Diarrhea is something everyone experiences, but it’s not a healthy way to get rid of waste. Cats can experience diarrhea due to a variety of conditions. Some of these conditions are more serious than others, but persistent diarrhea should be treated immediately, regardless of the cause. Serious problems can be secondary to diarrhea; it is important for cat owners to understand what causes this symptom and how to treat it.
What is cat diarrhea?
Diarrhea occurs when there is too much liquid in a cat’s stool. This can happen when the contents of a cat’s digestive system pass through the intestines too quickly for the body to absorb the fluid, or if the digestive system produces too much fluid on its own. Watery or very soft stools are produced due to this extra fluid. Unlike normal stool, diarrhea is also smelly, dirty, and lacks a form that can be easily scooped out of the litter box.
Signs of Diarrhea in Cats
Diarrhea may seem obvious in some cases, but if you’re not sure if your cat has diarrhea, there are some signs you can look for. Of course, a watery sample is a telltale sign if you see it, but you’ll probably notice the smell first. Diarrhea has a stronger odor than formed stool. Cats with diarrhea may have constant bowel movements, which can lead to more frequent trips to the litter box. Also, because diarrhea is very watery, your cat may leave signs of it on carpets, bedding, and other surfaces, especially if your cat is sliding.
The fur on the back of the cat may also have feces, and sometimes, the feces even splash onto the sides of the litter box or walls. You won’t find feces formed in cat litter, but additional clumps that are not urine. If diarrhea continues untreated, dehydration can lead to lethargy, loose skin, sunken eyes, and even a poor coat.
Causes of Diarrhea in Cats
There are many causes of diarrhea in cats, some more severe than others.
- intestinal parasites
- Bacterial infections
- Improper diet
- toxin exposure
- Viral infection
- dietary changes
- intestinal obstruction
- Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD)
- other illnesses
Diagnosing the Cause of Diarrhea in Cats
If your cat has diarrhea, you need to figure out what’s causing it in order to treat it properly. If diarrhea persists for more than 48 hours without improvement or if other symptoms such as vomiting occur, a visit to the veterinarian may be necessary. If you don’t think your cat has any possible ingestion of toxins, your veterinarian will check your cat’s diarrhea for intestinal parasites. If your veterinarian doesn’t find parasites, they may recommend stool cultures, blood tests, X-rays, or other tests. In cases of chronic diarrhea, abdominal ultrasound or bowel biopsy may be recommended.
Treatment of cat diarrhea
Once the cause of diarrhea is identified, a treatment plan can be developed. Your veterinarian may prescribe a variety of medications, including antidiarrheals. If your cat is dehydrated, fluid therapy may be required, and food testing may be recommended if food allergies, sensitivities, or if your veterinarian suspects IBD. Probiotics and other supplements are also commonly used to aid gut recovery and may require long-term use, depending on the cat’s diagnosis.
How to Prevent Diarrhea in Cats
You may not be able to prevent all causes of diarrhea in cats, but there are things you can do to help reduce the likelihood of diarrhea. Make sure any dietary changes are made slowly, don’t let your cat go into the litter box or eat any dangerous houseplants, and take heartworm and flea preventers on a regular monthly basis, including against intestinal parasites. Finally, have your cat checked out by a veterinarian at least once a year to help spot any problems before they cause diarrhea.
If you suspect your pet is sick, call your veterinarian right away. For health-related questions, be sure to consult your veterinarian, as they have examined your pet, know your pet’s health history, and can give your pet the best advice.