so far.

My cat HAS been having regular bowel movements since being on the lactulose, however, she did vomit again today when I got home from work, first time in a week. Otherwise, she seems fine. She is eating normally, drinking normally (not in excess, so I don't think its a kidney problem) and basically following her everyday routine.

She is on a mostly dry food diet, Innova, with occasional wet food, also Innova. She used to be on Iams, but after the big pet food scare a couple years ago, we switched her to this brand as it seems to be a better quality than most other foods out there.

The emergency vet that I spoke of is supposed to call me the next time on shift, which is tomorrow. I am going to ask her about the pumpkin. I would much rather attempt to feed my cat something she might actually want to eat than forcing meds down her throat every day...

I should point out that the vomiting had been a recurring problem since she was a kitten, but it was very periodic and the vet told me that cats vomit from everything from a hairball to eating too fast, so I don't know if the more recent is related to the constipation or not.

    Bookmark   May 24, 2010 at 7:22PM
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manda, I don't have any help to offer but just want to say that I had a cat that vomited at least 2-4X per week her entire life. It did seem to go in spurts for no reason that was apparent. Sometimes hairballs, sometimes eating too fast, sometimes. . .well, who knows! She was petite but not thin. She was regularly checked by vets who found nothing wrong, and I tried all types of food but nothing helped the vomiting. She lived perfectly healthy (until kidney disease the last 8 months) to the age of 21!

    Bookmark   May 24, 2010 at 7:42PM
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Sorry to hear about your kitty's problem, but I admire how much love and care you show for her.

Laurief's links were very informative.

One of our cats was having severe constipation issues. The lactulose from the vet helped, but was never suggested as something she would need forever -- when her bowels became regular we weaned her off of it.

Changing her to a diet higher in fiber (Wellness Indoor Cat is one) mixed with a grain-free brand has helped prevent recurrences so far. The fiber is mentioned in Laurie's links as of major importance.

We make sure she has plenty of fresh water and have raised the water dish so it is easier for her to drink. I also get her a little pot of wheat grass from the health food store about once a week, which she loves to chew.

We give her regular brushings so she doesn't swallow too much fur.

So far, so good.

    Bookmark   May 24, 2010 at 9:09PM
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I'm surprised that both vets haven't told you to switch to exclusively canned food. Kibble is certainly not advisable for a cat with constipation problems, because kibble absorbs liquid out of the digestive tract and leaves the cat in a state of chronic, mild dehydration. Your cat will almost certainly have fewer constipation problems if you increase her fluid intake by switching to canned food. Better yet, switch to canned food that you mix into a gruel with water.

As far as forcing meds down her throat is concerned, try the pumpkin (plain canned pumpkin, NOT pie filling). Alternately, 1/8 tsp of unflavored Metamucil serves the same purpose (adding fiber) and can easily be mixed into canned food.

If adding fiber doesn't resolve the constipation, consider switching from Lactulose to Miralax. Not only is Miralax available OTC, but it's a tasteless, crystalline powder that is easily mixed into canned food. Your cat will never even know she's getting it, and it's just as effective as Lactulose in softening stool.

You can read about all of these options on either or both of the sites I linked for you earlier.


    Bookmark   May 24, 2010 at 9:21PM
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Hi Everyone,
Thank you for the responses, suggestions, and advice. laurief - I found the links you sent to be very informative and helpful, thank you.

So, as an update over the past few days... following my last post on Monday, I cleaned the litter-boxes and found that her stool had become more liquidy. I had been informed that if this happened, we would want to lower the dosage. Neither of the vets I had spoken to before was in, but it was recommended that I lower the dose and skip that night, and give her 2 doses the next day and that the nighttime vet I'd been in contact with previously (the one who initially saw and treated her) would call me the following evening.

Her stool was liquidy again yesterday, so upon talking with the emergency night vet, we have lowered the dose further to 1 time per day, and as of today stool was back to normal. If this continues, the intent is to lower the dose further on Saturday to every other day, and take her off of it completely within the next week. (YAY!)

I asked about the pumpkin, and the vet said that she has never tried this herself, but has heard of it working well and thought it was a good idea for me to try. I have also increased her canned food amount over the past couple days so that she is gettig some every day rather than as an occassional "treat."

I have tried the Wellness before, as well as others, but since switching her to Innova she won't touch anything else, so I don't think a complete change in diet is an option right now. But I am going to cut back on the dry food and increase the wet food and try the pumpkin and see how she does.

My cats are essentially my kids. They even have health insurance that rivals my own... so I'm going to try whatever I can to get her back to her regular old self!

    Bookmark   May 26, 2010 at 9:37PM
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It's great that you've got her stool back to normal. I forgot to explain that both Lactulose and Miralax are dose-to-effect drugs, meaning that the dose can be tweaked up or down as necessary to produce optimum stool consistency. My CRF cat, Billy, received Miralax twice daily for over two years to normalize his stool (CRF cats are prone to chronic constipation). It took very minor adjustments in dosage to affect his stool consistency.

I hope that your girl can be successfully weaned off of Lactulose. I think there's a good chance of it if she'll eat a tsp of canned pumpkin mixed into some canned food gruel daily. The fiber and extra water should help keep things moving through her system the way they should.


    Bookmark   May 27, 2010 at 12:36AM
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murraysmom Zone 6 OH

I've heard, too, about the pumpkin helping with this. Someone said that she puts the remainder of the can into an ice cube tray and into the freezer to keep it. That way when she needs it, she just pops a cube out and thaws it for use.

    Bookmark   May 27, 2010 at 7:57AM
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After four years of treatment for megacolon, my cat was able to evacuate himself most of the time after I switched him to canned pate' cat food. Not the fancy stuff, the cheap stinky kind.

    Bookmark   May 27, 2010 at 8:30AM
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Talked to the night vet last night, and am able to stop giving April the Lactulose, at least for now.

Went to 5 different grocery stores looking for canned pumpkin... apparently its a seasonal item where I live. Finally found organic canned pumpkin at a specialty natural foods store. She wouldn't eat it straight... but I mixed about a teaspoon with some of her wet food and she ate without any issues. So hopefully this will help, and prevent a recurring problem.

Thanks for the replies!!!

    Bookmark   May 30, 2010 at 3:56PM
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I used to have a cat, but he did not have constipation issues. However, that being said I think you should get another opinion at another vet office as the "tie-breaking" opinion of what to do for your cat. And actually, in some cases there may not be a "right" answer for you cat since each cat is different / has a slightly different physiology as a cat etc. In the end, what advice you choose to follow may be your judgment call since you know your kitty best. Good luck!

    Bookmark   June 6, 2010 at 1:04PM
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My 3 year old cat has constipation issues, I have used a variety of remedies, pumpkin, online natural laxatives, Lactulose and enemas at the vet and special food . Since she was a kitten she would have bowel movements once every three days which concerned us and started the high fibre feedings, hoping that would help. Even with the high fibre, adding moisture to wet food and a laxative she would have bowel movements that had the consistency of hard, clay-like balls, sometimes as hard as rocks. The vet says there is no apparent reason for this constant constipation especially in such a young cat. If anyone has any solutions I'm all ears !!

    Bookmark   February 17, 2015 at 6:07PM
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