Overview of Feline Chronic Diarrhea
Diarrhea is defined as the rapid movement of fecal matter through the cat’s intestine resulting in poor absorption of water, nutrients and electrolytes. With diarrhea the stools (bowel movements) become loose or runny. Chronic diarrhea refers to diarrhea that persists for three or more weeks. Occasionally the fecal material may contain fresh blood or mucus.
Chronic diarrhea is an important sign of intestinal disease in the cat. Persistent diarrhea can lead to weight loss from poor digestion and loss of important nutrients. Chronic diarrhea can lead to loss of body condition, development of a poor hair coat, and may also affect appetite and activity levels.
General Causes of Chronic Diarrhea in Cats
Most causes of chronic diarrhea induce local irritation or structural abnormalities of the intestinal mucosa (lining). There are numerous diseases and disorders that can lead to chronic diarrhea. These include:
What to Watch For
Diagnosis of Chronic Diarrhea in Cats
Veterinary care includes diagnostic tests to help determine the underlying cause of the diarrhea and to guide subsequent treatment recommendations. Some of the following tests may be necessary to diagnose the cause of chronic diarrhea:
Depending upon the clinical signs and the results of the above tests, your veterinarian may recommend further testing. These tests are chosen on a case-by-case basis:
Treatment of Chronic Diarrhea in Cats
Symptomatic or empirical treatment may be tried in some cases of chronic diarrhea, especially if initial diagnostic tests are inconclusive and the animal is feeling well and relatively stable. Empiric treatment does not replace the need to define the exact cause of the chronic diarrhea, it at all possible. Empirical treatment may include one or more of the following:
Supportive therapy for ill, malnourished and unstable patients may involve hospitalization with intravenous fluids, supplemental nutrition and vitamins, intestinal protectants, treatments for metabolic diseases, etc.
Specific therapy of most cases of chronic diarrhea depends upon reaching a definitive diagnosis as to the cause, and then instituting therapy for that cause. Such therapy varies widely and can involve medications, dietary changes and surgery.
It is important to monitor your pet closely if he/she has chronic diarrhea. Pay particular attention to stool volume and character, the frequency of defecation, and any straining to defecate. Note the presence of any blood or mucus in the stool. Also monitor the cat’s body weight, appetite and activity level. Administer all prescribed medications exactly as ordered by your veterinarian. Notify your veterinarian if you have any problems medicating your pet.