Conscious Cat

May 6, 2013 37 Comments

Chronic Diarrhea in Cats

Posted by Ingrid

brown_tabby_cat

Chronic diarrhea is probably one of the most frustrating conditions, both for the affected cat, and for her guardian. Diarrhea is considered chronic if symptoms persist for longer than three weeks, but any time your cat has diarrhea for more than a day or two, a visit to your veterinarian is indicated, especially if your cat is not eating or drinking water and/or is vomiting as well. Chronic vomiting and diarrhea can lead to dehydration, and, if left untreated, can become life threatening.

Common causes of chronic gastrointestinal disease

Causes for chronic intestinal disease can vary, and include

  • Parasites
  • Bacterial infection
  • Viral infection
  • Food allergies or food intolerance
  • Dietary indiscretion
  • Inflammatory bowel disease
  • Pancreatitis
  • Cancer

Diagnosis

Your veterinarian will run a number of tests to identify the cause of the diarrhea. Test may include:

  • Fecal test to check for parasites and bacteria
  • Complete blood count
  • Blood chemistry profile
  • Thyroid profile
  • Urinalysis
  • A bloodtest known as a GI Panel
  • Radiographs, possibly done with a contrast medium such as Barium to identify blockages
  • Ultrasound

Treatment

Depending on test results, treatment may include:

  • Probiotics to restore healthy gut flora
  • Dewormers
  • Antibiotics
  • Adding fiber such as canned pumpkin to the diet
  • B vitamins
  • Food elimination diet
  • Steroids

Severe cases may require referral to a veterinary internist. Internists can perform endoscopy, and take biopsies of the intestinal tract to further refine a diagnosis.

The Role of Diet in Gastrointestinal Disease

There are commercially manufactured diets available for the treatment of IBD, most of them containing so-called “novel proteins,” ie., proteins that the cat may not have been exposed to before such as rabbit, venison, and duck.  Some manufacturer also offer diets that contain hydrolized proteins, in which the protein is broken down to minimize an allergic reaction.

However, increasingly, holistically oriented veterinarians are seeing a connection between diet and IBD.  These vets believe that commercial pet foods, especially dry foods, are a contributing factor to the large numbers of cats with chronic IBD. They also discovered that many cats improve by simply changing their diets to a balanced grain-free raw meat diet.  Similar results may be achieved with a grain-free canned diet, but a raw diet seems to lead to quicker and better results.

Chronic diarrhea is not something you, and your cat, should learn to live with.  Take your cat to a veterinarian for a thorough physical exam.  After ruling out other conditions or diseases as causes, the solution might just be something as simple as changing your cat’s diet.

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37 Responses to “Chronic Diarrhea in Cats”

  1. Safepethaven says:

    One of my cats arrived on my front porch so emaciated I wasn’t sure he’d survive. Once brought back from death & tested from A to Z, the only thing that was puzzling was his daily diarrhea. We tried various meds, probiotics, and if memory is correct, several different bland food formulas but the daily stools issue persisted. After six months of this, a vet tech asked if I’d tried him on Science Diet I/D. I thought we had, but agreed to try it. Within 24 hrs his stools were normal. Who knew?

    • Ingrid says:

      I’m glad your cat is doing better, but I’d encourage you to look for a better quality diet. With the first four ingredients being Chicken By-Product Meal, Brewers Rice, Corn Gluten Meal, and Whole Grain Corn, this is not a diet I recommend for an obligate carnivore.

      • Safepethaven says:

        He’s doing very well actually; several have suggested other diets for my cats they’ve never met or know anything about. My vet of over 30 yrs has successfully pulled many of my cats & dozens of fosters from the brink of death when they’re presented to me, whether through circumstance or rescue/foster volunteer. We’ve tried Stella & Chewy’s, among other high protein formulas, and not one of the 11 could tolerate it for whatever reason. At $36/lb it would have been prohibitive on a fixed income anyway. Several of the X/D formulations have saved my cats’ lives and they all have special needs, which these formulas are filling. If an otherwise healthy, uninjured, genetically perfect cat were given their choice perhaps they’d pick a different diet. Until then, if they’re healthy and happy & functioning well (average life here for over 35 yrs has been 18+) we’ll probably stick with the adage, if it ain’t broke don’t try to fix it. I agree that best possible nutrition in this chemically-laden world is very important but every individual is unique and their tolerance is, too. What works for some certainly doesn’t work for all and what works in theory/on paper doesn’t always translate in the real world. As a chemist I know this to be true for industry and my own life as well. All we can do is our best with what we have at our access. But thank you for your obvious concern.

        • catherine turley says:

          I agree. I have my cats on grain free, but I have two with ibd. the mild case was completely resolved with I/d. the more severe case has been on budesonide for two years with fantastic results.

  2. Great information. Thanks for sharing with everyone

  3. Nancy says:

    Well Ingrid, I’m still struggling with Scampie, he’s had blood tests, normal. He’s had an ultrasound, normal.

    He is now being fed a raw diet, with Dr Goodpet enzymes added. (The raw food is made with chicken thighs, livers and TCFeline).

    I will try the pumpkin today…hope it works….

    Nancy

  4. Anjali says:

    Ingrid,

    Thank you so much for this informative article! I just want to share the story of my four-year-old kitty, Teddy, and his diarrhea saga, in case it might be useful to someone else. I adopted him from a county shelter when he was six months old. The shelter, unfortunately, did not treat its cats for much of anything. I sponsored all the black cats in the adoption room before I took Teddy home, because I knew they were less likely to be adopted. Still breaks my heart. Anyway, the shelter vet neutered Teddy, gave him his vaccinations, and treated him with Revolution for parasites. But when I brought Teddy home, he had chronic diarrhea. My mobile vet did two or three fecal tests for any remaining parasites, but nothing showed up. *Nothing.* We tried changing his food, feeding him home-made low-fat, hypo-allergenic food, but still… We had to put him in a room covered in plastic, because he would even poop while walking. When I picked him, he pooped all over me. This went on for days. It was a nightmare. Honestly, I can’t remember all the things we tried.

    Then, one day, I saw the worms. It took a couple of weeks. But there they were, tapeworms squirming around on the plastic. They were unmistakable. They look like tiny white grains of rice. They are actually segments of the larger worm. One Drontal pill cleared up his diarrhea within 12 hours. (The treatment requires a second pill 10 days later, I believe.) My vet was stumped, because quite often, tapeworms do not cause diarrhea. But in this case, they did. Three years later, Teddy is doing well, but he never got very big, probably because tapeworms were eating his food for the first six months of his life.

    The lesson is, if you get a shelter cat, treat him or her for parasites. Period. Drontal is a safe pill and extremely effective. I called the shelter foundation to ask if I could donate Drontal pills for all the shelter cats, and they said they “don’t normally treat the cats with Drontal.” This broke my heart, because I could see other cats with diarrhea in the cages. In fact, I will e-mail them again today and see if that policy has changed. Maybe I will just send the pills. But who knows if the shelter will use them?

    • Anjali says:

      P.S. Teddy is the cat I’m holding on the home page of my web site, http://www.anjalibanerjee.com. Poor Ted.

    • Ingrid says:

      Teddy is a prime example of why chronic diarrhea requires a veterinary diagnosis, Anjali. I’m glad it was such a simple solution for him, and how nice of you to offer to donate dewormer to the shelter.

      • Anjali says:

        Thank you, Ingrid. I think also I’m trying to say that quite often, fecal tests don’t show existing parasites. Teddy had three fecal tests, and none of them showed the tapeworms. Also I believe giardia often does not show in fecal tests. So, it probably would have saved us days of diarrhea if we had treated Teddy with Drontal from the beginning.

  5. Nancy says:

    Turned up his nose at the pumpkin, but I sprinkled some tuna juice on it…ate a bit…it’s a start…and yes it is super frustrating…

    I too am a chemist (Master’s degree)…this will not get the best of me! I am determined!

  6. Viki Worden says:

    I just had dealt with this from my female fuzzy child, Princess. More the vomiting then the diarrhea in her case. I took her in for complete blood work. She was also very thin. Everything checked out ok except for her thyroid. She ended up having hyperthyroid. She is on medication but it hasn’t helped yet.

  7. Nancy says:

    I think what I find the most frustrating is that the blood work was perfect, stool sample with no parasites, ultrasound with no blockages….renal function excellent for a going on 16 year old cat….

    Oh well I’ve got the female cat on grain free kibble…I can’t transition her yet…I have to get Scampie well first and foremost…

  8. Tom says:

    Another very good and informative article Ingrid. As you know we unfortunately have first hand knowledge of this because of little Saul kitty. Nancy I totally understand your frustration, we had the same blasted thing happen, all tests normal, everything seemed fine but nothing helped, probiotic, expensive prescription food, you name it we tried it. I seriously don’t know what we would have done if we had not found this site and been encouraged to get him off of dry food. We initially tried him on the nature’s variety instinct canned and then their raw diet, in his case the diarrhea was gone within about 24 hours.

    Obviously this does not work in every case and we’re definitely sympathetic to others who are struggling with this, it really does make you and your kitty miserable.

    Best regards,

    Tom Mary Beth and the furries.

  9. That is interesting. Everything sounds a lot like the problems Milou had, except he didn’t had diarrhea but was constipated.
    The vet said it could be IBD but we’d need a biopsy to be sure it isn’t something else (namely a lymphoma). Blood looked good otherwise. The humans are a little bothered to put Milou through the process of the biopsy at his age (14). But the vet said a lymphoma can be treated. Otherwise, they’ll just treat him for IBD (even if they’re not sure that’s what he has – seems strange to me but I am not a vet).
    Hopefully he will feel better.
    Thanks for all the information. This is very precious!
    Carine
    (Texas’ human)

    • Ingrid says:

      Treatment for lymphoma and IBD can be very similar, Carine, and some vets treat just on the presumption of a diagnosis. I’d probably hesitate, too, to put a 14-year-old cat through a biopsy. All my best to Milou!

  10. Nancy says:

    Thanks Tom, it helps to talk about it and swap stories…something might work from discussion of this topic….

    So far so good with the pumpkin…I am feeding as follows 1/4 cup of raw + 2 tsp of pumpkin puree + 1/8 tsp of Dr Goodpet Enzymes. I feed half of the above at a time…morning, noon, supper and late evening….seems to do better with smaller portions more often….

    To entice Scampie to eat I sprinkle a bit of Tuna on top (1/8 tsp no more)….

    No BM’s overnight, but a vomit (clear liquid) at six a.m. plenty of pee which is good…thank goodness Sophie pees on the side of the litter box so I know whose is whom’s LOL…

    Thanks for listening

  11. Safepethaven says:

    For those who are struggling with chronic digestive problems in their cats, whether constipation, diarrhea or intermittently of both, if you have a trusted, very experienced veterinarian as I have, you might want to ask them about a condition called Megacolon.

    One of my kitties in the past, Teddy, had this and he suffered from both constipation and diarrhea. The constipation was so severe he’d have to be taken in to the vet clinic for enemas which were very traumatic for him [he was a special needs kitty in many other ways].

    Eventually the megacolon dx was reached and there were no viable alternatives for him other than surgery. After much consideration, I agreed to the bowel resection. It was a tough surgery with a strange complication that had everyone puzzled, but after a couple of blood transfusions, he was doing great.

    He not only survived but after a few months of post-op adjustment within his body, he was thriving & feeling so much better. He lived to be a couple of months shy of his 18th birthday which was because of numerous miracles all along the way. He’d been the recipient of many miracles even in the 1-1/2 years before he came to live with me & my other special-needs kitties.

    But the most comfortable, stress-free years he had were the ones he had post-surgery from the age of about 6 to 17! Teddy was a very special & unique little guy for many reasons & conditions, but he taught me so much about many things, & I’ll be thankful for every day with him and all he left with me.

  12. Laura K says:

    I am all too familiar with chronic diarrhea in cats! We agreed to foster our Bengal Lennon 2 years ago. He was abandoned at the shelter with 6 other Bengals–all sick & very surly. Lennon was happy and social, just had chronic diarrhea for 2 months. None of the meds or prescription food the shelter tried worked. We agreed to take him as a foster & try various holistic foods we were feeding our own cats. Within a few weeks his coat was shiny, he had gained weight and most of his medical issues had cleared up except the diarrhea. I did all sorts of research & learned that bengals have stomach issues. We happened to go to a cat show so we could talk to Bengal breeders to ask what they feed & if they had cats with diarrhea. Lucky for us Felines Pride, a raw company was there & talked extensively to us. We went home with a sample of raw rabbit–and he devoured it!! Within 10 days he had his first normal stool in 6 months. Now our shelter calls us when there are cats with GI issues since we seem to work miracles…no, we just feed a species appropriate diet!!

    Thanks for the great article! Not many people want to talk about diarrhea. ;)

    • Ingrid says:

      A raw diet seems to work in a lot of cases, and I always love hearing testimonials to that effect. Thanks for sharing your story, Laura.

      Yeah, not exactly a favorite conversational topic, is it…lol…!

  13. Nancy says:

    Oh my poop city this morning…so the pumpkin is a no go…yikes….crampin’ and a poopin’ all over the place…

    Back to the drawing board….

  14. Nancy says:

    Well I went golfing this afternoon and just a little poop in the litter…phew…ate half portion for supper…we will see how it goes…

  15. Nancy says:

    Well I’m going back to basics…

    Today I’m feeding ground chicken thigh with bone…he ate it, we will see how it goes

  16. Kathy says:

    After trying everything I could think of, I tried Stella and Chewy’s, just a bit along side the wet food for my cat, and he has never been better. I hope this helps other cat owners that are struggling with chronic loose stools with their cats, its no fun for them or us.

  17. Maria Fila says:

    I had 2 very healthy Spynx cats and bought a new spynx kitten from a reputable breeder about 15 months ago. Soon after I brought him home, he and the other 2 got sick with pick eye and upper respritory illnesses. They were all treated and got better except all three STILL have abnormal stools. I have them all on Royal Canin Gastro Intestinal Fiber Response Food which is costing me a fortune for the 3 cats. My very competant vet of many years has done every test known to man and tried every medication possible. Has contact other vets he knows and also internests and followed all there recommendations. If it were not for this food, their stools would be water instead of the mushy puddles and ropes of stool that they all produce. Any ideas, anyone???

    • Ingrid says:

      You may want to consider trying a grain-free canned or raw diet, Maria. For more on a possible connection between diet and inflammatory bowel disease, read http://consciouscat.net/2010/09/13/inflammatory-bowel-disease-and-diet/

    • catherine turley says:

      when I last posted here, my cat with severe diarrhea was on budesonide and the results were amazing. then one day, it stopped working like a switch had been flipped. my vet had me go to a diet without poultry (not easy to find since most beef, fish, and others still contain chicken fat). I haven’t seen good results yet, but it also hasn’t been very long. since your 2 cats were healthy before the addition of the 3rd, I can’t imagine it’s a food allergy. maybe something like the herpes virus can lead to ibd. my cats have all been exposed to herpes; some with occasional respiratory symptoms. 2 have ibd. maybe it’s not a coincidence. if you’re desperate, you might just try to get rid of poultry. mine are on natural balance green pea and duck dry food and evo canned beef.

  18. Kim says:

    My kitty has had chronic diarrhea for over 2 years now. I have tried budesonide, prednisone, tylan powder, probiotics, science diet, royal cannin diet, blue buffalo, you name it I have bough it and fed it to her raw meat diet, every vet under the sun and no one can tell me what is wrong with her. I feel terrible as it cannot be comfortable and she has lost a lot of weight. She still eats and drinks and begs for food and is happy and plays but I know this is not normal. She has no parasites, she is an indoor only kitty. We have done extensive blood work, vet visits 3 and 4 times a week. The only other suggestion I have gotten is to do an expletory surgery which I am not comfortable with. Any suggestions??

    • Ingrid says:

      I’m sorry about your kitty, Kim – how frustrating. Unfortunately, your next step may be an intestinal biopsy. You may find this article of interest: http://consciouscat.net/2014/03/19/chronic-vomiting-in-cats-not-normal/

      • Kim says:

        No it has never been discussed. I’m so fed up with the vets in my area. I’ve been to 4 all with no results and spending over 5 grand. I unfortunately just ran out of funds. I would do anything for my baby but it just really started to seem like I was throwing money away and getting absolutely no where. She is still her loving cuddly self. She runs n greats me at the door every day after work. Loves treats and attention. Eats and drinks normally. It is so stressful for her going to the vet anyway. She hates the carrier and the car she will cry n pant n molt n throw up or poop in her crate after 4 months of vet visits almost every other day with no results I had to call it quits. Thank you for the information. Is there any natural or homeopathic ways to try and treat this??

  19. john says:

    My 15 year old Maine Coon, Tupper, had been plagued with chronic diarrhea for at least two years. When control also became an issue I looked into the problem further because I wanted another five years with him and he was otherwise healthy. We have restored his solid constitution via the use of a fecal (microbiota) transplant.

    The procedure involved an enema using stool from a healthy animal. We started Tupper with an injection of Cefovecin (a 2 week-long-acting anti-biotic) and a two week series of Metronidazole given concurrently. 48 hours after the last Metronidazole dose I took both cats to the vet and we waited for the healthy animal to provide a good sample. He did so into torn paper and the sample was mixed with saline and provided in an enema to the older cat. Tupper was also given another injection of the Cefovecin at the time of the enema. My vet said this was ok as this drug would not kill the good microbiota. It worked.

    This was a new procedure for my vet when I came to her with it. Our first attempt was done with out the anti-biotics and was unsuccessful. It has been only a week now but we have had no loose stools in the boxes at my home and no accidents or loss of control. I paid about $210 dollars for the procedure and had of course done everything else first including a full blood work up to eliminate other possible causes.

    • Ingrid says:

      Thank you for sharing your experience with this procedure, John. I’ve heard of this for humans with Crohn’s disease and diverticulitis, but had not heard of it being done with cats. Please keep us posted how Tupper is doing.

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