When Does Cat Diarrhea Require Veterinary Care?

Cat diarrhea may occur because of minor causes, but can also be a symptom of a more serious condition. Diarrhea is not a disease; it is a symptom of an underlying problem or illness.

If feline diarrhea is not treated, even in mild cases, the results can be fatal.

Causes of Diarrhea in Cats

An upset stomach resulting in diarrhea could be a reaction to a food item eaten like wet cat food. Endemic fungal infections, parasites and feline leukemia viruses can also cause diarrhea.

Other conditions that can cause diarrhea include: cat irritable bowel syndrome, loss of pancreatic function, poisoning (rodent poisons, antifreeze, cleaning products, and plants), swallowing non-food items, parasites (coccidian, hookworms, roundworms, giardia, etc.), feline distemper, feline immunodeficiency virus, and feline leukemia.

When Diarrhea Requires Veterinary Care

Loose stool, in and of itself, may not be reason enough to take a cat to the vet's office. However, the following symptoms, when accompanying diarrhea, should be investigated further:

  • Vomiting
  • Dehydration: the cat has intentionally not had any water to drink for the last 24 hours
  • Weight loss
  • Loss of appetite
  • Fever
  • Lack of energy
  • Watery or bloody diarrhea: blood in the diarrhea can indicate hemorrhaging along the intestinal tract
  • The age of the cat: especially older or younger cats
  • Cat farting results in a bowel movement at the same time
  • The diarrhea has lasted for more than 48 hours
  • More than 8 episodes of diarrhea or loose stool in a span of 24 hours
  • The cat appears to be in pain
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Ingestion of a poison is suspected

Diagnosing the Cause of Diarrhea in Cats

When a cat is brought in to a veterinarian's office because of diarrhea, there are a number of tests that can be performed to try figure out the underlying condition.

A physical examination will be performed. The vet may have a stool sample analyzed to rule-out parasites. An x-ray may also be taken to see if the cat swallowed a non-food item, like a toy.

In the more major cases of diarrhea, a vet will test for specific viruses or conditions. This can be done with blood tests, x-rays, stool cultures, a biopsy of the intestines, thyroid tests, and even exploratory surgery in the abdomen.

Treating Diarrhea in Cats

A vet may treat a cat for worms, even with a negative culture. Medications may also be prescribed to help control vomiting, infections and inflammation in the intestinal tract. The veterinarian may also suggest a special diet that could include fluid and electrolyte replacement.

A cat with diarrhea should be monitored in case conditions worsen. Always feel free to seek veterinary care even if you are not sure the situation is serious enough. With the proper attention and treatment, a cat suffering with diarrhea can start to feel better in as little as a couple of days.