How long can a cat live with a megacolon?

How Long Can Your Cat Live With A Megacolon?

Constipation is a common issue for all living beings. It is a difficult and infrequent passage of stools.

Constipation is a common problem for cats, and most of the time, the cause of constipation is dehydration or indigestion. If this is the case, your feline friend should recover in a few days and should come to their normal way of passing stools.

However, if the problem prolongs for a long time, there might be an underlying problem. And one of these is megacolon.

If you are not aware of what megacolon is, don’t worry! In this article, we will help you understand what megacolon is and the symptoms and prognosis of the same.

So, let’s get started!

What Does the Term “Megacolon” Mean?

Megacolon is a common disorder among cats where the colon, or the large intestine, becomes large and distended.

At first, this may not seem like a major problem, but once the colon becomes enlarged, your feline friend will not be able to function properly. They will start having improper excretion problems, and in certain cases, they may not excrete for long periods. In this case, the feces become very hard and dry.

This condition normally starts as a primary medical disease caused when the colonic muscles do not contract the way they normally do. Severe constipation is another disease that can lead to the development of megacolon if it is not treated on time.

If constipation prolongs for a long time in your cat, it develops into “obstipation,” where your cat might permanently lose the mobility of its colons.

Moreover, dry feces can also impact the movement of the colon in its entire length. When obstipation occurs in the hypertrophy, and there is chronic dilation of the colon, it is termed as “megacolon.”

Once the colon has been stretched out, the change is permanent, and it can’t go back to normal.

How Does Megacolon Affect Cats?

In cats, megacolon is characterized by slow movement inside the colon. The propulsive forces needed to push out the feces are absent, making it difficult for your feline friend to excrete.

It can cause a lot of discomfort for your cats and can even make them lose their appetite.

What are the Signs You Need to Look Out for?

Unfortunately, megacolon is a very common medical issue in cats.

However, if you know how to read the signs and symptoms of this brutal sickness, you can get the help your kitty needs on time and possibly save her life.

The two major symptoms of megacolon are prolonged constipation and obstipation. Other than that, you also need to look for the following signs:

  • Discomfort in the abdomen
  • Lessened appetite
  • Laziness and lethargy
  • Struggling to excrete
  • Tenesmus (a condition where there is a recurrent tendency to clear out the bowels)
  • Painful excretion
  • No excretion or reduced excretion
  • Dry, hard stools with blood
  • Slight loose stools
  • Frequently going to the litter box with no excretion
  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting
  • Loss of weight
  • Dehydration
  • Urinary problems

How is Megacolon Diagnosed in Cats?

Now that you know megacolon symptoms, you can easily identify when your feline friend is suffering. The next step is diagnosis. But how is it done for cats? Keep reading!

Physical Exam

As you can see, the diagnosis for this condition is very straightforward. Most expert vets can easily identify the presence of a large colon by conducting a quick physical examination.

If you suspect your cat of having megacolon, the vet might first ask you about the excreting history of the cat. Next, they will check the abdomen (specifically, the palpation) of the cat. While doing this, they will detect a large colon that is firm because of the feces.

They may also conduct a digital exam of the cat’s rectum, which will be performed under anesthesia. This test will help identify hernia, any foreign materials, or other abnormalities.

X-Rays or Radiographs

Another method to check for megacolon is by conducting an x-ray on the feline’s abdomen. This way, they can also identify the severity of the issue.

Additionally, x-rays can also detect the presence of any foreign material that may be present inside the intestine, spinal and pelvic deformities, and so on.

Additional Tests

Other than the two major types of testing for megacolon, your vet can also conduct a:

  • A blood count test, a chemistry panel test, and a complete urinalysis to make sure it is not because of any metabolic abnormalities.
  • A thyroid test.
  • A neurological examination.
  • An abdominal ultrasound.

What is the Treatment for Megacolon in Cats?

If the signs of symptoms of megacolon have been identified at an earlier stage, there is a good prognosis that will guarantee the quality of your kitty’s life.

However, most cat owners are unaware of the signs, which means the condition is not treated for a long time. Even when they notice their cat having problems with excretion, they tend to dismiss the problem as constipation which will resolve independently.

If this is left untreated for more than six months, the condition might become irreversible. At this point, the diagnosis and treatment might not work, and the colon can never return to its normal function. In cases like this, vets will recommend surgery to remove the colon completely.

Medical Options

The medical way of treatment is usually when the signs have been recognized early. In this case, the chance of the colon returning to normal function is greater. So, the first thing to try is hospitalization.

Hospitalize Your Cat

If your feline has been experiencing obstipation, the vet might suggest you hospitalize your cat.

In this situation, your cat will be given intravenous fluid therapy to help sort out their issues with dehydration and fix any electrolyte imbalances. Your feline friend will also be given laxatives to help with excretion.

If this does not work, the vet might manually help with excretion under anesthesia.


Once the vet removed adequate amounts of stools, they may give them prokinetic therapy and laxatives.

Laxatives will help the stool pass through the colon without causing too much damage. On the other hand, prokinetic therapy is where the vet will give your feline certain drugs that will help to retrieve the colonic contractions and enhance motility.

Changes in the Diet

Once the steps mentioned above are complete, your vet might suggest you change your cat’s dietary habits. The best diet is a highly digestible one. It will give less fecal matter, and the stools will pass as smaller objects.

Surgical option

If the medical method is not effective, your vet will suggest switching to surgery. Here, the vet will surgically remove the non-function part of your cat’s colon.

Most of the time, they will remove almost all of the colons. However, in extreme cases, the entire colon will have to be removed.

How Long Can a Cat Live with a Megacolon?

If you are a concerned cat parent, you might often wonder, “how long can a cat live with a megacolon?”

If you have properly identified the symptoms of megacolon in your cat, the sickness does not have to be fatal. The vet can even help restore colonic mobility to what it used to be!

However, if the signs are ignored for nearly 4 or 6 months, they can turn to be very deadly. That is why it’s important to know the signs and how to read them carefully.

Parting Thoughts

Megacolon is a medical condition often seen in cats that live in stressful environments without a clean litter box. Knowing how to read the signs is extremely important here as it can even help you save your feline friend’s life!

However, if you want to avoid this problem, keep your cats’ litter box clean and make sure they are hydrated. Above all, make sure they are happy and active!

However, if you suspect that your cats are experiencing signs of megacolon, visit the vet today to get them the help they need, stat!