Narrowing of the Anal or Rectal Opening in Cats

By PetMD Editorial on Jan. 22, 2009

Rectal Stricture in Cats


Rectal stricture occurs when a cat's rectal or anal opening is constricted due to the presence of scar tissue from inflammation, a previous injury, or an aggressive cancer growth. This narrowing of the opening(s) obstructs the passage of stool, thereby resulting in issues with the cat's digestive system. Rectal stricture is not hereditary.


Dogs and cats of both genders, and most breeds and ages may be affected by strictures. If you would like to learn more about how this condition affects dog, please visit this page in the PetMD pet health library.


Symptoms and Types


Symptoms will vary depending on the severity of the condition. Some symptoms include constipation, diarrhea, and difficulties while defecating. The feces is often be covered in mucus and blood-stained. There also may be a compensatory increase in the size of the cat's large intestine as a result of the stricture.




Both male and female cats suffer from strictures, as do most breeds and age groups. Although, cats that have had rectal or anal abscesses, inflammation, fistulas, a foreign body in the anal passage, or fungal infection are at a higher risk of sustaining the condition. Cuts or wounds in the area, cancerous growths, and some surgeries (e.g., removal of part of the rectum for biopsy) can also put animals at higher risk for developing strictures.




Your veterinarian will perform a thorough physical exam on your cat, taking into account the history of its symptoms and possible incidents that might have precipitated the stricture. Some of the common tests include a complete blood count and a urinalysis, which will usually return as normal. If your cat has an existing infection or inflammation, the white blood count may be high.


A manual examination of the rectum might be required to determine the extent and location of the stricture. Ultrasonography of the abdominal area may also be performed; this might show thickening of the stomach walls and a change in the structure of the internal tissues, especially if cancer is present.


X-rays of the abdominal area and injection of contrast dyes (barium, air, or double-contrast enema) may show narrowing of the rectal and intestinal canal. These tests will be completed as a multi-step process: first, a warm water enema will be administered, followed by the dye injection six hours later. A combination of air and barium media is most effective for testing.


A colonoscopy, using a tubular, flexible camera inserted through the anal opening, will help your veterinarian visualize the stricture internally and to determine the extent of the stricture. This is also a convenient method for obtaining a tissue sample for further evaluation, which is helpful for determining if your cat has cancer, or a fungal or parasitic infection.




Once your veterinarian has differentiated between other conditions and strictures, treatment will involve relieving the cat's pain and encouraging elmination of any waste still remaining in its intestines; this is done by using stool softeners, enemas, or drugs. Cats should be given plenty of fluids prior to the administration of the enema; some cats require anesthesia prior to the procedure.


Corticosteroids may also be given to regulate inflammation, but not before your cat is fully examined for the presence of an infection, since corticosteroids can have an adverse effect if infection is present.


The underlying cause of the stricture will then be treated in order to widen the cat's narrowed canal. If an infection is found, your veterinarian will prescribe medications -- either antifungals or antibiotics -- to eliminate the specific infection your cat has.


Surgery may be advisable for widening the narrowed opening. This can be done by using a balloon-like device to open the canal, or for milder strictures, a temporary stent may be used. For more extensive lesions, partial or complete removal of the canal may be required. Antimicrobial drug therapy may be prescribed to prevent infections during and after surgery.


If a cancerous tumor is found to be present, radiotherapy and chemotherapy may be called for.


Living and Management


Be attentive to any recurring symptoms or signs in your cat. If the original cause of the stricture was cancer, symptoms of metastasis will be of concern. Some complications of medical management include ineffective treatment, diarrhea, dehydration, and adverse effects of medications.


If the veterinarian chose a balloon dilation procedure for the cat's treatment, be aware deep rectal tears, hemorrhaging, or full-thickness tearing of the intestinal walls may occur. However, cats with smaller strictures are usually treated easily and managed with balloon dilation.


Surgery may also result in fecal incontinence, secondary stricture formation, and opening of the wound site. Cats requiring surgery will usually have limited prognosis due to frequent complications.

Help us make PetMD better

Was this article helpful?

Get Instant Vet Help Via Chat or Video. Connect with a Vet. Chewy Health