Diarrhoea in cats and kittens just a general story


Diarrhoea in cats is a frustrating problem for both cats and their owners. We usually use the word "diarrhoea" to mean "loose stool," but it also means increased urgency and frequency. The onset of signs may be sudden, or develop slowly over days or weeks. Cats may behave normally or may become depressed and stop grooming and eating. Signs may also wax and wane. The appearance of a cat with diarrhoea can range from perfectly normal, to a depressed, thin cat with a rough hair coat. Before we can get any answers about the cause of the cat’s condition, we need to ask a few questions.



How old is your cat?

Age may influence the most common kinds of diarrhoea we expect to see.

Kittens are more likely to have internal parasites, although any cat can have them. Kittens are also playful and inquisitive, which can mean accidentally swallowing non-food items.

Many cats have certain food intolerances or digestive problems. Contrary to popular belief, many cats cannot digest milk (with lactose), while other cats cannot tolerate certain ingredients found in commercial cat food. The body enzyme that processes the sugars in milk, called lactase, is active while nursing, but unless milk is given on an ongoing basis, this “constitutive” enzyme will effectively go to sleep, and those kittens will no longer be able to digest the milk sugars (lactose intolerance), which results in diarrhoea.




Are vaccinations current?

Vaccinations are available to protect cats from developing serious infectious diseases such as feline panleukopenia (distemper) and feline leukemia. However, there are not vaccines for every infectious disease, and even vaccinated cats exposed to disease may (in some cases) develop mild signs. Also a recent vaccination can give a allergic reactie on your cat and this can result in diarrhoea.


Does your cat spend any time outdoors?

Cats who roam freely outside have the opportunity to ingest poisons and toxic plants or encounter sick animals while not being observed by their caregivers. They also may hunt and devour birds, lizards, bugs, fish or sample food from well-meaning neighbours and their garbage cans. Sometimes, the water they drink contains single celled parasites (e.g., Giardia) that may cause diarrhoea. They may also drink water with oil or other contamination leading to illness. Check your garden or the plants that you have in your house. Is your cat around a specific plant/tree a lot, check if that greenery is poisen.






What does your cat eat?

Just as not every human can tolerate Mexican food or eggs, not every cat can tolerate every type of cat food. It may be as simple as eliminating canned food from the diet, or feeding a diet that does not contain fish, beef, certain starches, or chicken. Sometimes problems do not manifest until later in life, and involve more than simple food intolerance - perhaps a true allergy will develop. There are non-food items that cats may eat (wool or plastic) that can irritate the guts. Scraps containing foodstuffs that the cat is not used to may be fed, leading to diarrhoea. Homemade diets are often not nutritionally balanced, and this can cause digestive and other adverse system-wide effects. And if you want go from one cat food to another, do this slowly, not mixing the two different brands together in one bowl but place them next to each other in a separate bowl. Transfer can go in a couple of days by providing more of the new food in that bowl and less pre-given food.


Does your cat come into contact with other animals, have other health problems or have access to drugs or chemicals?

Environmental contamination may result when a pet is shedding salmonella bacteria or other infectious agents! Cats may also deposit infective worms in the environment which kitty can pick up while prowling.

Intestinal worms that commonly cause feline diarrhoea include roundworms, tapeworms, and hookworms. Each of these requires a specific wormer medication so when a general over-the-counter wormer is given to a cat, the chances of this product curing your cat are slim. To make matters worse, only roundworms and tapeworms can be seen in the stool with the naked eye, and this is a rare occurrence, so stools must be examined under a microscope at the vet’s office. For worming check the schedule on the package of the medication.

Single celled parasites such as Giardia can cause diarrhoea. They also require specific medication. Since we cannot see these tiny parasites, the only way one can properly evaluate a cat for intestinal parasites is repeated microscopic examinations of the stool by a veterinarian.

There are many infectious diseases associated with diarrhoea signs in cats. Bacterial diarrhoea is quite common and sometimes cultures will be carried out to isolate the bug.

Non-infectious diseases are more difficult to diagnose and may require specialized testing. In cats, the most common is inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). This condition is most commonly seen in cats over two years of age (although it can be seen in any age). Weight loss, vomiting, and other signs may occur.

Cancer may lead directly or indirectly to diarrhoea in cats.

Disorders of nutrient absorption, kidney failure, diabetes, liver disease and other conditions can also cause loose stools, directly or indirectly.

Drugs and poisons causing diarrhoea include insecticides, slug baits, fertilizers, and heavy metals. However, even the “non-toxic” chemicals can cause diarrhoea under the right circumstances. Antibiotics are a class of drugs given to the cat for a good reason but these can affect the normal helpful bacteria in the intestinal tract. Certain types of bacteria found in the intestinal tract are vital for digestion. When an antibiotic kills the good bacteria, it can cause a “sterile gut” diarrhoea. Sometimes "good bacteria" cultures are given to the cat to help replace the damaged resident gut bacteria. Other drugs we prescribe may cause a loose stool, so if your cat develops diarrhoea while taking medications, let your veterinarian know. Note that acetaminophen should never be given to a cat, and Aspirin given only with special veterinary oversight and cat-specific dosing.

Diarrhoea may result when the intestinal tract is blocked, whether by a tumor, a foreign object, a poop ball, or by twisting or telescoping of the gut on itself. Sometimes only fluid can get around or through the obstruction. The result is a cat who is straining and passing watery stool and who may need surgery rather than medical treatment.

Animals may experience diarrhea also when they are stressed. For example you just moved or another cat just moved in or you redecoreted your home. Small things can have a huge effect on the well being of your cat.

The above information only scratches the surface of the subject of feline diarrhea. Remember, you can help your veterinarian by taking careful observations at home and contacting the hospital before the problem has become long-standing.

 

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