Barium Studies (Barium Series) For Cats

Last Updated on January 9, 2021 by Julia Wilson

Also called an esophagram, upper series or contrast study, a barium study is a diagnostic test to evaluate suspected gastrointestinal disease in cats. Barium sulfate is a white radio-opaque metallic powder, once swallowed, the barium coats the inside walls of the gastrointestinal tract which shows up the structures as bright white on x-rays. The veterinarian can also monitor the transit time of the barium during this procedure.


Barium study procedure

Withhold food for 12-24 hours, and water two hours before the procedure. In some cases, a laxative or enema will be necessary to empty the gastrointestinal tract.

A series of x-rays are necessary before ingestion to make sure the gastrointestinal tract is properly prepared.

Barium is administered via needleless syringe or gastric intubation, if it is the latter, the cat will be sedated with ketamine and diazepam. Other sedatives have an impact on gastric delay time which can affect results.

After ingestion, the veterinarian takes a further series of x-rays as the barium moves through the gastrointestinal tract.

Home care

No special care is necessary after the procedure.

Constipation can occur following a barium swallow, and the cat’s stools may be chalky for a day or two.

Julia Wilson is a cat expert with over 20 years of experience writing about a wide range of cat topics, with a special interest in cat health, welfare and preventative care. Julia lives in Sydney with her family, four cats and two dogs. She enjoys photography, gardening and running in her spare time. Full author bio Contact Julia