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Obstipation in Cats and Dogs… Symptoms, expectations and costs!

Given all the different diseases that we write about, we find it a bit ironic that this one which many at first glance might not seem too serious is actually one of the leading causes of financial euthanasia in pet today.

Simply because…

The availability of treatment options for obstipation or severe or complete constipation isn’t always widely available.  Coupled with the fact that most pet owners can’t afford the thousands and thousands of dollars it takes to have the surgery that is recommended, which is made even worse by the fact that surgery doesn’t always provide the results that you folks would hope for.

Which is why…

We here at IndulgeYourPet wanted to take a moment and discuss what obstipation is as well as hopefully provide some insight on what it might be like to own a pet that has been diagnosed with this condition.


We’re going to invite anyone who has never considered purchasing a pet insurance policy on their furry little family members to also check out our Best Pet Insurance Companies article so that if they do ever find themselves in this situation again, hopefully they won’t be on the hook for 100% of the medical costs!

So, without further ado, lets dive right in


Before we get more into what to do if your loved one has obstipation, it is important to make sure that you folks know what obstipation is and if your furry friend even has it.


You may be wondering…

“What is obstipation?”

Because when we speak of “obstipation” while it is caused by chronic constipation, it itself is not referring to “constipation”.  Instead, obstipation is referring to what happens to the large intestine as a result of long term/chronic constipation.

You see…

When chronic constipation occurs, all that “blockage” has to go or in this case “stay” somewhere.  And that somewhere is the large intestine.  And what happens over time is that slowly the large intestine losses its ability to pass fecal matter from the small intestine to the anus resulting in even more constipation.

The problem is…

Once the large intestine loses its ability to function properly, that ability is lost forever!  And this inability of the large intestine to function normally is what medical professionals refer to as obstipation.

And what makes…

This condition so difficult to treat is that the “chronic constipation” doesn’t have to happen all at once.  This disease can play out over months or even years each time doing just a little bit more damage to the large intestine over time ultimately causing complete failure of the large intestine over time.


Because there are no breeds of cats or dogs that are more likely to develop obstipation (than the other except for the Manx cat), veterinarians can’t necessarily be on heightened alert for this condition when working with certain breeds.  You just need to always be careful.


Cat owners because most of the animals which become diagnosed with obstipation are not dogs (although they can develop it), but instead cats.  Cats are much more likely to have obstipation that their canine counterparts because their large intestine seems to lose its function much more than dogs.

That’s not the only bad news…

Obstipation also leads to a more serious chronic constipation disease called Idiopathic Megacolon which is the outcome of a long battle with obstipation that is caused by fecal mass being left in the colon (which elongates it because of the large quantity), and then damages the nerves.  This damaging of the nerves is what makes your pet unable to remove the waste from their bodies.

In summary…

Constipation leads to Obstipation which leads to Megacolon.


In order to diagnose your four-legged family member with obstipation, here are some symptoms that are common in constipated cats and dogs:

  • Chronic constipation (This one seems fairly obvious)
    • Could lead to your furry friend taking a very long time to defecate,
    • Straining to defecate,
    • Also, could make them seem as if it is taking them a lot of effort in defecation,
  • Less bowel movement and creation of feces,
  • Stool is firmer,
  • Cats not using their litter box or dogs pooping inside,
  • Some watery stools/diarrhea,

This then…

Shows itself in more serious forms after prolonged bouts of constipation.  Here are some clinical signs of obstipation and megacolon:

  • Throwing up,
  • Loss of appetite,
  • Losing a lot of weight,
  • Not wanting to engage with you, or seeming unhappy,
  • Being dehydrated.

Which brings us to…

Were we like to remind folks that we here at IndulgeYourPet are not doctors, veterinarians or medical professionals.  All we are is a bunch of folks who just happen to be passionate about animals and only want what’s best for them.

This is why…

If you feel like your pet may have obstipation (or any other health issue for that matter) the first thing that you’re going to want to do is have him or her check out by a vet ASAP!


The truth is, an early diagnosis will often lead to the “best” medical outcome for your pet regardless of what is bothering him or her, but beyond that diagnosing a medical condition early could save you a bundle in medical costs!

Which is why…

Diagnosing your dog’s constipation before it becomes obstipation or megacolon is so important.

Diagnosis of obstipation.

Prior to diagnosing obstipation, chances are your dog will have a long and documented history with your vet.  He or she may also have had several routine examinations performed by your vet already.  Exams such as:

  • An endoscopy
    • This is when the vet would stick a camera into your pet’s large intestine through their mouth
  • Physical and mental examinations
  • A count of the blood in your animal (CBC) to see if they have lost any blood
  • Analyzing the urine of your pet
  • X-rays of the abdomen and pelvic canal
  • Rectal examination
  • CAT scan
  • Upper Gastrointestinal Study

The good news is…

There are treatment options to help your animal with Obstipation or Megacolon.  However, these treatments do not usually result in a “cure”, but are used before surgery to make sure it is necessary:

  • High-fiber diet
  • Canned food
  • Laxatives
    • Like mineral oil
    • Petroleum jelly
  • Enemas to remove stool regularly
  • Persistent hydration
  • Cisapride which is a drug that is supposed to help the colon to work again


If these treatments do not prove useful, then a Subtotal Colectomy surgery is seen as the next best option.  In this surgery, the majority of the large intestine (the root of the issue, because it does not function correctly) is removed and this hopefully will aid greatly in the animal’s ability to defecate properly.


This procedure is pretty rare and is therefore extremely expensive because it must be performed by a board-certified surgeon.  It should also be noted that it isn’t always successful!  Which means that your pet will still require careful care for the rest of its life and will have loose stool because of the shorted large intestine (which let’s face it, isn’t a lot of fun).


These treatments are obviously very expensive.  The treatments can cost hundreds and hundreds of dollars a year for the medications, foods, laxatives, and veterinarian help.  Not to mention if your pet requires the Subtotal Colectomy surgery which can cost anywhere from $1500 to $5000 based on the care provided and any complications.

So, needless to say…

If your furry buddy does turn out to have obstipation or any other medical issues, the treatments can become very expensive very quickly.  Especially if they require the Subtotal Colectomy surgery. This is why here at IndulgeYourPet we always recommend checking out Pet Insurance to see if it is right for you.


If you are considering adding a new furry member to your family, this way if any unexpected vet bills do “pop-up” you won’t necessarily be on the hook for 100% of those costs on your own!

Now will a pet insurance policy be right for everyone?

No, probably not.  But until you fully understand what these policies “will” and “won’t” cover and how much these pet insurance policies cost, how will you know if one might be right for you?

For more information on who we feel currently offers the “best” pet insurance policies out there, we would encourage you to check out our Best Pet Insurance Policies article.

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