Gastroenteritis (Vomiting and Diarrhea) in Cats

Feline Gastroenteritis in Cats

Acute vomiting and diarrhea are characterized by a sudden onset and short duration of less than two to three weeks. Acute vomiting, a reflex act that results in the forceful ejection of gastric (stomach) and/or duodenal (intestinal) contents through the mouth, and diarrhea, an increase in fecal water content with an accompanying increase in the frequency, fluidity, or volume of bowel movements, are both extremely common in the cat.

An occasional bout of vomiting and diarrhea is quite common in cats however, severe, acute vomiting and diarrhea is not normal, and can be associated with life threatening illnesses. It can cause extreme fluid loss, acid-base imbalance, and electrolyte disturbance.

What To Watch For

General Causes of Vomiting and Diarrhea in Cats

Diagnostic Tests for Gastroenteritis in Cats

Many cases of acute vomiting and diarrhea are short lived, resolve easily and do not require an extensive diagnostic evaluation. Diagnostics should be performed on those pets that are having severe vomiting and diarrhea, are exhibiting other systemic signs of illness, or when the vomitus or stool contains blood. These tests may include:

Treatment of Gastroenteritis in Cats

There are several things your veterinarian might recommend to treat your cat symptomatically. The principal goals of symptomatic therapy are to restore and maintain fluid and electrolyte imbalances and to completely rest the gastrointestinal tract.

Home Care

Call your veterinarian, and follow all recommendations regarding feeding and medication. This will probably include withholding all food and water. Observe your cat very closely. If clinical signs are not improving over a day or two, and/or your cat is getting worse, have your pet evaluated at once.

In-depth Information on Gastroenteritis in Cats

Vomiting and diarrhea are quite common in cats, largely due to their indiscriminate (not terribly selective) eating habits. It is important to realize that an occasional bout of vomiting and diarrhea can be normal in a healthy animal, and may occur as often as a couple of times in a month. The question that needs to be answered is when is the problem serious enough for you to seek veterinary care and potential hospitalization for your pet? Acute vomiting and diarrhea is addressed quite differently from chronic vomiting and diarrhea with regard to the diseases that cause each, diagnostic plans, and treatment regimes.

In patients that are otherwise feeling well without concurrent problems, symptomatic therapy is recommended, and usually curative. This involves removing all food and water for a period of several hours, and gradually reintroducing a bland diet for several days prior to reinstituting your pet’s regular diet. If the problem recurs once your pet is fed, or the problem persists despite being held off food, your pet should be evaluated by a veterinarian in a timely fashion. In addition, if your pet seems painful, in distress, or you notice red or dark brown/black vomitus or diarrhea (suggestive of internal bleeding), one should seek veterinary attention at once. Cats and small dogs are particularly prone to dehydration and hypoglycemia in the face of prolonged vomiting and diarrhea, therefore should be watched very carefully. Prolonged, frequent vomiting and diarrhea can lead to severe dehydration, shock, and potentially death if not addressed in a timely fashion.

Causes of Gastroenteritis (Vomiting and Diarrhea) in Cats

There are many causes of acute vomiting and diarrhea. Although many of these patients have self-limiting disease, and respond nicely to symptomatic therapy, some causes of acute vomiting and diarrhea can be life threatening, and initially, may be difficult to differentiate from more benign disorders.

There are many infectious agents that can cause acute vomiting and diarrhea:

Miscellaneous disorders

Diagnosis In-depth

Your veterinarian may recommend additional diagnostics to ensure optimal medical care. These tests are selected on a
Case-by-case basis.

Therapy In-depth

Your veterinarian may recommend one or more of the diagnostic tests described above. In the meantime, treatment of the symptoms might be needed, especially if the problem is severe. The following nonspecific (symptomatic) treatments may be applicable to some, but not all cats with acute vomiting and diarrhea. These treatments may reduce severity of symptoms or provide relief for your cat. However, nonspecific therapy is not a substitute for definite treatment of the underlying disease responsible for your cat’s condition.