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J Feline Med Surg. 2019 Mar 5:1098612X19832663. doi: 10.1177/1098612X19832663. [Epub ahead of print]

Retrospective evaluation of risk factors and treatment outcome predictors in cats presenting to the emergency room for constipation.

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Department of Clinical Sciences and Advanced Medicine, School of Veterinary Medicine, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA, USA.



Constipation is a common complaint in cats presenting to the emergency room and can become a frustrating recurrent condition. Despite widespread anecdotal reports of risk factors for constipation, at the time of writing there have been no studies supporting these associations or assessing treatment outcomes. The aim of this study was to identify risk factors in the signalment, history, physical examination and clinicopathologic findings of cats presenting to the emergency room for constipation. In addition, we aimed to assess factors contributing to the success or failure of enemas administered to these cats.


A medical record search identified 189 cats with a diagnosis of constipation/obstipation that were treated and discharged by the emergency service at an academic veterinary hospital. Data regarding signalment, medical history, physical examination and clinicopathologic findings, as well as treatments performed, were recorded. Ninety-nine cats presenting to the emergency room for other reasons were identified as controls. Statistical analysis was performed to assess risk factors for constipation, as well as success/failure of enema treatments.


Older, overweight cats and cats with chronic kidney disease or previous episodes of constipation were found to be at increased risk of constipation ( P <0.0001, P = 0.0004, P = 0.0046 and P <0.0001, respectively). Ionized calcium levels were significantly higher in constipated cats, though varied significantly within the cohort ( P = 0.0133). Cats noted to be painful on abdominal palpation were less likely to defecate following an enema. Adjunctive treatments (fluids, laxatives) increased the likelihood of a successful enema but were not statistically significant.


Older, overweight cats with a history of constipation or chronic kidney disease are more likely to present for constipation. Further studies are needed to determine the most appropriate treatment protocol in an urgent care setting.


Constipation; enema; obstipation; risk factors


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