Dear Dr. John,
My cat has had a long-standing problem with constipation. Our veterinarian started the cat on lactulose and it seems to work most of the time. However, recently he got stopped up again and I had to take him in to have him cleaned out. I am wondering if there are other things that we can give our cat to prevent the problem? What about our giving him an enema? Also, how do we stop the cat from eating plastic or plastic bags? The cat vomits from time to time and we attribute that to hairballs. Is the plastic contrib-uting to the problem? Thanks. — C.F.
Chronic constipation in cats can be a real problem. There may be an underlying problem of megacolon, which is a distended enlarged large intestine that is prone to getting stopped up or impacted. Lactulose can be helpful, as can buying Metamucil and sprinkling a half teaspoon on his food daily or feeding him canned pumpkin. Cat laxatives that are sold commercially may help as well. All of these increases in fiber can prevent the problem of impaction from occurring. I do not suggest that owners try giving enemas to their animals at home. Some commercial enemas can cause secondary problems, so if the animal is constipated then it should be seen and have the problem -addressed by a veterinarian.
As for the plastic, I would remove any possible sources from his environment. My guess is that it may well be causing some vomiting, but I have also found myself in surgery addressing the problem created by a cat eating plastic bag pieces. The cat is probably eating some plastic as a natural way to try and create some roughage. Instead, try providing a little grass that you can grow at home, but realize that it may also lead to some vomit in the house. In all likelihood, you will need to stay on top of this problem for the cat’s entire life.