Usually feline diarrhea lasts less than 24 hours, as it is most often caused by something the cat ate that did not agree with its tummy. So even though there are many serious illnesses the diarrhea may be a symptom of, it is most likely your cat only has a temporary discomfort.
You may not notice if the cat’s feces are runny, because being the tidy animal it is, the cat uses the litter box and the clumping cat litter often hides the evidence of feline diarrhea.
Or perhaps your cat is an outdoor cat and doesn’t use litter box much. Still, you should notice other symptoms related to feline diarrhea – and if you do, get your cat to the vet sooner rather than later.
These other symptoms of feline diarrhea are loss of appetite and weight, abdominal pain and fever.There may be vomiting and lethargy. The cat may keep on washing its bottom, and you notice signs of feces there (even matted fur under its tail, if the situation is bad). There may also be tenderness of the hind end.
If the condition continues over 24 hours, and the feces are either very watery or contain blood, it is time to go the vet. Remember to do this quickly as diarrhea in cats is much more dangerous than it is in humans.
In prolonged feline diarrhea the cat needs to have a physical exam. The vet checks its temperature, abdomen tenderness and swelling (by palpation), signs of dehydration, heart and respiration, mouth, thyroid size, and does a chemical profile of the kidneys and liver functions (urinalysis). Also, obviously, the feces need to be microscopically evaluated.
Because the feces are so watery, dehydration is a real danger for cats. And it should not be taken lightly – it may cause the death of the cat through shock and collapse.
Also, if the cat is still very young (a kitten that has not yet received all of its vaccinations and thus has an underdeveloped immune system), its condition may deteriorate very fast. So, if your cat is still a kitten, it is most important you immediately contact your vet at the first signs of feline diarrhea. If the cat is lethargic, has an unusually fast heartbeat and thick saliva, you really need to rush.
When the cat becomes dehydrated , it loses important minerals and salts like chloride, electrolytes, sugars, potassium and sodium, which are important for the function of the cat’s nerves. Dehydration also causes acid-based imbalance.
Dehydration can be fatal because a small animal has a large surface area in proportion to their weight. So, when the liquid stools eject too much liquid from the cat’s body it has trouble keeping its body temperature because of this large surface area – it cools the body too fast. If this happens, the cat may go into a coma. If the situation goes this far, only intravenous fluids can help.
How then to check if you cat is dehydrated? It is easy. Hold your cat firmly to the ground and then pull up the scruff of the neck gently. Keep it at that position for a few seconds and then let go. The scruff shouldgo down to normal quickly. But if it remains tented, it is a sign your cat is dehydrated - and you should ask for advice from your veterinarian quickly.
Another test is to press the gum lightly with your finger. The pressed area should o white and then quickly return to pink. But if it doesn’t and you notice white on the gums, or they are yellowish, you need to call your vet fast.
And the third easy sign of dehydration is that the third eyelid (the yaw) shows.
With very young cats the intestinal inflammation can cause the intestines to trash with such force that they go literally into knots. And even a layman understands that such a situation is life-threatening. And , like mentioned above, a young kitten with an underdeveloped immune system is in real danger if it gets diarrhea.
Symptoms of Severe Feline Diarrhea
There are symptoms that reveal the cat has a severe diarrhea. If you see any of these, they may be a sign of cat enteritis where the cat’s intestines are damaged. So contact your vet immediately. These symptoms are:
If your cat’s symptoms are mixed – there is both diarrhea and constipation – it could be it has eaten some sharp object.
When you get to the vet, it is good if you have written down some things that really help the vet to make a fast and accurate diagnosis.
Also ask your vet if you need to bring a sample of the diarrhea with you. This might be a good idea, because it may not be easy to get at the vets – remember the cat’s stomach is trying to empty itself constantly so there might not be much there to take samples of. A few tablespoonfuls in a sealed bag or container will do. If it is hard to get the sample from the cat sand, change the litter to something else (beans have been suggested) – or put just paper on the bottom of the litter box.
Remember to wash your hands well when you have taken the sample or cleaned the litter box. Even if it is feline diarrhea, it may be infectious to people as well. For example giardia and toxoplasmosis cross species. So, if both your cat and a person in your household has diarrhea, the people should go to the doctor as well. If the person in question is a child or an already sick person, this can be life threatening.
Often your vet finds the cause of the feline diarrhea immediately by sieving the feces, or then under a microscope.
Depending on what caused the diarrhea, the feces may look quite different. Also there may be blood loss which may cause feline anemia.
The cause of feline diarrhea may be in the intestines, but this is not always the case. If the reason is in the intestines, the cat’s lymph nodes are often enlarged (they collect the lymph from the intestines).
If the cause of feline diarrhea is in the small (or high) intestine, it is more dangerous. The symptoms are large amounts of feces with foul odor. There is normal or increased amount of bowel movements and not much straining when the cat defecates. There may be increased flatulence. The feces are not sticky, thick or covered with mucus. There may be blood in the feces, but it is usually brown on color, not bright red. (Usually darker blood in feces is a sign of a serious problem). Usually, however, there is no blood. The cat may vomit and have abdominal pain. Weight loss is also common.
If the cause of feline diarrhea is in the large (or low) intestine (rectum), there are frequent, uncomfortable bowel movements. There is a small amount of feces, which is often covered with large amounts of mucus. Pooping takes a long time, the cat has difficulties in passing and may not succeed at first. If there are flecks of blood (red or rusty in color) in the stool, it can be a sign of a badly inflamed colon. usually there is no weight loss, increased gas or weight loss.
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