What is Lack of Intestinal Motility?
Lack of intestinal motility in your cat is a condition in which food does not move at an appropriate pace through cat’s digestive tract. While there are many gastrointestinal, or GI, diseases in cats, lack of intestinal motility typically refers to food moving too slowly. The rate of slowdown can range from impairment to complete blockage, depending on the underlying cause and severity of the condition. Lack of intestinal motility in your cat tends to be a symptom of an underlying condition.
Symptoms of Lack of Intestinal Motility in Cats
Since there is typically an overall disease or larger cause that is associated with lack of intestinal motility in your cat, it will be important to attempt to isolate the gastrointestinal issues your cat is having from other symptoms that may provide clues to the underlying sickness. The following symptoms may be an indication that your cat is suffering from a lack of intestinal motility.
- Lack of appetite or anorexia
- Difficulty defecating or urinating
- Intermittent bouts of diarrhea
- Bloated or distended stomach
- Signs of pain or discomfort, especially in the stomach area
Causes of Lack of Intestinal Motility in Cats
There are many potential causes of lack of intestinal motility and they range from mild to serious. A qualified veterinarian should be consulted in order to determine what underlying condition is causing the symptoms in your cat. Some of the conditions that may cause lack of intestinal motility are:
- Injury to abdominal area
- Internal blockage from foreign object
- Internal blockage due to tumor or mass
- Lack of hydration or electrolyte imbalance
- Gastrointestinal disease, including infection or inflammation
- Post-surgery complications
- Neurological conditions
- Use of certain drugs
Diagnosis of Lack of Intestinal Motility in Cats
When diagnosing lack of intestinal motility in your cat, your veterinarian will first assess the condition to determine its severity. In the most severe cases, the symptoms must be treated so that your cat can be stabilized, before the underlying cause is determined. During this time your vet will conduct a thorough physical exam of your cat. This may also assist in uncovering the underlying cause of the lack of intestinal motility.
After your cat has been stabilized, your vet will request additional laboratory tests such as a full blood panel and urinalysis. This will help your vet determine the presence of any infection or indications of disease. Your vet will also request imaging of the abdominal area in order to rule out any blockages, tumors or other physical abnormalities. Imaging may be done by x-ray, MRI, ultrasound and, in some cases, barium contrast.
It will also be important for you to provide a thorough behavior and medical history of your cat. The onset of any symptoms in relation to potential injury is useful. You should also let your vet know if you cat has recently had any dietary changes or is currently taking any medications or supplements.
Treatment of Lack of Intestinal Motility in Cats
Treatment of lack of intestinal motility in your cat will depend on the underlying cause. One of the most common causes of this condition comes from lack of hydration or an electrolyte imbalance as a result of improper hydration. To treat this condition, your vet may initially order intravenous or subcutaneous hydration of your cat. This will involve your veterinarian placing a needle under your cat’s skin and attaching a bag of saline solution which will slowly distribute throughout your cat’s body and rehydrate. In these cases, symptoms typically begin to improve immediately.
For blockages, surgical removal will often need to be performed if the foreign or other object is not moving and completely blocking any other intestinal movement. Surgery may also be needed in order to repair damage caused by trauma. In other cases, certain medications may be able to restore intestinal motility initially which may encourage long-term restoration of full and normal function.
Recovery of Lack of Intestinal Motility in Cats
The prognosis for recovery from lack of intestinal motility in your cat will depend on the cause or underlying condition. In cases where hydration is the issue, you should see immediate improvement in your cat’s symptoms. It will be important to continue to monitor your cat and your vet may recommend you alter your cat’s diet in order to provide more moisture and to also make sure water is always available.
In the case of surgery, your cat also has an excellent chance of full recovery. As with any surgery, you will need to follow your veterinarian’s post-surgical instructions. You should keep your cat separated from other household animals in a calm place to rest and recover. You will also need to make sure you follow the full course of any prescribed antibiotics to help prevent infection after major surgery.
While recovery will be a case-by-case assessment, with most common causes your cat should make a full recovery and live a long and healthy life.
Lack of Intestinal Motility Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals
My cat was diagnosed in Nov. 2016 with Megacolon, resulting from impacted anal glands which impeded regular bowel movements per pain/avoidance. After 2 emergent-level manual de-obstipations (and anal gland expressing), her condition has been reasonably managed with 99% premium canned food, grain-free, carrageenan-free, augmented with added water to boost hydration levels and facilitate food being processed through a compromised digestive system.
I do not feed dry food as a rule, as my information indicates that per evidence-based research -- the low-residue/high protein approach trumps the high-fiber, dry food former protocol. However, I do augment the "wet" food with occasional Royal Canin "treats" and hydrated PureBites dehydrated chicken/turkey "treats" to add some beneficial fiber.
To avoid digestive system "overload" and "bolting" of food (formerly feral cat) with resultant vomiting/regurge, she is given 3 meals daily at regular intervals, with each meal staged into 2 segments. Added to the canned food at each meal is powdered Miralax for total of 1/2 tsp./day divided between the 3 meals, and powdered Mercola Digestive Enzymes - approx. 1/2 tsp./day divided by 3 meals. She has been producing near-colon-length BMs of medium-soft consistency and near-normal diameter, 50% segmented vs. 50% 1-2 continuous units -- averaging every 2-3 days. My understanding is that this is near-optimal for Megacolon cats. (I DO also keep a "log" of daily litterbox results!).
If she is exceeding the 3-day "window" for stool production, I syringe an initial dose of 3ml Lactulose diluted with 1 ml water for palatability, followed with a chaser of water. This is usually sufficient to stimulate stool production within 1-3 hours. I have rarely had to administer a similar second dose within 4-6 hours, which has to this point been successful.
Her urinary output has been very regular at every 10-12 hours, and is usually medium to large volume.
She was trialed on Cisapride 5mg "tiny tabs" q12 hours before food, for approximately 3 months. It did not have (in my estimation) an appreciable effect on stool production, and I discontinued this recently while continuing everything else.
My concern is that, while produced stools appear optimal in terms of consistency and ease of passage -- there is a need for more effective digestive motility. Although the "fall-back" remedy has been lactulose administration, I am concerned at having to "emergently manage" this cat's stool production.
Is her ability to produce stool independently being compromised by over-use and/or dependency on the Miralax? Would the hydration levels possibly be resulting in electrolyte imbalance which could have resultant effect on her digestive processing?
Added to all the above is the fact that as a formerly-feral cat, she is an *extremely* fractious and difficult patient, and cannot be examined or treated without being fully sedated! In the clinic environment, she reverts to feral behavior, and would as easily shred *my* face as the Vet's!
However, here at home, she is extremely tolerant of my doing many things with her, i.e., syringe-dose meds by wrapping her up in a towel like a "kitty burrito," and clipping her nails without restraint.
Needless to say, this behavioral problem definitely limits the success of vet-hospital-based endeavors, so I always have to consider this factor in diagnostic/treatment plans. And full sedation to "knock-out" level cannot be done frequently due to major corollary effects.
Can you kindly offer input regarding other intestinal motility agents that will be effective in light of Cisapride's apparent failure? Or suggest products or means to optimize management of the Megacolon condition?
I am really not sure of the next steps in this matter, but am certainly open to suggestions!
Thanks Dr. Callum, for your kind response.
After submitting my question to you, I did further research and found information in a veterinary peer-reviewed publication regarding Tegaserod (SDZ HTF 919-Novartis Corp.). It is a GI pro-kinetic agent described as "...a potent non-benzamide agonist at 5-HT4 receptors..." and is reported to "accelerate colonic transit... during the first hour after intravenous administration." Also noted: "... the highest doses (0.1 and 0.3 mg/kg) have no greater efficacy than lower doses (0.03 mg/kg)..." and that "in vitro studies suggest that Tegaserod does not prolong the QT interval or delay cardiac repolarization, as has occasionally been reported with Cisapride."
The preceding is plenty enough motivation for me to speak with KitKat's vet about a trial of Tegaserod! It certainly is a more reasonable "next step" in my estimation than rushing to surgery for a condition which does not (in my opinion) at this time present critically enough to warrant that drastic step.
I have shared this information with you so that you may research it further. Hopefully it will also provide you with a "next step" for any feline (or canine) patients you may encounter whose owners are almost "at the end of their rope!"
Lynda (and KitKat)
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