Cat diarrhea is a very common presenting complaint among cats brought into my office for examination. In general, it is one of the most frequent reasons cats are taken to see the veterinarian.
Diarrhea occurs in kittens, adult cats, geriatrics, males and females and all breeds. It has many different causes, almost too many to list.
Can your cat have diarrhea that is of no consequence? Absolutely. They can have an upset GI tract for a day just like we can. However, it is important for any cat with diarrhea that lasts more than a day to have a physical exam and microscopic evaluation of the stool.
Cats can quickly become dehydrated due to their small size. Also, since there are so many causes of feline diarrhea, it is very important to diagnose the right cause so that treatment can be appropriate.
You can hear more about cat diarrhea on our radio show:
Causes of Diarrhea in Cats
What are some of the causes of diarrhea in cats? There are many and they can include feline allergies, specifically food allergies, intestinal parasites, feline inflammatory bowel disease, hyperthyroidism, diabetes, ingestion of a poison, feline leukemia, several different viruses, and much more.
Constipation can even be confused for cat diarrhea. When a cat is constipated, they often strain in an effort to move the stool along and in the process, some liquid stool may ooze around the hard, impacted feces and be the only thing the cat produces. The owner then mistakenly believes their cat has diarrhea when, in fact, the cat is constipated. I have seen many cats in my hospital that were brought in with an owner diagnosis of diarrhea when they actually turned out to be constipated.
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Fluids may be needed for dehydration when a cat has diarrhea and cat medication may be needed. Without proper diagnostics, it is not possible to administer the correct treatment. That is not safe or fair for the cat or the owner.
Also, a major word of warning: Don't forget, feline medication can be very different from human or even dog medication and dosages are certainly different. Don't ever give your cat a medication for human diarrhea without checking with your veterinarian. You can kill your cat doing that.
Diarrhea can be difficult to treat, but almost never impossible. Sometimes it requires enormous patience on the part of the owner and a firm trust in the veterinarian because it may take time and require several stages of diagnostics and even trials of treatment to cure diarrhea.
Diagnosing the Cause of Your Cat's Diarrhea
I have seen far too many cat owners run from one vet to another if the diarrhea is not resolved with one visit. That is unfortunate because diarrhea in a cat is one of those conditions that may take a few days to a few weeks to diagnose and treat. Running from vet to vet is a waste of precious time unless you have good reason to doubt the competency of your veterinarian.
Diagnostics include at a minimum a thorough history, complete physical exam, and a fecal analysis. In addition, blood work may be necessary and possibly xrays. In extreme cases, intestinal biopsies may be needed.
Treating Cat Diarrhea
Treatment can range from something as mild as withholding food for 24 hours to a change in diet to medication. Again, the treatment for food allergy is very different from the treatment for intestinal parasites which is very different from inflammatory bowel disease. Therefore, it is critical that a proper diagnosis be made so the right treatment can be chosen.
Below, you will find questions from readers and my answers which are full of valuable information on cat diarrhea.
Read Dr. Neely's Response to Dozens of Questions
About A Colorless Fluid Leaking From Cats Rear Ends
Return from Cat Diarrhea to the Symptoms of Cat Illnesses
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What Other Cat Lovers Have Said About Cat Diarrhea
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