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My cat has diarrhea – what can I do?

By: Dr. Debra Primovic

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Our question this week was:

Dr. Debra:

I have a small cat that is approximately 2 years old and has had chronic diarrhea for over a year. In the past couple months, she has started "leaking" wherever she goes, especially when she jumps or runs. (This was not the case before). She also vomits at times, but not frequently. She does not seem lethargic, but she feels warmer in her belly than my other 4 cats. She was treated for parasites (coccidia) a year ago and then again when she started leaking (although they didn't find any parasites in her stool this time) with Albon both times. The thing is, she didn't have ANY diarrhea until after she got spayed last August. I've been told that she could have picked up parasites at the Humane Society, but how possible is it that her intestines got twisted somehow? Anyway, any info would be greatly appreciated. I don't have a lot of money right now and it sounds like I have to get several tests in order to get a diagnosis. I'm hoping maybe I can narrow the number of tests down for when I go back to the vet.

Thanks,

Kristin


Answer

Hi Kristen– thanks for your email. Sorry to hear about your cats problem. It sounds like your cat has chronic diarrhea. There are many causes for diarrhea in cats that include (these are from our Petplace library article on chronic diarrhea in cats):

  • Infectious agents such as bacteria, viruses, protozoal agents, fungal infections, and intestinal parasites
  • Certain drugs and toxins
  • Inflammatory bowel disease, e.g. enteritis (inflammation of the small bowel) and colitis (inflammation of the large bowel)
  • Dietary intolerance or food allergy
  • Gastrointestinal cancer
  • Partial obstruction (blockage) of the intestinal tract
  • Other systemic illnesses, such as liver disease, pancreatic diseases, kidney disease, hyperthyroidism, etc.
  • Small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO)
  • Lymphangiectasia, and other disorders of malabsorption (inability to absorb food stuffs or cause proteins and other materials to be lost in the feces)
  • Disorders of maldigestion (inability to digest food stuffs in the intestine)
  • Short bowel syndrome
  • Irritable bowel syndrome (spastic colon)

    As you can see from the list – there are several possible causes. You can probably eliminate some of them e.g. drugs and toxins if she is not taking anything. If it has been going on for a year, the best thing would be to allow them to do some diagnostic tests to find the underlying cause.

    Discuss your financial limitations with your veterinarian. I'm sure they can help you choose the tests that are most likely to give you the best results for your cat.

    One thing you can also discuss is changing your cats diet to either a high-fiber diet if it is large bowel diarrhea is present or to a hypoallergenic diet if small bowel diarrhea is present. Trying feeding this exclusively for a few months. I realized this may be hard with multiple cats but that would be something reasonable to try. You could also ask if a trial of a drug called Metronidazole (Flagyl®) would be reasonable. Another possibility is to try a trail of Steriods. This is not an ideal situation (to give steroids without a diagnosis) but if you have financial limitations, sometimes you can only do what you can do.

    Read this article carefully. It is excellent. Maybe something in it will help give you other ideas as to what it could be. I really doubt that the diarrhea has anything to do with her spay procedure. Please read Chronic Diarrhea in Cats.

    Best of luck!


    Dr. Debra




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