What should you give a cat with diarrhea?

posted: 05/15/12
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Messy and smelly, feline diarrhea is a nuisance for you and your cat. He doesn't enjoy making repeated pit stops at his litter box, and may seem distressed by his own untidy appearance. In simplest terms, diarrhea is a response by the cat's body to something foreign or toxic that needs to be expelled. Although in some cases, diarrhea has a short, self-correcting duration, you should what it may mean and how to ease kitty's discomfort.

Why Cats Get the "Runs"

Diarrhea is a messy inconvenience that is not an illness by itself. It is often symptomatic of some larger issue. Diarrhea can be triggered by something as major as an internal blockage, or as simple as a change in diet, while the cat's system gets accustomed to the new food. Lactose in milk, not easily digested by cats, may also bring on diarrhea.

Diarrhea can also signal the presence of a virus affecting the stomach, or of parasites, usually worms, in the intestinal tract. A bacterial or fungal infection, or feline distemper, can cause this as well. The cat's system recognizes the harmful matter and attempts to pass all of it out of his body. Whether mild or intense, diarrhea can quickly cause severe dehydration, and untreated, is especially hazardous for kittens.

How You Can Spot the Problem?

The first sign is the most obvious: odorous, loose, sometimes even watery, stools in your cat's litter box, or outside it. Even after passing feces, the cat may continue to strain. He may lick his bottom more often, as the area is tender, even sore, from his efforts. He may also lose his appetite or run a fever. You'll notice more frequent bowel movements, and even see blood or mucus in the feces. If the cat has abdominal pain, he may also experience vomiting. Cats suffering from diarrhea become stressed and unhappy, aware that something is wrong but helpless to fix it.

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What to Do for your Cat

Keep your cat comfortable, with access to a clean litter box and fresh water. If his diarrhea is mild, or you know he's eaten something that prompted it (including "people food"), you can offer him a bland diet, such as white rice with plain boiled chicken or boiled hamburger meat (no salt or pepper on his food, please). This is easily digestible and should calm his system. You can also mix some fiber granules, such as Metamucil, in his food, to add bulk to his stool. Or try a spoonful of plain yogurt . Monitor his activity to see if he visits the litter box less frequently, and note if the consistency of the stool returns to its usual form.

When Does the Vet Need to Know?

If the cat's diarrhea is "explosive," increasing in frequency, or shows no change at all despite your efforts after 24 hours, it's time to consult your vet. She can better determine the precise trigger for your cat's diarrhea, and prescribe the best course of action. Provide her with details, such as what the cat's been eating, if diarrhea has occurred before, and whether you've seen blood in his litter box. The cat may need antibiotics for a bacterial infection, or an anti-parasite treatment to cure worms. A gastrointestinal blockage means surgery, while a virus may require antiviral medication, electrolyte replacement and fluid therapy. A food allergy will require a change in diet.

Keeping Feline Diarrhea Away

Feline diarrhea usually abates quickly once treated; if parasites or an infection caused it, the prescribed medications will turn it around. A cat who suffers repeated rounds of diarrhea very likely has more serious health concerns, including kidney or liver disease that will require long-term attention. A food intolerance or allergy, such as a reaction to ingredients or dyes common to cat foods, will mean a new diet regime for your cat. You should always be aware of anything unusual your cat consumes that may prompt diarrhea.

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