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Constipation is not as common in our pets as it is in humans and generally it is a clinical sign not a disease in itself, although other disorders or problems may lead to constipation. Some drugs may induce constipation for example antacids, antidepressants, anticonvulsants, diuretics and opiates.
Digestive disorders are nearly always associated with diet, and constipation often occurs when the waste matter takes too long to travel through the digestive system and too much water is absorbed making the faeces dry and hard
Symptoms would include infrequent passing of hard stools, also ineffectual straining. Prolonged constipation can lead to weight loss, loss of appetite, vomiting, depression and even poor coat condition.
Laxatives may be given for mild to moderate constipation, but these will only relieve the symptoms and not deal with the underlying cause.
Constipation is quite common in elderly cats and may be caused by reduced muscle tone of the large intestine. Other causes in cats would be a pelvic trauma caused by in injury sustained by a vehicle and hairballs. Indoor cats (and even dogs that are unable to go outside frequently) may also be predisposed as they may hold the faeces and this could become habit forming, dirty litter trays may also cause the same problem.
Constipation is mostly managed by diet although exercise is important as this will stimulate the bowels, as well as massaging the internal organs, increasing blood flow and stimulating a sluggish metabolism.
It is important that your pets drink plenty of water, as this will help to soften the stools, some pets may prefer bottled water, or even drinking from glass or ceramic bowls as plastic can leach into the water and alter the taste. Keep plenty of bowls of water around the house, cat also prefer to drink from a large bowl. To increase the water intake it may be added to the diet (if fed dry food)
Feed a highly digestible food, in small frequent meals taking care not to exceed the recommended daily amounts. Fibre may be added in the form of oat bran (half teaspoon to one tablespoon per meal depending on the size of your pet) or vegetables.
Olive oil acts as a tonic for the intestines; it stimulates the flow of bile, helps the intestinal muscles to contract and lubricates the faeces. Place the oil over the food between half to 2 teaspoons per day for no more than one week. Prolonged use may draw vitamin A from the body.
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