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Diarrhea in Cats

Posted by Dr. Roth on November 19, 2021

Medical Advice
Wellness Care
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Cats are unable to tell their pet parent verbally that they are sick or not feeling well. Also, cats instinctively mask or hide ailments to avoid looking weak. Therefore, knowing when a cat is sick can be difficult for a pet parent.

Diarrhea in Cats

Diarrhea in cats is a common health concern caused by a plethora of conditions. Healthy adult cats often overcome diarrhea without needing serious treatment — however, diarrhea can cause kittens and senior cats to become dehydrated very quickly. 

Causes of Cat Diarrhea

Most diarrhea in cats is acute, meaning it happens suddenly. On the other hand, some cats experience chronic diarrhea, meaning it occurs over a long period of time.

The following list contains some of the most common causes of diarrhea in cats:

  • Stress and/or anxiety: Most cats don’t like any form of change. Any change to their environment, such as a new home, new people, other animals, and even new furniture, can cause a cat to stress. When cats are stressed, they often have diarrhea. Most of the time, diarrhea caused by acute stress will clear up on its own very quickly. However, some cats may need anti-anxiety medication.

  • Diet: Food directly impacts cat digestion. Sudden changes to their diet will cause diarrhea in cats. If they need to change food, the pet parent should make the change gradually over a week. Additionally, expired food can cause diarrhea. Pet parents should always know the expiration date of their cat’s food.

  • Parasites: There are many common types of intestinal parasites. Some, such as tapeworms, can be seen by the naked eye. Other types, such as coccidia, can be diagnosed with a fecal test. 

  • Viruses: Many viruses can cause diarrhea in cats. Some cat viruses clear up quickly on their own, but others can be life-threatening. Diagnostic testing is required to test for viruses.

  • Chronic conditions: Inflammatory bowel disease and gastrointestinal lymphoma are both conditions that can cause diarrhea in cats. These conditions require lifelong treatment and management. 

Diagnosing Diarrhea in Cats

Determining the cause of diarrhea usually requires diagnostic testing at a vet clinic. The easiest and fastest test a vet can do is a fecal exam. This test requires a fresh sample of cat feces and is very effective at detecting most intestinal parasites.

In addition to a fecal exam, the vet may also request blood work to test for viruses and infection. 

In some cases, specialized diagnostic testing is required and include:

  • Abdominal ultrasound

  • Radiographs (X-rays)

  • Intestinal biopsies

Treatment for Cat Diarrhea

Treatment for diarrhea in cats greatly depends on the cause and the age of the cat. In many cases, probiotics, antibiotics, dewormers, and a slight change in diet can remedy an acute case of diarrhea. 

Cats may also need subcutaneous or intravenous fluids to treat or prevent dehydration caused by diarrhea. 

The pet parent will need to work closely with their vet to establish an individualized treatment plan for chronic diarrhea. This treatment plan will be specific to the cat’s diagnosis and may need to be modified regularly. 

A chat with a Fuzzy Veterinarian team member can assist a pet parent with additional feline health questions. 

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