Cat diarrhea is not always a reason for panic. A single episode of loose stool is not uncommon and owners should not become concerned. If cat diarrhea lasts for more than a day or two cat owners should take steps to ensure that their pet does not become dehydrated. Many illness stem from environmental factors and feeding issues. There are ways to manage and prevent many illness associated with cat diarrhea.
Acute Diarrhea: One Time Bout of Diarrhea
It is recommended that you stop feeding him/her for 12 to 24 hours and provide plenty of fresh clean water. The cause of occasional diarrhea could be caused by a change in diet, a food intolerance, eating spoiled food or a food allergy. It is recommended that owners avoid cat foods with beef, fish, and dairy. These are the leading allergens for cats. Also avoid feeding your cat “people food”. Allergies often develop after a cat has been fed the same food for a long period of time. When introducing new foods to your cat, a small amount should be added to the food that they are eating and gradually increase the amount given until you know that your cat can tolerate the new food.
Cat diarrhea can be a sign of something more serious if it lasts for a longer period of time or is accompanied by;
- extreme and sudden weight loss
- pain or discomfort defecating
- blackened stool
If diarrhea is accompanied by any of these symptoms, he/she should be seen by a veterinarian. Cat diarrhea may be a symptom of any number of illnesses. There are a number of tests that the veterinarian performs in order to diagnose what ails your cat.
Bacterial infections can occur in cats. Cat diarrhea will typically be accompanied by high fever, vomiting, dehydration and weakness. Stool may exhibit blood and emit an usually foul odor. After an initial onset of illness that can last up to ten days, diarrhea can persist for as long as a month. The cats that are the most susceptible to bacterial infections are ones that are housed in overcrowded and unsanitary conditions, have compromised immune systems and cats that have eaten raw meat or contaminated cat food. Bacterial infections can be picked up from the soil and manure of other animals. It is important to limit the exposure to other animals and to keep your cat’s environment clean. Transmission can be made by licking or cleaning contaminated manure off its paws or by making contact with a surface that has been contaminated by another cat. The veterinarian can identify whether or not your cat is suffering from a bacterial infection by analyzing a stool sample. In mild cases, the symptoms of diarrhea, vomiting, and dehydration are treated. In more acute cases antibiotics are given.
Parasite manifestation is fairly common in cats. Symptoms can include diarrhea, dull coat, coughing, vomiting, pot belly, pale mucus membranes, mucus or blood in the feces, weakness or loss of appetite. Routine de-worming of cats can be conducted with de-wormer from the veterinarian or through products available at pet stores. Cats can become infected by eating rodents that are carrying the larvae. Some round worms can be transmitted through a mother cat’s milk. Round worms can become serious if left untreated. Hook worms are not as common in cats but can be picked up by ingestion or through the skin. Once hook worms have invaded the cat they migrate to the lungs and then to the intestinal areas. If left untreated, hook worms can cause anemia. Tapeworms can often be seen in a cat’s feces or near the cat’s rectum. Cat’s become susceptible to tapeworm infestation by eating fleas or rodents that have fleas. The veterinarian can check a stool sample for worms and if present, are easily treatable. Good parasite control is essential to keeping your feline friend healthy.
The symptoms of exocrine pancreatic insufficiency are often weight loss and soft, pale large stools. The cat’s coat may have a greasy look. In many cases diabetes mellitus may accompany the disorder. The veterinarian can diagnose problems with the pancreas. There is research to suggest that Siamese cats are more susceptible to pancreatic disease. The best preventative measures include avoiding unnecessary antibiotics, and anti-cancer drugs, trauma to the abdomen, and to treat infections promptly.
Chronic renal disease is mostly seen in older cats. The symptoms may include diarrhea and can be accompanied by excessive thirst and urination, vomiting, lethargy and weight loss. The veterinarian can diagnose this condition by using an ultrasound or x-rays and a blood test. Often this condition can be treated with hydration and nutritional support. It is important to have regularly scheduled physical exams, and to avoid toxic substances in order to help prevent the onset of kidney disease.
Signs of liver disease in cats include jaundice, tiredness, loss of appetite, vomiting and diarrhea. Often the symptoms will come and go in cycles. Blood tests are used to diagnose liver function. A liver biopsy can be conducted but does not come without risks. Ultrasounds are effective in diagnosing general liver abnormalities. Hydration, nutritional support, and antibiotics are often successful in treating cats that have not reached the cirrhosis stage. Since this disease is related to cats’ inability to metabolize fat it is important to watch your cat closely in the event that he/she demonstrates a change in eating habits. Over-weight cats are mostly at risk, therefore it is important that your cat maintains a healthy weight.
Diarrhea in cats can be a symptom of gastrointestinal lymphoma. This primarily effects cats older than 10 years old. It is often accompanied by weight loss, decreased appetite, and vomiting. Biopsies are used for diagnosis. The lymphoma is then classified as either low or high grade. Chemotherapy is used to treat gastrointestinal lymphoma and if there is a blockage, surgery may be required as well. There is no known cause for cancer in cats. Early detection is crucial.
Colitis can come on suddenly or last for weeks and be recurring. Colitis is when the large intestine or the colon become enlarged or irritated and can be caused by infection, stress, parasites, diet, medication, pancreatitis, cancer, irritable bowel disease or a foreign object. The veterinarian will diagnosis the underlying issue. A bland diet of foods containing chicken, eggs, cheese and rice is recommended for prevention and treatment.
Addison’s disease is a deficiency in hormone production. Diarrhea is commonly accompanied by lethargy, vomiting, weight loss, shaking, increased thirst and urination, depression, weak pulse, hair loss, low temperature, blood in feces, collapse and pain. Addison’s disease can be diagnosed by an examination that includes routine laboratory tests. This disease is rare in cats and there is no known preventative measures except that any cat that is receiving steroid treatment should be weaned off slowly and not taken off the medicine abruptly.
Inflammatory Bowel Disease
Common symptoms associated with Inflammatory Bowel Disease are weight loss, vomiting, and diarrhea. This disease is one in which the intestine becomes exasperated with inflammatory cells. The only sure way to diagnosis this disorder is with a biopsy. The cause of this disease is unknown, however, it can be treated with a change in diet and medication.
The most common glandular disorder in cats is Hyperthyroidism. Diarrhea is often accompanied by hyperactivity, increased thirst and urination, unkempt appearance, panting and increased shedding. It is rare in cats under the age of 10 years old. This disorder can be diagnosed by a blood test. Treatment options include oral medication, surgical removal of the gland, or radioactive iodine therapy. Regularly scheduled exams with the veterinarian is the best preventative approach.
Reactions to Medications
Diarrhea can be due to a reaction to medications. If your feline friend has been given medication from your vet and develops diarrhea, contact your veterinarian’s office and let them know. Do not use flea powders or sprays that are designed and labeled for dogs as cats do not have the same tolerance for some chemicals.
Prevention Tips and Care
The best way to ensure your cat’s health is to stick to a routine worming schedule, switch foods periodically, but introduce new foods slowly, limit exposure to environmental toxins, clean the litter box often, limit the number of cats that your cat is exposed to, keep sanitary conditions, have your cat examined by a veterinarian twice a year, maintain a healthy low protein diet, and provide plenty of fresh clean water. Avoid unnecessary medications, but if your cat is prescribed steroids, make sure that he/she gets weaned off slowly.