Lactulose is a laxative drug made from a combination of two sugars. Although this drug is only labeled for humans, the use of lactulose for cats is not uncommon. Cats are prone to a type of constipation called a megacolon, in which the colon is affected and enlarged. Dosing a cat with this disease is often an effective treatment. The frequency and size of the dose is based on the condition and size of the cat.
A cat that suffers from megacolon will have a lot of fecal matter in its colon. It is unable to pass some or all of the feces, which causes the colon to stretch and expand as it fills with waste. Since lactulose is not absorbed in the small intestine but is transmitted intact to the large intestine, it is sometimes able to effectively relieve this condition.
Another use of lactulose in cats is for the treatment of hepatic encephalopathy. This condition is related to liver problems, but actually affects the central nervous system. Cats with this disease can present with a wide variety of symptoms such as seizures, blindness, changes in urine flow and color, and vomiting. When a cat with this disease is treated with lactulose, it shows a significant improvement in its overall health.
It is not uncommon when using lactulose for cats that affected animals will need to take this medication for the rest of their lives. Hepatic encephalopathy is caused by a physical deformity of the cat’s blood purification system. Symptoms can be treated, but in most cases the cat cannot be cured. Continued use of this drug helps control the neurological symptoms of this disease, so it should be used daily.
Megacolon may require continued use of lactulose for cats. Although it is not caused by any kind of birth defect, once the colon has been stretched, it does not work as well as it should. This can easily cause recurrent constipation. Regular treatment can prevent the problem from recurring, so it should be used daily at the lowest dose that provides relief.
There are some important considerations when using lactulose for cats. This drug can have serious, even fatal, consequences if the cat is diabetic, as it is primarily concentrated sugar. Cats receiving insulin will need to adjust it when taking lactulose to avoid complications from diabetes. It is usually only available with a prescription from a veterinarian, as it can have harmful side effects if not used properly. Not all animals can take lactulose and it should be used with caution to avoid serious consequences.