Chronic Diarrhea in Cats

Diarrhea in cats is not a disease in and of itself, but is rather a symptom of another condition. The cause of your pet's diarrhea may be mild and temporary or it may be a serious condition that requires immediate attention. Most instances of feline diarrhea resolve themselves in a few days. However, if your pet has diarrhea for more than 3 weeks, it's generally considered to be a chronic condition. Chronic diarrhea is more commonly associated with serious medical problems, and requires veterinary attention in order to treat the symptoms and to determine the nature of the cause.

Symptoms of Chronic Diarrhea

Diarrhea in cats presents a range of symptoms. In all cases of chronic diarrhea, your pet will display one or more of these warning signs for longer than a few days without reprieve:

  • Runny or watery stool
  • Blood or mucous in stool
  • Difficulty passing stool
  • Frequent bowel movements
  • Weight loss
  • Decline in coat quality
  • Loss of appetite and increase of thirst

Left alone, chronic diarrhea may present a number of problems to your pet if it persists. The most dangerous of these is weight loss, as pets with diarrhea do not process the nutrients in their food to the same degree as healthy animals. More often than not, chronic and persistent diarrhea will be accompanied by other symptoms as well.

Causes of Chronic Diarrhea

Most of the potential causes of chronic diarrhea involve your pet's digestive tract. Irritable bowel syndrome, blockages of the intestines, inflammation of the bowels and gastrointestinal cancer all lead to chronic and pervasive diarrhea. There are also other diseases that lead to chronic diarrhea. Liver and kidney disease may cause diarrhea in cats, as may diseases and conditions that affect digestion and metabolism, such as thyroid malfunction.

Diagnosing the Cause of Your Pet's Diarrhea

It's difficult to determine the cause of diarrhea by the symptoms listed above alone. If you recognize any of these symptoms in your pet, and if those signs continue for longer than a few days, have your pet analyzed by a veterinarian. Your vet will begin by conducting a physical exam and stool sample. Between these tests, your vet can rule out a variety of potential causes of your animal's diarrhea. The stool sample is particularly effective, as it can determine whether your pet's diarrhea is caused by parasites, bacteria or another source.

Based on the results of these initial tests, your vet may need to continue checking for potential conditions. He may run urinalysis tests, blood samples and blood counts, x-rays and biopsies in order to isolate and diagnose the cause of your pet's condition.

Treating Chronic Diarrhea

There are two important steps involved in treating chronic diarrhea in cats. The first involves relieving the symptoms of the diarrhea itself. This ensures that your pet is comfortable and that he receives all of the proper nutrients from his food. It also helps to protect him against further dehydration and weight loss.

The second step is important for the long term relief of his diarrhea. Working with your vet after he has made a diagnosis, determine the best way to approach treating your cat's underlying condition that has led to his diarrhea. Without proper treatment of this condition, your pet's diarrhea may return.