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Diarrhea in Felines

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Diarrhea is a common ailment in cats, indicated by frequent, loose bowel movements. It is not a disease, rather a symptom of minor to severe illnesses. Diarrhea is caused by food passing too quickly through the digestive tract, not allowing it to completely digest and preventing the body from absorbing any fluid the food contained. Because of this lack of absorption, it is very easy for cats with diarrhea to become dehydrated.

The cause of diarrhea in felines ranges from a bacterial infection or parasite, to a systemic illness or cancer; however, a sporadic case could be caused by something as simple as a change in diet. The condition can be acute or chronic, where acute diarrhea occurs suddenly and for a short period of time, and chronic diarrhea is a continuing ailment over a period of a few weeks. If you witness your cat having diarrhea, it is important to monitor the issue, and schedule a veterinary appointment if symptoms last longer than a couple of days.

Symptoms of feline diarrhea

Diarrhea in cats can be caused by either the small intestine or large intestine, each with its own indicative symptoms.

Small intestine symptoms 

  • Frequent bowel movements. 
  • Gas. 
  • Increased stool amount. 
  • Vomiting.

Large intestine symptoms 

  • Blood in stool, or tarry appearance.
  • Difficulty expelling stools. 
  • Frequent bowel movements. 
  • Mucous discharge in stool. 
  • Urgency to defecate.

Additionally, there are several symptoms that occur regardless of where the issue originated, each of which indicate that diarrhea is being caused by a serious medical issue in need of veterinary attention: 

  • Abdominal pain. 
  • Dehydration. 
  • Depression. 
  • Fever. 
  • Lethargy. 
  • Pale-colored gums. 
  • Stools that are a deep red, or black in color.

How is diarrhea in felines treated?

Prior to implementing treatment or a special diet, the veterinarian will first want to determine what is causing the diarrhea. The veterinarian will perform a physical evaluation and ask the pet owner specific details about their pet’s condition. If necessary, testing and diagnostics will then be performed. The veterinarian will determine which tests are necessary to aid in diagnosis. These may include: FIV and FeLV tests, cultures, endoscopy, X-rays, ultrasound, or intestinal biopsy.

Depending on the result of lab tests and the veterinarian’s official diagnosis, a custom treatment plan will be established. In addition to treatment, most cats are fasted for 24 to 36 hours, only being given water and crushed ice, to help their digestive system recover. After this initial fast, they are slowly reintroduced to food with low-fat, bland meals that are given in frequent, small portions.

If you have any questions about diarrhea in cats, please feel free to contact our office.