Reducing occasional firm stools in cats and dogs is a painful and could be potentially a life threatening condition. Instead of treating these episode with medication, identify the core cause of the problem and correct it, thus preventing future painful times of gastrointestinal distress.
Pets prone to this condition are often suffering from a more serious, underlying condition or malady in the gastrointestinal tract. In order to effectively prevent the occasional firm stool in pets, the route causes must be identified and corrected.
What is it and Why Does my Animal get Firm Stools?
This condition occurs when there is a disruption in the intestines that causes a reduction in the amount of bowel movements. Stools left in the colon become progressively dry and hard, making them difficult and painful for animals to pass, leading to even fewer bowel movements and a progressively serious and very uncomfortable problem.
How can I tell if my animal has this issue?
Watch the behavior of your animal. Notice if there are repeated trips to the litter box or an urge to go outside. Strenuous efforts to produce bowel movements without result, or small dry/hard bowel movements. Animals suffering from this may loose their appetite, become lethargic, walked hunched, and experience abdominal pain.
Consistent firm stools is not its own disease, but rather a sign of other problems occurring in the animals’s body that disrupt the normal formation and elimination of stools. The most common causes include:
- Dietary Problems These can occur as a result of feeding a diet low in fiber, or if a animal is not properly digesting the nutrients in the food. Food sensitivities and feeding of commercial diets that are high in “filler” (carbohydrate sources that are virtually indigestible to cats) can also lead to firm stools, as the colon struggles to keep up with the demand being placed on it.
- Dehydration Cats undergoing stressful situations (boarding, hospital stays) may not drink enough water, leading to dehydration. Cats fed a primarily dry-food diet are also at increased risk of becoming chronically dehydrated, due to the extremely low moisture content of the food.
- Kidney Failure Senior cats suffering from kidney problems are often chronically dehydrated and suffer from poor appetites. This can lead to firm stools, which in turn causes the animal to stop eating and often drinking altogether, which can quickly turn a chronic kidney problem into an acute emergency. In addition, your pet suffering from kidney problems often have low levels of potassium, which can alter the metabolism and lead to toxic consistent firmer stools.
- Hairballs Cats suffering from hairballs will often retch to relive themselves of hairballs which accumulate in the stomach. Smaller hairballs may make it through the stomach into the intestines, where the indigestible hair may become lodged somewhere within the GI tract, leading to these firmer stools.
- Senior Cats Older, sedentary cats may suffer from firmer stools due to lack of physical activity and a progressive loss of abdominal muscle condition.
- Obstructions these can occur as a result of ingesting a foreign body, or due to other physical causes, such as tumors occluding the intestinal tract.
Is Consistent Firmer Stools a Serious Problem?
Yes. It can become a serious, life threatening condition if it is not corrected. Firmer stools that continue for several days can cause dehydration due to an uncomfortable animal not eating or drinking. In addition, as the problem in the intestines progresses, the intestinal tract may draw water from the rest of the cells in the body to try and correct the problem naturally. Unfortunately, this can lead to severe dehydration for the rest of the body, and can quickly lead to other serious complications.
If an animal with firmer stools is unable to resolve the blockage and the condition is not treated, the intestines surrounding the blockage will begin to loose their blood supply and die off, causing the contents of the bowel to leak into the abdominal cavity. Infection will result, and a fatal condition called sepsis will result.
Treating Firmer Stools- Naturally!
Thankfully, this is preventable.
Historically, veterinarians have typically treated acute cases of firmer with a combination of direct fecal manipulation (usually by administering enemas to soften and lubricate the stool, as well as manually evacuating the colon rectally) and laxative medications. If these measures fail, nerve stimulants and other medications may be given to help bring about a bowel movement. If medical management fails to relive the problem, surgery may be recommended to relieve the obstruction.
While these invasive treatments of consistent firmer stools are usually effective in correcting the problem, they do nothing to reduce the underlying cause of the problem, or prevent it from reoccurring.
Because GI problems or dysfunction are often the route of the problems that can lead to firmer stools, by improving the health of the GI tract through diet changes and supplementation, you can reduce your animals’ issues without drugs or painful procedures.
Feed Your Cat the Way Nature Intended
Most commercially available pet foods are comprised of mostly filler, and have little nutritional value. In dry foods especially, the high heat and pressure used to create the “nuggets” of food denatures the ingredients, and steams away nutritional value. In addition, the extremely low moisture content of dry food can lead to dehydration, as many cats and some dogs will not drink enough water to offset the extremely dry “dry” food.
Through a raw or home cooked, high quality meat based diet, you can ensure that only the best ingredients are being fed to your pet. Fresh meat has a high moisture content, and can help to keep your pet hydrated. In addition, feeding this way can help to solve many other GI problems in pets.
In addition to feeding a more natural diet, there are many nature-based solutions that can help with issues including consistent firmer stools. Probiotics, the “good” bacteria that live in the intestinal tract are vital in disseminating nutrients from food and dispersing them throughout the body. Probiotics can promote a healthy GI tract, lowering the risk of constipation and other GI problems.
Fiber content is an essential key element in supporting health bowel movements, as fiber is the bulking agent that can help stools move through naturally in the GI tract. One of the most effective and commonly used bulking agents in animals (and people) is Psyllium Seed Powder. Psyllium absorbs water and brings it to the gut, as well as adding bulk to and normalizing stool. Psyllium is also an effective in riding hairballs.
Another natural factor is slippery elm bark powder, as it coats the lining of the stomach and intestines, allowing for greater ease of digestion and reducing inflammation in the GI tract.