Dealing with constipation on raw diet

tinn

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Hi! I've never posted on here, but I've used your guidance in switching my cat, Cam over to a raw diet, and I'm convinced it saved her life! So I owe all of you a big thank you!

Cam is 8 and about a year ago after a very scary few days of her having uncontrollable diarrhea (all over the house), and being very lethargic and weak, our vet told us she had IBD. She's always had a sensitive tummy, but for all those years previously, the vet really only told us "that's just how she is" and "there isn't really anything you can do". She was put on Prednisone, and it seemed to help, but every time we tried to lower the dose she would get sick again. I didn't want her to be on it forever, so I came here and successfully switched her from eating Science Diet and Rx wet food, to Stella and Chewy's freeze dried. It's the only raw we can get her to eat, she doesn't like the frozen stuff, which might be temperature related, but I get nervous about leaving it out to warm up, so Stella & Chewy's has been great. Sometimes I give her a bit of Nature's Variety Instincts canned food.

My question is this: Since switching her over I think she's getting constipated. Going out of the box and it's very light in color, and crumbles like sawdust. I read that cats go less and it's more firm on a raw diet, so at first I wasn't concerned about the consistency, but this doesn't seem right. Plus sometimes she seems to be uncomfortable, and still runs around right before, and sometimes after she goes to the bathroom. Could this be the bone content of Stella and Chewy's or something else? If it is, how can I offset the high bone percentage when I can't get her to eat any other raw? I started mixing Slippery Elm Bark into her food a few weeks ago, and I tried giving her a chicken gizzard today, which she sampled, but didn't seem to love. I can't spend a ton of money on expensive foods and remedy's, but I'd love anyones advice or experiences--my vet approved of giving manufactured raw food, but doesn't know much about it, so she's been little help.

Thank you in advance, this website has been a HUGE help to me and Cam! :)
 

abby2932

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Has Cam ever tried hearts? (chicken, duck or turkey) I feel like there's lots of cats on here that love hearts and they are somewhat easy to source.

I would suggest giving her a chicken heart as a treat every day. This would lower the bone content a tiny bit without throwing off the nutritional balance of the commercial food and she may really like it. (you may need to cut it in half at first. I have no idea how small they are)
 

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Got a quick question for you...are you feeding her the Stella and Chewy's in dry form, or are you rehydrating it?  I ask because mine won't eat it if it's rehydrated
.   So....if it's not rehydrated, is she drinking lots of water?  It's not really meant to be fed as meals dehydrated, so if that's what's happening, you really need to make sure she's getting plenty of water.  It's kind of a catch twenty two since it's obviously helping her IBD.

Since I don't know the answer to my question, I'm going to give you this article to read:  http://www.thecatsite.com/a/tips-to-increase-your-cat-s-water-intake , and if that IS the issue, more water could help, but raw poop IS definitely smaller and much dryer, even when they are eating REAL meat, and cats often seem to strain to go because it seems to be harder (stools) than on regular food.    But I also agree with Abby that you could simply give her a chicken heart every day and see if that changes anything.  It will decrease the percentage of bone, which should help with constipation.  If you have a Chinese grocery around, they should carry chicken hearts. 
 
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tinn

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Thank you so much for your responses, Abby and Mrs. GJ! Cam tried her very first chicken gizzard today, and she only ate a little bit. Then we tried mixing in a bit of wet food--she ate a little more, and then I sprinkled a Stella & Chewy's nugget over it, and she ate even more, but didn't finish it. While I was grocery shopping today I picked up a lb of Tyson's mixed chicken hearts and gizzards, I'll try a heart when I give her dinner tonight. I'm not sure of the quality difference between grocery store vs. Chinese market, but I just happened to be shopping and I was feeling a little desperate so I grabbed it. There is a Chinese market in the area though, so I don't have any issues going there. Are there any other tricks you've found for getting a cat to eat a chicken heart? I think the texture (of the gizzard at least) was just too different for her.

We ALWAYS re-hydrate the freeze-dried food. At first she didn't like it when it was too "soupy", but I think she likes the taste of it more now than she did when we were transitioning her, so she lets us put more water in it. We feed her 1/3 cup freeze-dried with probably a 1/2 water in it, twice a day, and she always eats/drinks it all.

I looked through the suggestions for increasing her water intake too, and I see her drink water pretty often. We have a bowl by her food dish and a pub glass (for a while she'd only drink out of them!) in the bedroom, where she is most often, so I feel like she has options to drink as much as she wants to. I've thought about getting a fountain, but they seem expensive and I'm not sure she'll use it anyway...has anyone found any affordable ones?

Does it seem like she isn't getting enough water based on that information? I'm kind of at a loss, because a lot of the time she seems fine and happy, and goes in her box MOST of the time, but when she goes outside of it, it makes me think there's a deeper issue.

One more thing--I was feeding her kibble (Nature's Variety Limited Formula Rabbit) and I was worried that was causing the constipation because I had read about the different digestion rates, but it doesn't really seem to be any different since I stopped.
 

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You might could try Miralax for a while until the bowels adjust to this new way of feeding.  The raw diet is a low residue diet, so her bowels are adjusting and may need a little help.  Mine also had raging diarrhea that raw fixed, and there was some "bowel readjustments" if you will.  I gave Miralax for a few weeks and then they didn't need it anymore.  Watch the anal glands too, cats were used to big poops helping them expel anal glands now do not have the massive stools.  You may see some scooting on the carpet but this may also subside once they adjust to it all.
 

ritz

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No quality difference between a Chinese grocery store and a main stream, chain grocery store. It seems international supermarkets have a wider variety of meats/poultry: us Americans aren't very adventerous when it comes to different organ meat. Beef testicles anyone?
I buy chicken hearts from an international supermarket--they sell just the chicken hearts, minus the gizzards. Main stream, chain grocery stores where I live sell chicken gizzards plus chicken hearts in the same package--many more gizzards than hearts. Gizzards are fine for cats who are learning to chew, but aren't that nutritious. Ritz will eat gizzards, though not enthusiastically.
You may be able to source meats from your local farmer's market. More expensive than international/main stream grocery stores, but the quality is usually superior.
I agree with the other posters, give Cam a heart or even a piece of raw meat, maybe something you're having for dinner. Try to avoid ground meat from the grocery store--ground verus chunks of meat tend to be exposed to more bacteria.
 

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As to the amount of water she's getting, it sounds like enough, especially since you're rehydrating her freeze dried food.  I don't think a fountain is necessary, especially since you don't even know if she'd use it
.

BTW, I'm still not even convinces she's constipated.   I wonder if it's worth a call to Stella and Chewy's to ask them if her poop is normal for her diet on their freeze dried food?  Couldn't hurt
 
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tinn

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I was thinking of calling Stella & Chewy's too, just to see. The last time Cam was at the vet I was slightly concerned she may have been constipated (because I didn't see any other reason for her to go outside of her box), and they felt her abdomen and didn't feel a blockage. She said everything looked great, but then when I was reading the report afterwards it said it was "difficult to assess because of weight gain" (she went from 9 lbs, at her sickest, to 13 within just a few months!), so I took that to mean she still could be constipated. There was also some questions on how much S&C I should be feeding her because the package was kind of unclear and no one at the vet's was really familiar with the brand, so as far as raw questions go, I guess I just don't feel comfortable going back to them for that.

I gave Cam a chicken heart with dinner last night and one as a snack today and she gobbled it right down! I was shocked--I guess she likes it more than the gizzard! Once I run out of hearts from the mixed package, I'll pick some up at the Asian market. Excellent advice on this!

Peaches--are there any other giveaways to anal gland problems? This is new to me, but I've never seen her do "the carpet scoot".

Mrs. GJ--do you see any other clues to anything, if you think she might not be constipated? Her litter box is cleaned regularly, and if it isn't, she without fail, lets us know by pooping on our bed (which definitely gets her point across!) but this is different, she's finding other places to go, not hidden places really, but it seems like just places she happens to be at the time...that's what made me think it was constipation/she doesn't have control over it...

Is there anything else we could be over looking here?
 

mrsgreenjeens

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Whoa...she gained 4 pounds since she started on the Stella and Chewy's
?.  Is she overweight now, or this her "good" weight?  I'm a bit confused since it doesn't appear the Vet indicated she needed to lose weight per any discussion, yet on the report there was an indication she might be 
.

And I guess I overlooked the fact that she is pooping wherever she is when she gets the urge
.  Yes, this is indicative of constipation, at least it was for my old guy who had chronic constipation, and Miralax was the "cure" for him.    You might try just adding about 1/8 teaspoon into her a.m. meals for a little while to see what happens.  Just dissolve it in a little bit of water and stir it into her food.  It's odorless and tasteless and doesn't gel up. 
 
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tinn

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I know! She bulked up again quick! Let me try and clarify the time line...

Summer 2013 (and before) - 11 1/2 (I think this is her regular "good" weight) eating Science Diet Dry & Friskies wet food (which I can never ever ever imagine going back to!)

November 2013 (when she was her sickest) - 9 lbs-ish, she couldn't keep anything down, so the vet prescribed prednisone (1 daily) and Rx wet food (no more Friskies), and lactose free milk (because her phosphorus levels were dangerously low).

January 2014 - 9 1/2-10 lbs when she was still on pred and STARVING all the time. Her phosphorus was still low, but getting better, and every time we tried to lower the dosage she would get sick again. So we were still focused on getting her levels up, so we tried everything to get her into drinking milk, and finally succeeded with mixing it with chicken baby food to make kind of a "soup".

February 2014 - 11 lbs. Every time she gained weight it was such a victory!

She was stable throughout this time, we got her down to 1 pill every other day, but every so often she'd get sick again. I didn't want her on the pill for the rest of her life, and I wanted her to get better too, so I got desperate and I found all this great info on raw around March maybe. My vet gave me the go ahead to try raw, and we were in touch just by phone, so there wasn't any weighing in this time.

March-April 2014 - there was a lot of experimenting with different foods, and what she'd eat, mixing her existing food with raw.

June 2014 - 13 lbs! We were all shocked, but before the random poops started, she seemed so happy and content, and looked super healthy. By this time we had her eating in the AM: 1/6 can Nature's Variety, and 2 tbsp Nature's Variety L.I. Kibble and in the PM: 1/2 Cup Stella & Chewy's (with water). This is also when I started noticing constipation symptoms. I was worried it had to do with the dry food, but she had been seeming less and less interested in that, and begging for S&C's. So I started feeding her 1/2 C in the am and 1/2 C in the pm (which was actually 1/2 C less than the pkg suggested for what I thought her weight was...) The vet said it sounded like she was telling me she was ready to transition to all raw, which sounded great to me, and we thought we'd see a change, but it's been about a month and there hasn't been one... The vet said she would like to see her down to 11-12 lbs, but she wasn't super concerned about the weight gain, I think everyone was just happy that everything checked out so well! She did say during the appt. that although she had gained weight, it wasn't all in one spot (to signify blockage or a tumor). It wasn't until I saw the report that said it was "difficult to assess"...

July 2014 - Now we feed her 1/3 C in both am and pm, so I assume her weight has settled down a bit. I actually just tried to weigh her, but she wasn't having it!
 
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tinn

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Oh, and mrsgreenjeens mrsgreenjeens , one more thing, she's entirely off the Pred now! I blame most of the weight gain on the rx + baby food + milk in her sudden weight gain, (and not S&C) but it got her phosphorus levels back up, so I'm hopeful that was all worth it!
 

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My cats didn't have any other signs, but their anal glands were just a little full (nothing terrible).  If there's an unusual smell that wasn't there before, you may have to have a vet express them.  The primary concern is the constipation for sure, I just wanted to mention the anal glands since smaller poops don't expand the rectum/anus as much and "adjustments" to the new pooping isn't instantaneous for some. 
 
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tinn

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peaches08 peaches08 , thanks for the info. This is something I know nothing about, but plan to research it further. If she actually isn't constipated, could full anal glands make her poop in odd spots? A few times I have noticed some mucus on the poop...is that the fluid? Her anus does sometimes look reddish/tender but I guess I just assumed that was an IBD/constipation/diarrhea result. I'm going to call my vet tomorrow and ask if they check this or if that could be a possibility.
 

peaches08

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@peaches08, thanks for the info. This is something I know nothing about, but plan to research it further. If she actually isn't constipated, could full anal glands make her poop in odd spots? A few times I have noticed some mucus on the poop...is that the fluid? Her anus does sometimes look reddish/tender but I guess I just assumed that was an IBD/constipation/diarrhea result. I'm going to call my vet tomorrow and ask if they check this or if that could be a possibility.
I agree with mrsgreenjeans, it's usually constipation that makes a kitty go elsewhere to poop.  The mucus sounds like her IBD may be flaring a little.  I'd try the miralax, maybe even adding a little meat to dilute the bone.  Is homemade a possibility for you?
 
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tinn

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peaches08 peaches08 I'm hesitant about homemade for two reasons:

1, my vet gave me her blessing on a raw diet as long as it was commercially prepared.

2, I was a vegetarian for most of my life, and although I eat some chicken and fish now I can't even look at it raw. I know it's best and natural for cats, but the freeze dried is so much easier for me to handle! I had my bf handle the organs yesterday, and today I cut up my first heart, just for her! It was a huge step, haha. Maybe once she gets more used to the "real meat" consistency I could do more homemade...can you do it without a meat grinder/grinding bones? Do you think homemade would be better in the long run?
 

abby2932

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I wouldn't necessarily say that homemade is "better" but you do have more control of what goes into the meal when you have a cat with a specific issue that you need to work with. Just as an example, a cat with chronic kidney disease would do much better on a homemade diet so you could control how much phosphorus is in there.

My cats are on a 50/50 (commercial/homemade) one of the reasons being that homemade is cheaper.

Lastly, you can absolutely do homemade without a grinder if you can get kitty to eat bones such as chicken wing tips/necks, small rabbit bones or quail. The one device I would recommend is a decent scale the measures down to .1 of an ounce to precisely measure your organ meats which need to be 10% of the whole diet, half of that being liver. They run anywhere from $15-$40.

But if you can fix Cam's constipation problem while on commercial and the commercial food isn't breaking your budget, no need to switch if you don't want to.
 
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mrsgreenjeens

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Cats can gain weight on raw, so you may still need to cut down on her portions, even though she's no longer on the Pred.  My piggy cat gets  a lesser portion of raw than as his brother, who weighs 5 pounds less than him, and he as only losing weight VERY slowly, maybe an ounce every few months.

As far as Cam not liking the frozen raw, you said you think it may be because of the temperature...that may very well be.  Many people actually warm of the raw to "mouse temperature" by putting it in a ziploc baggie and setting it in warm water.  Some cats like it really cold, some at room temp, and some warm. 
 
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tinn

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Thank you, both for that advice. The commercial raw is a little expensive, but, I'm ordering it online now, bulk orders with coupon codes, so that last order I made worked out to about $.60 per meal. I was getting her Science Diet, and Rx cat food, so I feel like for now it's about the same price...? I'd love to venture into making it myself someday if that means cutting costs though! She'll have to get more used to eating it first.

We've been experimenting this week with feeding her the hearts and gizzards. She prefers the hearts, and prefers things to be warm, "mouse-temperature" for sure. She still hasn't gotten the chewing down yet, she needs everything cut very small or else she won't touch it, and we've been mixing it into her freeze-dried raw. She has had 1 heart or 1/2 gizzard daily since Sunday, when I first got the suggestion. She seems livelier! Also she hasn't gone anywhere but her box since (although it has been only every other day). One day she left a tiny bit a few feet away from her box, but I'm thinking it may have just been stuck to her, or maybe she's still straining a tiny bit but things might be getting better? We also noticed a tiny amount of red in her poop one day. We weren't sure if it was blood or a piece of organ meat... The rest of her poop is a light tan, almost exactly the same as S&C before she eats it, that's why I thought maybe it was just the heart. What are your thoughts on that?

We also let her try a sardine for the first time! She LOVED that, but it'll probably be a rare treat, we just happened to have some!

And I haven't tried the Miralax, I was hoping we could figure this out without medicine, but I'm still planning on researching that more, and any other experiences using it would be greatly appreciated!

Thanks again, everyone's been really helpful!
 
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