In cats, chronic diarrhea is characterized by frequent watery stools. This results in the malabsorption of essential nutrients, water, and electrolytes. In the absence of timely treatment, the rapid movement of the ingested food through the intestines can also cause dehydration and gastrointestinal infection in cats and kittens.
Usually on the onset of the disease, the diarrhea is classified as acute, as the symptoms appear quite quickly and last for a maximum period of seven days. In case of chronic diarrhea, however, the symptoms remain persistent for weeks or even months. Diarrhea is essentially classified as large bowel diarrhea which affects the large intestine and small bowel diarrhea which affects the small intestine and the stomach.
The causes of diarrhea can range from indigestion caused by eating certain foods, a diet change, or certain systemic illnesses. Here are some of the common causes of chronic diarrhea.
- Blockage of the intestines due to hairball or other foreign objects
- Irritable Bowel Disorder
- Intestinal cat worms
- Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD): colitis (inflammation of the large bowel) and enteritis (inflammation of the small bowel)
- Food allergies such as lactose intolerance
- Liver disease, feline kidney disease, and other systemic illnesses
- Gastrointestinal cancer
- Certain medication and toxins
- Exocrine pancreatic insufficiency
- Disorders leading to malabsorption
- Infection caused by bacteria, virus, parasites, and protozoa
Symptoms of This Chronic Diarrhea
In case the cat is affected by small bowel diarrhea, it suffers from an increased volume of stool and the increase in the frequency of defecation as well. This leads to weight loss, decreased appetite, melena, flatulence, and vomiting in cats. If large bowel diarrhea is the cause of this chronic health problem, then the usual symptoms are a decrease in the volume of the stool though they may defecate around three to four times a day. This may be accompanied by blood and mucus in the feces.
To diagnose the underlying cause of feline chronic diarrhea, the veterinarian may recommend a host of tests. This includes the complete medical history, physical examination, fecal studies, complete blood count, ultrasound, intestinal biopsy, and urinalysis. Once the underlying cause has been determined, the veterinarian may recommend a change in diet or may withhold food completely for some days.
After a day or so of fasting, the food that is introduced is usually bland and hypoallergenic such as boiled rice, potatoes, and boiled lean chicken. Antibiotics, diarrhea medication, intravenous fluids, and nutritional supplements are some of the common treatments for chronic diarrhea. Intestinal parasites are treated by deworming followed by routine fecal examination. A blockage may also necessitate a surgery to remove the obstructed object.
Recovery from chronic diarrhea in cats is a gradual and long-drawn process. In certain cases the diet is modified permanently to introduce high fiber foods and decrease the amount of fat in the diet. If you suspect that your cat is affected by chronic diarrhea, then monitor it closely, paying special attention to the frequency of defecation and the stool character. Also, prevent your cat from eating out of trash or bringing about a sudden change in the diet.
In addition to this, effective prevention is possible by routine physical and fecal examinations. This can help prevent your cat from contracting the disease and is thus an essential part of the well-being of your feline friend in the long run.
Disclaimer: This article is for informative purposes only, and should not be treated as a substitute for the medical advice of a veterinarian.