Can antibiotics cause diarrhoea in cats?

You could ask the same question about humans, dogs or other animals. And certainly, antibiotics can cause diarrhoea in cats. Note the word ‘can’. You do not have to search far to come to that conclusion.

Antibiotics can cause diarrhea in cats
Antibiotics can cause diarrhea in cats. Image: MikeB
Two useful tags. Click either to see the articles: Toxic to cats | Dangers to cats


For instance, in the human world, they even have an acronym on the topic. It is AAD which stands for “antibiotic associated diarrhoea”. It is not uncommon in children with around 11% of diarrhoea in children being caused by antibiotics. We can often take a lead from human health and vice versa when discussing health issues as the anatomy and physiology of cats is similar to those of humans.

The reason for this is that antibiotics kill bacteria. The gut has a lot of good bacteria in it to help digest food. And also, it has been found that gut bacteria helps to modulate and regulate the immune system. So, if something goes wrong with gut bacteria there may be a knock-on effect with autoimmune disease.

In other words, gut bacteria is important. There are two types of bacteria in broad terms. Bacteria are classified according to their ability to cause disease i.e. pathogenic bacteria. On the other hand, there are non-pathogenic bacteria which live on or within the host and which do not cause illness under normal conditions.

The bacteria in the gut are sometimes called gut microbiota, gut microbiota or gut flora. It includes, as well, fungi and viruses that live within the digestive tract.

When gut microbiota is disturbed by antibiotics – as it might be – it can cause temporary diarrhoea.

Dr Bruce Fogle DVM

Dr. Bruce Fogle DVM in his book Complete Cat Care provides an antibiotic tip which is useful to mention. He finds that cat owners ask if he will use antibiotics to treat their cat’s diarrhoea.

His response is that he will use it if – and only if – there is a specific bacterial cause which is found in faecal cultures. But importantly, he states: “In most instances of diarrhoea, antibiotics are not helpful. And they may even make the problem worse.”

Thia is a hint that according to Dr. Bruce Fogle, antibiotics can cause diarrhoea.

Separately but on the same topic, he states that when a cat owner takes their cat to a vet for treatment for diarrhoea it can be very useful to take a recent stool sample with them which can be checked for giardia as well as for worms, undigested food matter and if needed for bacteria.

There are many possible causes for diarrhoea in cats. It is a symptom rather than a disease per se. I have a page on those possible causes which you can access by clicking on this link if you wish.

Social media

A cat owner on asks: “My cat was prescribed strong antibiotics which is causing diarrhea. What can I give them to help this?” More evidence if needed that antibiotics can cause diarrhea in cats.

A veterinarian answered the question. In summary, they advised that you should call the prescribing veterinarian. In other words, you should ask your veterinarian for a treatment to cure the diarrhoea caused by their prescription! It makes sense partly because you’ve got to know for sure that the antibiotic is causing the diarrhoea. And you can’t really diagnose this problem online through a social media website.

In the meantime, you should give your cat plenty of water, a safe place to rest and a clean place to go to the toilet. The veterinarian may further prescribe a GI protectant or a probiotic gel. Another possible treatment would be a different antibiotic together with some sensitive stomach food.

Prescribing antibiotics

In the past I have asked if veterinarians have a tendency to over-prescribe antibiotics ‘to play safe’ as it can be difficult to distinguish between viral and bacterial infection.

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Useful tag. Click to see the articles: Cat behavior

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