Treating Cat Diarrhea

Cat at the vets - pictures of cats
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photo by Mirandala

When treating cat diarrhea the question is whether the condition can be treated at home or whether the underlying cause is such that it needs to be treated by a veterinarian. Diarrhea, as we know, is the symptom of an underlying cause.

I cover both sets of circumstances. Common sense dictates that we should know our limits and never overstep the mark when administering home treatments.

Treating cat Diarrhea at home

From a lay person’s point of view, we as cat keepers, should be in a position to assess whether our cat has short term (24 hours) diarrhea due to something she ate, stress, some such transient event or whether it is something more serious. Sometimes my cat has one session of diarrhea and she is fine the next day. I think that if our cat(s) are generally healthy then diarrhea will usually be a transient condition that often resolves itself as it will be caused by diet change, something eaten or even a litter box that needs cleaning.

However to watch for progress and onset means being involved in litter preparation and maintenance as it lends itself to becoming familiar with our darling cat’s toilet habits. Observation counts for quite a lot in treating cat diarrhea and constipation.

Treating cat diarrhea at home means simply treating the symptoms and not diagnosing the causes. Although the usual causes will possibly be:

  • eating the wrong food or too much food – check that litter tray. Look for large bulky and poorly formed stools. Reduce food intake and provide 3 small meals daily instead of one large one if that is the case.
  • diet change – this is possible the most obvious cause and clearly one that is the most easy to treat on our own.
  • intestinal parasites
  • drug induced (cat being treated for another condition and diarrhea or perhaps constipation is a side effect)
  • bacterial or viral infection

Careful observation is required. If it lasts for more than 24 hours veterinarians say that the best treatment is the withholding of all food for the next 24 hours. This only applies to adult cats. Kittens may become hypoglycemic (dizzy and lethargic due to low blood sugar levels) if food is withheld so for a kitten the vet is the only option.

Water should also be minimized to small drinks every few hours but if our cat is also vomiting the amount of water should be restricted to very small amounts.

In my view drugs are, if possible, to be avoided but if the diarrhea persists vets sometimes prescribe an Anti diarrheal drug used to treat humans. The generic name is Kaolin/Pectin and the brand name is Kaopectate. It can be bought over the counter. It is not, as far as I understand it, authorized or approved by the FDA in America (or the UK equivalent) for animal use but is as stated recommended by some vets. Amounts:- 0.5-1.0 milliliters (cubic centimeters) for each pound of cat by mouth every 4-6 hours. 1-2 days treatment, only, should be required. If the diarrhea persists for more than 48 hours or the cat has a fever, is depressed or has abdominal pain, obviously an urgent visit to the vet is needed (take a stool sample if you have the stomach for it). Diarrhea can be serious for a cat as the cat will dehydrate quickly. Dehydration can lead to shock and collapse.

{Kaopectate containing bismuth salicylate should not be used for treating cats without veterinary advice – src:}

The diarrhea may subside naturally without recourse to drugs and the water dosage will then be increased and food offered. The food should be bland such as well cooked rice mixed with boiled skinless chopped chicken breast. Other recommended foods are Purina Tender Vittles and Hills Prescription diet feline c/d. Monitoring our cat thereafter for the next few days will inform us if we need to visit the veterinarian or if all is well and we can return to providing the usual food gradually (if the usual food has a history of being suitable).

Treating cat diarrhea – Sources: see below

    Treating cat Diarrhea at the Vet – Causes and treatments 

    Here is a list of possible causes and the veterinarian advised treatments. We don’t really need to know these as our veterinarian will tell us if one of these is the underlying cause but it is nice to know, I think:

    Food Allergy
    This will clearly need a vets assessment and diagnosis. The treatment is providing hypoallergenic cat food. This is essentially bland food to eliminate the cause of the allergy (an elimination diet).

    Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD)
    There are 3 types of IBD depending on the type of cell of the intestinal tract that has become inflammed as a result of being attacked by the cat’s own immune system. It is thought that this unwarranted attack is due to bacteria or food proteins in the cat that triggers the immune system to produce antibodies. Antibodies are usually produced to attack harmful foreign bodies that have entered the cat but in this intance the immune system malfunctions and attacks good cells.

    The type of cell attacked dictates which type of IBD is present. All three cause long term diarrhea, bad absorption of food into the body, weight loss if the condition is long lasting and malnutrition and aneamia (low red blood cell count).

    We would know fairly early on when we are in tune with our cat’s health, if the diarrhea was caused by this serious disease. Obviously home treatments must be limited in duration and type. Delay in getting to the vet could exacerbate the illness.

    Treatment is by a variety of means depending on the type of IBD including corticoseroids, tests for food allergies, tests for parasites and a hypoallergenic diet. Immunosuppresent drugs and antibiotics are also used.

    Infectious diarrhea
    A common cause is the parvovirus (these are small viruses, “parvus” means small in Latin) that produces feline panleukopenia. Others forms of infection that can cause diarrhea are (a) the bacterial infection causing Salmonella poisoning (b) protozoa (single cell organisms – an amoeba is a protozoa for instance – protozoa are larger in size than bacteria and viruses) such as coccidia, giardia and toxoplasma and (c) parasites such as worms (roundworms, tapeworms and hookworms).

    For completeness other possible causes are:

    • intestinal cancer
    • fungal infection
    • hyperthyroidism
    • bacterial overgrowth in intestine
    • stomach tumor
    • stomach ulcer
    • small intestine tumor
    • colon impaction
    • upper gastrointestinal bleeding

    The treatments are too wide ranging to specify 
    for this article.

    A UK over the counter treatment:

    Photo heading the page – Treating cat diarrhea:
    This is a cat in a vets. This cat does not have diarrhea as far as I am aware. It is published here because it is a nice photo. It is published under a creative commons license = Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs License. Other can use it provided they comply with the license.

    Treating cat diarrhea – Sources:

    1. – Drs Foster and Smith
    2. The Veterinarian’s Guide to Your Cats Symptoms – Drs Garvey, Hohenhaus, Houpt, Pinckney, Wallace and Elizabeth Randolph
    3. Cat Owner’s Home Veterinary Handbook – Drs Carlson and Giffin
    4. Wikepedia for definitions
    5. (protozoa size)

    Useful tag. Click to see the articles: Cat behavior

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