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Why does my cat have diarrhea?

Diarrhea in cats is a common issue seen by our Memphis vets. Here are some of the most common causes of cat diarrhea, as well as advice on when a trip to the vet is called for and how to stop your cat's diarrhea.

Cat Diarrhea

Our Memphis vets see a lot of cats suffering from diarrhea, and for a range of reasons.

Depending on your cat’s lifestyle, you may or may not be readily aware of the details of her bathroom habits. In addition, cats are very fastidious about grooming so the tell-tale (or tell-tail) signs of diarrhea may be missed—especially in the early stages. For this reason, routine veterinary visits are important.  

There are a number of more serious reasons why your cat could have diarrhea.

Common Causes of Diarrhea in Cats

Below are some of the most common reasons for 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
  • Infections – Viral or bacterial infections can also cause diarrhea and also occur more frequently in younger cats
  • Dietary Indiscretion or Diet Change – 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 – Just like with people, 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/Toxins – Most know that certain antibiotics can upset the GI tract but other medications and certain toxins can also cause diarrhea
  • Constipation – Constipation may seem counterintuitive, but I mention it because older cats are prone to developing motility problems in their colons leading to constipation. In these cases, the cats often manage to only pass a small amount of more liquid stools around the obstruction.

But how do you know whether your cat's diarrhea requires a visit to the vet?

When To Contact Your Vet

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 a hairball. This is a very serious concern and needs veterinary attention right away, contact your vet or head to the nearest emergency animal hospital for care.

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, contact your veterinarian. Your vet will let you know whether your pet's symptoms indicate that an examination is necessary.

How to Stop Chronic 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 strategies your vet may suggest in order to address your cat's diarrhea are:

  • 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. 

Is your cat experiencing bouts of diarrhea? Contact our Southeast Memphis vets today to book an examination for your feline family member. 

Cat diarrhea is a common problem seen by our vets.

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