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Cat Diarrhea - How to Treat This Messy Issue

If your feline family member is experiencing recurrent or ongoing episodes of diarrhea it could be a sign of an underlying health concern in need of veterinary care. Here, our Somerset vets explain common causes of cat diarrhea and when to call your vet.

Diarrhea & Your Cat's Health

It can be surprisingly challenging to know if your cat is experiencing repeated episodes of diarrhea. If your kitty is an outdoor adventurer, you may or may not be readily aware of the details of their bathroom habits. It is also the case that, most cats are very fastidious about grooming so the tell-tale signs of diarrhea can easily be missed—especially in the early stages.

For these reasons, we stress the importance of taking your feline family member to the veterinarian for a routine examination at least once a year. Even if you miss the signs of diarrhea, wellness exams provide your veterinarian with an opportunity to monitor your cat's overall health and check for subtle signs of present or developing illnesses that can lead to diarrhea.

What Causes Diarrhea in Cats?

Diarrhea is a common reason for both cats and dogs to be brought in to see our Somerset vets. Your kitty's diarrhea could be the result of a number of different causes, ranging from minor issues to more serious underlying conditions. Below are some of the most common causes:

  • Parasites –  Parasites can cause a great deal of irritation to your cat’s gastrointestinal tract, leading to all kinds of symptoms including diarrhea involving the small and/or large bowels. Significant numbers of parasites that cause diarrhea are more common in younger kittens
  • Toxins – If your cat has ingested a toxin it can lead to gastric distress and diarrhea. Seek immediate emergency care!
  • Infections – Viral or bacterial infections can be the cause of cat diarrhea and typically occur more frequently in younger cats
  • Recent Change of Diet – Cats tend to be more careful about what they eat than dogs, but sometimes they eat inappropriate things like grass, string, etc. Even a purposeful change in diet from one food to another can cause diarrhea
  • Stress & Anxiety – Emotional factors such as stress/anxiety/excitement can result in GI upset for your kitty (especially lower bowel irritation or colitis)
  • Primary Inflammatory Disorders – Like inflammatory bowel disease in people, inflammatory disorders can cause your cat to develop diarrhea
  • Metabolic Diseases – From disorders of the pancreas or liver to thyroid imbalances, there are many other problems that upset the motility or environment in the GI tract resulting in diarrhea
  • Medications - Antibiotics and other medications can upset your cat's delicate GI system and lead to diarrhea
  • Constipation – Constipation may seem counterintuitive, but older cats often develop motility problems in their colons that can lead to constipation. Cats experiencing this issue often manage to only pass a small amount of more liquid stools around the obstruction.
If a cat's diarrhea persists or is accompanied by other concerning symptoms, it is crucial to consult a veterinarian for proper diagnosis and treatment.

When To Book a Vet Appointment

If your cat has a single episode of diarrhea and is otherwise acting normal, it is likely not a cause for concern. Monitor your cat's bowel movements to see if things clear up. More than 2 episodes could indicate a problem, so it's a good idea to call your vet if your cat has two or more bouts of diarrhea.

If your kitty is straining to pass a stool but only passing small amounts of watery diarrhea, they could be experiencing a painful blockage due to the ingestion of a foreign object such as string off of a roast. Blockages can also occur due to hairballs. This is a very serious concern and needs veterinary attention right away!.

Recurring bouts of diarrhea over a short period of time could be a sign of a very serious health issue, particularly if your cat is very old, very young, or has a compromised immune system. Contact your vet right away if your kitty is experiencing repeated episodes of diarrhea.

Cats showing other symptoms as well as diarrhea should also be seen by a vet as soon as possible. If your cat has any of the following symptoms contact your vet right away to make an appointment:

  • Blood in stool
  • Unusual drooling
  • Vomiting
  • Lack of Appetite or refusal to eat altogether
  • Weakness or lethargy
  • Signs of dehydration (Sunken dry-looking eyes, dry nose, or dry, sticky gums)

If your cat is displaying any symptoms that cause you concern, call your vet right away. Your vet will let you know whether your pet's symptoms indicate that an examination is necessary.

How To Treat Cat Diarrhea

Never give your cat human medications without consulting your veterinarian. Many over-the-counter medications that work well for people can be toxic to cats.

When it comes to your kitty's health it is always best to err on the side of caution, if your cat is suffering from repeated or recurring diarrhea it's time to head to the vet. By taking your feline friend to the vet for an examination you give your veterinarian the opportunity to determine the underlying cause of your cat's diarrhea and recommend the most effective treatment. 

That said, your vet's primary focus will be on addressing the underlying cause of your kitty's diarrhea. Once your cat has received a diagnosis treatment can begin to address the problem rather than the symptom.

Of course, your priority is likely to be stopping the mess. To address your cat's diarrhea your vet may prescribe a kaolin-pectin anti-diarrheal medication or another suitable drug as well as recommending one or more of the strategies below.

Other things to consider:

  • Changing Your Cat's Diet - Changing your cat's food may help to rectify the issue. If you have recently changed your cat's food go back to serving the food you gave them previously. If you haven't changed your cat's food recently try switching to a gentle GI food for a couple of days or switching your kitty over to a hypoallergenic or low-antigen diet.
  • Supplement Your Cat's Diet With Probiotics - Probiotics may be recommended as a dietary supplement for your cat, in order to address the balance of microbiome and reduce GI upset.
  • Increase the Amount of Fiber in Your Cat's Diet - Increasing the fiber intake of your feline friend by trying them on a low fat, high carbohydrate diet that includes foods such as potatoes or rice mixed with chicken, turkey, cottage cheese or yogurt. 

Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. Please make an appointment with your vet to accurately diagnose your pet's condition.

Has your cat had repeated bouts of diarrhea? Contact our Somerset vets today to book an urgent examination for your feline friend.

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Spinnaker Veterinary Clinic welcomes cats, dogs, and their people to our clinic! Our experienced vets are passionate about the health of Somerset companion animals. Get in touch today to book your pet's appointment.

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