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Cat Diarrhea - Possible Causes & Treatments

Recurrent or ongoing diarrhea in cats is typically a sign of an underlying health concern that should be investigated by your veterinarian. Here, our Santa Cruz vets discuss some common causes of cat diarrhea and when a vet appointment should be booked.

Diarrhea & Your Cat's Health

At Pacific & Santa Cruz Veterinary Specialists our vets often see cats suffering from diarrhea caused by a variety of underlying health issues.

For many pet parents, it can actually be challenging to know if your cat is experiencing an episode 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 (or tell-tail) signs of diarrhea may easily be missed—especially in the early stages. For these reasons, we stress the importance of taking your feline friend to the vet for a wellness exam 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.

Common Causes of Diarrhea in Cats

Below are some of the most common causes of diarrhea in cats:

  • Parasites –  Parasites can definitely irritate your cat’s gastrointestinal, causing all kinds of 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 also cause diarrhea and also 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 – Emotional factors such as stress/anxiety/excitement can result in GI upset (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.

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
  • Weakness
  • 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.

Treatment for Diarrhea in Cats

It is important to note that you should 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. 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 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 first 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 changes 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 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. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.

Do you think that your kitty may have diarrhea? Our Santa Cruz emergency vets are available 24/7 to care for cats in need. Contact Pacific & Santa Cruz Veterinary Specialists right away for urgent care!

New Patients Welcome

Pacific & Santa Cruz Veterinary Specialists is always accepting new patients! Our experienced vets are passionate about restoring good health to Santa Cruz companion animals. We are open 24/7 to provide your pet with care, whenever they need us.

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