Constipation, often suspected by pet owners but in fact rarely diagnosed, occurs when the pet is unable to properly evacuate his or her bowels. As a result, the feces remain in the colon where water from the fecal material continues to be absorbed by the colon. The fecal matter dries out and forms a hard mass. While constipation can occur in dogs (usually as a result of eating large amounts of foreign material), true constipation usually occurs in cats.
Principal Natural Treatments
The main natural treatments are designed to induce normal bowel movements.
These can be used in conjunction with conventional therapies when they are not effective by themselves in most patients. The natural treatments are widely used with variable success but have not been thoroughly investigated and proven at this time.
Natural diets recommended for pets with obesity, especially those with natural laxatives such as fibrous vegetables like pumpkin and squashes, are recommended for cats with constipation.
Diets for Cats with Constipation
Note: Before you start to feed your dog or cat a home-prepared diet, it is strongly recommended you discuss your decision with your veterinarian or a holistic veterinarian in your area. It is essential that you follow any diet’s recommendations closely, including all ingredients and supplements. Failure to do so may result in serious health consequences for your pet.
- 5 ounces salmon, canned with bone (low-salt)
- 1/3 cup long grain, cooked rice
- 1/4 teaspoon salt or salt substitute
- 100 mg taurine
This diet provides 284 kcal, 30.2 gm of protein, and 10.4 gm of fat. Feed this recipe to a cat that weighs 11 pounds.
- Substitute 4 to 8 ounces of tuna or 1/2 pound of chicken, beef, or lamb for the salmon.
- Rice is optional, as cats do not have a strict dietary carbohydrate requirement.
- For extra nutrition and fiber, and variety, add fresh, raw or slightly steamed vegetables, such as carrots or broccoli) approximately 1/2 to 1 cup per recipe, ( 1/2 cup of vegetables add about 30 kcal to the diet) as a top dressing for the diet. Pumpkin or squash can be fed to add extra fiber as well. Most cats will not eat vegetables, however.
- Feed this diet in divided amounts at least twice daily and preferably four to six times daily. Frequent small meals will allow more frequent movements of the digestive tract and can encourage frequent eliminations.
Other Natural Treatments
Other therapies that may be helpful include herbs such as chickweed, dandelion root, Oregon grape, slippery elm, and yellow dock. These therapies can be used in conjunction with conventional therapies, as they are unlikely to be effective by themselves in most patients with severe constipation. The natural treatments are widely used with variable success but have not all been thoroughly investigated and proven.
Usually an enema is needed (often administered under sedation or light anesthesia) to evacuate the colon. Drug therapy or surgery is required for cats with megacolon due to the chronic and lifelong nature of this disorder.
Shawn Messonnier, DVM
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Shawn Messonnier DVM Past Supporting Member, Oncology Association of Naturopathic Physicians Author, the award-winning The Natural Health Bible for Dogs & Cats, The Natural Vet’s Guide to Preventing and Treating Cancer in Dogs, and Breast Choices for the Best Chances: Your Breasts, Your Life, and How YOU Can Win The Battle!
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