Gastroenterititis in Cats

Gastroenteritis is an irritation of the feline stomach that causes acute vomiting and diarrhea. It has a number of causes, and can usually be associated with serious illness. Gastroenteritis itself can cause dangerous levels of fluid loss, imbalanced of pH levels and electrolyte imbalance.

Symptoms of Feline Gastroenteritis

Gastroenteritis in cats is characterized by severe, acute vomiting and diarrhea that lasts more than several days. It's normal for cats to suffer occasional bouts of vomiting and diarrhea, and in fact, many cats succumb to bouts of vomiting and diarrhea once or twice every few weeks, mostly due to their less than scrupulous eating habits. Gastroenteritis is not normal and should be treated. In addition to severe vomiting and diarrhea symptoms, you'll also notice:

  • Dehydration
  • Depression
  • Listlessness
  • Blood in the stool or vomit

Symptoms of gastroenteritis, unlike those of normal stomachaches, do not improve and may in fact worsen over the course of several days. Your vet may recommend withholding food initially to see if symptoms resolve themselves. If vomiting and diarrhea persist after food is withheld, or if the pet seems to be in pain, these are symptoms of gastroenteritis. In cats, gastroenteritis can quickly lead to dehydration and hypoglycemia, both dangerous medical conditions.

Causes of Gastroenteritis in Cats

There are a number of things than can potentially cause feline gastroenteritis, ranging from food intolerance to major systemic illness. They include:

  • Dietary indiscretion (eating something inappropriate)
  • Food allergies or intolerance
  • Viral, bacterial, fungal or parasitic infection
  • Ingestion of drugs or toxins
  • Obstruction of the bowel
  • Tumors or other growths in the digestive tract
  • Kidney disease
  • Liver disease
  • Diabetes
  • Abdominal disorders like pancreatitis
  • Inflammatory bowel disease
  • Ulcers
  • Stress
  • Cancer

Diagnosis and Treatment of Feline Gastroenteritis

Some cases of gastroenteritis in cats resolve themselves. In many cases, treatment of the underlying medical condition resolves the symptoms of gastroenteritis. If your cat is showing additional symptoms, especially symptoms of a metabolic illness like diabetes, or if the vomit or stool is bloody, then your vet may perform one or more diagnostic tests to isolate the cause of gastroenteritis. They include:

  • A complete blood count, or CBC
  • A biochemical profile
  • Thyroid hormone tests
  • Tests for feline leukemia and feline immunodeficiency virus
  • Urinalysis
  • Abdominal X-rays
  • Fecal examinations

Your vet will need a complete medical history. Diagnostic tests should help him rule out problems with the liver, kidneys, pancreas and other major organs, as well as serious viral diseases.

Depending on the cause of your cat's gastroenteritis, your vet may only be able to treat the symptoms. Treating the symptoms can help maintain your cat's fluid and electrolyte balances to give him a chance of overcoming the illness. Your vet may use a combination of fluid therapy, medication and bland diet to combat the symptoms of gastroenteritis. Even if your cat shows no symptoms of major illness, and seems to be feeling quite well otherwise, symptomatic treatment for gasteroenteritis can make him feel better and may even cure the disease.

If your cat's gastroenteritis symptoms are the result of an underlying medical condition, your vet will provide treatment for that condition as well. Treating the underlying condition should resolve the symptoms of gastroenteritis.