Specializing in small animal veterinary medicine since 1991.
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|DIARRHEAWhat is diarrhea?Diarrhea is the passage of feces as unformed or loose stools, usually in increased volume and frequency of passage. It is a result of increased speed of passage of fecal material (digested food) through the intestine combined with decreased absorption of water, nutrients and electrolytes. There are many causes of diarrhea. Diarrhea may occur as the only sign or in combination with other signs of more widespread disease, or with symptoms that result from prolonged or severe diarrhea.How can I tell if my cat has diarrhea? If your normally well-trained cat suddenly starts having accidents around the house,and the stools are unformed to fluid, then diarrhea is obvious. But if the cat is stillusing the litter box and covering up its feces or defecates outdoors, it may bedifficult to initially notice diarrhea. Staining and soiling of the hair-coat around the backend in long-haired breeds is often associated with diarrhea. It is important to rememberthat some variation in the consistency of stools is not unusual. Changes in diet can leadto temporary changes in the stool. If frequent liquid or semi-liquid stools persist formore than two days, you should consult your veterinarian. If there are more generalsigns of illness in your cat, then call your veterinarian immediately.If you have more than one cat then it is important to try and determine if it is just onecat or if other cats also have diarrhea.What are some causes of diarrhea?Diarrhea is not a disease in itself but a sign that may reflect one or more of manydifferent problems. Most involve some degree of inflammation of one or more sectionsof the alimentary or gastro-intestinal (GI) tract. the GI tract is the continuous tube thatcarries food from mouth to anus. Inflammation can be caused by infectious agents(bacteria, viruses, coccidia, intestinal worms, etc.) or by non-infectious irritants such aschemical toxins, poisonous plants, and so on. Allergies to certain specific components ofa diet may be responsible for diarrhea. Diarrhea may occur as a sole symptom or as one of several symptoms of a more generalized disease problem.How is the cause determined?It is important to provide your veterinarian with a very good medical history. Preferably write this out in chronological order before you go to the clinic. Be as detailed as possible on the date you first noticed a problem, even in retrospect. Also report the progression of the clinical signs. Note any changes in the normal routine of your cat or your household. How frequent are the stools? What is the color, consistency, and smell of the feces? Is the cat showing any other signs such as vomiting, loss of appetite, lethargy, or loss of weight? We have a checklist to help you put this history together.Besides a thorough clinical exam, your veterinarian may recommend additional diagnostic tests. These tests may be deferred in mild cases of diarrhea unless initial treatment fails or the condition worsens. Tests may include blood work, stool and/or rectal swab samples for parasite examination and culture, radiographs, and endoscope exam.How is diarrhea treated?Initially, and often in advance of in-depth work-up, a non-specific approachmay be adopted. It is a good idea to withhold food for 24 hours and en-courage water consumption. Gradually re-introduce small quantities of a light,easily digestible diet. Boiled rice or other pasta with some boiled skinlesschicken may be given if a special veterinary diet is not available. Anti-diarrhealmedication(s) may be used to help speed your pet's recovery. Many cases ofdiarrhea will respond quite readily to simple treatment, without the initial causeever being established. As stools return to normal, the cat's regular diet can begradually reintroduced, mixed initially with the bland rice-chicken or similar diet.If there is little or no improvement over two or three days, if the cat is nottaking any water or if the cat's health worsens, then your veterinarian shouldbe notified at once. Treatment may be more aggressive based on the results ofan in-depth clinical work-up as outlined above. Loss of fluid is one of the most serious aspects of severe or prolonged diarrhea, and if vomiting is present, dehydration can rapidly escalate. Correcting the dehydration may require intravenous or subcutaneous fluids.Can I use anti-diarrheals from the human pharmacy?Some of the preparations recommended for people are very dangerous for cats so never use a medication without consulting your veterinarian first.My cat has chronic diarrhea. Will it get better?Chronic diarrhea that has been present for 2-3 weeks or longer may prove more difficult to diagnose and to treat effectively. Even extensive work-up does not always provide a definitive answer to the problem. But in many cases a thorough clinical work-up, including food trials, can result in a successful outcome.|