Barium Studies (Barium Series) For Cats

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 administered 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. The type of sedatives will depend on the suspected issue. Ketamine/acepromazine will be given to cats where gastric motility isn’t an issue, or ketamine/valium if a gastric motility disorder is suspected.

After ingestion, the veterinarian takes a further series of x-rays at 10, 20 and 30 minutes, 1 hour, and hourly thereafter until contrast material enters the large bowel.

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, 'Cat World' Founder

    Julia Wilson is the founder of Cat-World, and has researched and written over 1,000 articles about cats. She 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. Full author bio

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