My Cat Has Diarrhea, What Should I Do?

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Of the many conditions a cat can experience, there are perhaps none more common and unpleasant than diarrhea. Between the stomach cramps, gas pains and constant discharge it can drain the energy out of any kitty very quickly. It is also a condition that can stress cats psychologically due to the mess it creates.

Because cats are fastidious when it comes to grooming, it’s hard for them to maintain their preferred level of cleanliness when dealing with diarrhea. Not only does the cat feel tired and listless, but their owner can also be upset because they may not know what’s causing the condition or how to treat it. While cat diarrhea can have many causes and symptoms, there are also many treatments for it that have proven to be quite effective.

Causes

When a cat has diarrhea, it can be attributed to a number of factors. One of the most common causes is a sudden change in the cat’s diet. Many times, owners unknowingly create this problem by changing the cat’s diet. While the owner thinks they are doing the cat a favor by giving it some different food, they are in fact upsetting the cat’s digestive system. When trying to change foods, it’s best to introduce the new food gradually in small amounts, then increase the amounts until the new food is well established.

Another diet-related cause can be giving the cat milk. Cats lack an enzyme enabling them to digest dairy products easily, so cats who are fed milk on a regular basis may experience diarrhea. Viral infections can also lead to feline diarrhea. If this is the case, the cat needs to be examined by a veterinarian. Often an anti-diarrhea medication is given by injection so the stomach is bypassed, getting the medication into the cat’s bloodstream quicker and hopefully relieving the diarrhea in a few hours. More serious causes of diarrhea in cats, such as cancer of the stomach or colon, require extensive examination by a veterinarian to determine what needs to be done.

Symptoms

Unfortunately, when your cat has diarrhea you will know about it very quickly. The cat will go to their litter box more frequently than usual, often straining or having a very watery discharge that looks like a mud puddle. Sometimes the cat may not be able to make it to their litter box in time, so you may find a mess or two outside the litter box. They may soil their bed or on a rug or carpet, so be sure to check these areas if you know your cat has diarrhea.

The cat may seem very tired and sleep more, and may not want to eat much if any food. They will probably drink more water due to being dehydrated, so make sure they always have access to a bowl of fresh water.

When a cat has diarrhea, they usually run a slight fever as well. If the diarrhea is coming from a viral infection, it’s possible they may also exhibit such signs as watery eyes, nasal discharge and sneezing. Whenever your cat has diarrhea lasting more than a day or accompanied by other symptoms such as lethargy, bloody stool, fever, or vomiting, it’s always best to let a vet examine them to determine the exact cause of the problem. Depending on the underlying cause, there are different strategies employed to combat the problem.

Treatment

Flickr / JTF Guantanamo

Flickr / JTF Guantanamo

Fortunately, most forms of diarrhea can be treated rather successfully. Though it’s always best to have them examined by a vet, many cats can be treated for diarrhea at home. Once an owner notices diarrhea, the cat should go on a 24-hour fast to cleanse it of any remaining food. After all, whatever it takes in is going to come out the other end very quickly with this condition. Fasting for a day gives the cat’s stomach and digestive system a chance to relax and start healing. As stated earlier, keep a bowl of fresh water handy to let them stay hydrated.

Many vets recommend giving your cat a small dose of something such as Pepto-Bismol or Kaopectate to help relieve symptoms, but check with your vet before administering medication. Vets also recommend feeding the cat a bland diet consisting of white rice, broth or boiled chicken. Many canned cat foods have flavors containing rice that are also suitable for this, so it’s good to go with whatever the cat likes best. As with any illness, if the symptoms persist more than 24 hours or are accompanied by other symptoms it could be a sign of something more serious, and a trip to the vet is highly recommended.

While diarrhea is very unpleasant for both kitty and owner, in most cases if it is addressed and treated correctly from its onset, both your cat and yourself can resume a much happier life very quickly.




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