Fecal impaction

A fecal impaction is a dry collection of hard stool in the colon or rectum that cannot pass normally. Impactions form as a result of chronic constipation, a fairly common problem in pets.

Fecal impaction

How it Affects your pet

Most healthy cats and dogs produce one to two formed stools per day. This varies with diet and individual pet characteristics, but normal stools should be soft, formed and easy to pass. When stools become hard and dry and are passed infrequently and with effort, the pet is said to be constipated. The most common cause of this pet health condition in both dogs and cats is not drinking enough water. Another common cause of dog constipation is ingesting foreign material, and hairballs are a frequent cause of cat constipation. Other possible causes include stress, disorders of the rectum and anus, intestinal motility problems, intestinal blockages, enlargement of the prostate, electrolyte imbalances and the use of certain medications. Whatever the cause, when pets become constipated, fecal matter is retained in the colon and rectum where the colonic wall continues to absorb water from it. As the stool becomes drier and harder, it becomes more difficult to pass and eventually forms an impaction. If the feces becomes so impacted that defecation cannot occur, the condition is called obstipation. 

Common symptoms

Symptoms of this cat and dog health condition include the following: Straining to defecate, Pain while defecating, Absent or infrequent stools, Lethargy, Loss of appetite, Abdominal pain, Abdominal distension, Vomiting, Licking or biting at the anal area, Scooting the hind end against the floor, Hunched posture and Small amounts of blood-tinged or watery stool. In cats, constipation is sometimes confused with urinary obstruction, a pet health emergency that requires immediate veterinary care.

Treatments

Pet animals with mild fecal impactions can sometimes be successfully treated with diet change, oral fluids and mild laxatives. They may also require enemas. Treatment of fecal impactions should be done only by a licensed veterinarian due to the risk of causing electrolyte imbalances and injuries, including rectal tears, through improper use of enemas and laxatives. Animals with more severe impactions and those suffering from dehydration require fluid therapy before the impactions can be safely cleared with enemas, manual evacuation and laxatives. In very severe cases, the affected pet may need to be placed under anesthesia to allow the veterinarian to manually clear the obstruction. Once the fecal impaction has been cleared, the cause of the constipation needs to be addressed. Further treatment depends on the inciting condition. If the problem causing the constipation can be cured or managed, impaction is less likely to reoccur. 

Breeds Affected

All dogs and cats have the potential to develop fecal impactions. Breed predispositions depend on individual causes of impaction. For example, tailless cats, such as Manxes, are predisposed to neuromuscular abnormalities that put them at increased risk of developing constipation and fecal impactions.

Fecal impaction Affects

  • Most healthy cats and dogs produce one to two formed stools per day. This varies with diet and individual pet characteristics, but normal stools should be soft, formed and easy to pass. When stools become hard and dry and are passed infrequently and with effort, the pet is said to be constipated. The most common cause of this pet health condition in both dogs and cats is not drinking enough water. Another common cause of dog constipation is ingesting foreign material, and hairballs are a frequent cause of cat constipation. Other possible causes include stress, disorders of the rectum and anus, intestinal motility problems, intestinal blockages, enlargement of the prostate, electrolyte imbalances and the use of certain medications. Whatever the cause, when pets become constipated, fecal matter is retained in the colon and rectum where the colonic wall continues to absorb water from it. As the stool becomes drier and harder, it becomes more difficult to pass and eventually forms an impaction. If the feces becomes so impacted that defecation cannot occur, the condition is called obstipation. 

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