Cat diarrhea is not considered a disease in itself, but is usually the symptom of an underlying condition. Diarrhea typically consists of watery stool that may contain blood or mucus, depending on its cause. There may be several causes of diarrhea in cats, including irritable bowel syndrome; viral, bacterial or fungal infection; or dietary problems. Cat diarrhea and its cause can generally be diagnosed during a veterinary exam. Treatment and prognosis often depend upon the cause of the diarrhea.
Dietary problems can cause diarrhea in cats. Many cats may develop diarrhea after they eat something that disagrees with them, which may occur while the cat is away from its owner's supervision. Cats who frequently overeat are more prone to bouts of diarrhea than cats who do not. Low-quality pet foods can cause diarrhea in cats, as can sudden dietary changes. Cats may develop diarrhea after eating rich, salty, or spicy foods, or they may develop it due to a food intolerance.
Cat diarrhea can sometimes occur when foreign objects are eaten. These objects can become lodged somewhere in the gastrointestinal tract. Toxic or irritating substances can cause diarrhea in cats when eaten.
Stress is another frequent cause of diarrhea in cats. Cats succumb to stress easily. They can become stressed when large environmental changes occur, such as the addition of new animals or people to their household, or after a move to a new household.
Disease can often cause diarrhea in cats, especially viral, fungal, or bacterial infections of the gastrointestinal tract. Often, infections cause additional symptoms in cats, such as fever, lethargy, low appetite, and vomiting. Parasitic infestation, often of intestinal worms, may be responsible for some cases of cat diarrhea. Other diseases responsible for cat diarrhea include feline leukemia, feline AIDS, irritable bowel syndrome, neoplasia, and hyperthyroidism. Problems with a cat's pancreas can also give it diarrhea.
Vets can often diagnose the cause of cat diarrhea during a physical exam. Blood, stool, and urine samples may be used to determine the cause of diarrhea. X-rays, biopsies, barium tests, and even exploratory surgery can help vets identify the cause of cat diarrhea.
Treatment for cat diarrhea can vary, depending on its cause. Often, dietary changes are in order. Medications can treat many of the diseases responsible for diarrhea in cats. Surgery may be necessary in the case of intestinal blockage. The prognosis for feline diarrhea can vary, depending on its cause. If the cause is minor, such as an infection or dietary problem, treatment can usually begin to improve symptoms within two to four days.