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While it may not happen often, cats can experience illnesses resulting in uncomfortable symptoms like diarrhea. Here, our emergency veterinarians in Halifax talk about what causes gastrointestinal upset, how to stop diarrhea in cats and when it might be an emergency.

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Diarrhea in Cats

When a cat has diarrhea, they are experiencing loose, watery stools, usually with increased frequency. This happens when the feces moves too quickly through the intestine and your cat's body is not absorbing enough water, nutrients, and electrolytes.

Diarrhea is a symptom of an underlying issue rather than a condition itself. Many contributing factors may be involved, and your veterinarian's diagnosis will determine which treatment options they recommend.

Here, we go into further detail about what causes both acute and chronic diarrhea, how to stop your cat from having diarrhea, and when your feline friend might require urgent veterinary care.

Why does my cat have diarrhea?

While the list of potential causes of diarrhea in cats is quite long, a few causes occur more often than others. These are:

  • Parasites: Internal parasites make their home in your cat's gastrointestinal system. This can cause serious discomfort as well as mild to severe diarrhea.
  • Infections: Viral or bacterial infections can also lead to diarrhea in cats. This type of infection occurs most often in kittens and young adult cats.
  • Dietary changes: Even though cats are pickier about what they eat than dogs, diarrhea can still happen due to sudden changes in their diet.
  • Stress: Emotional issues like stress can impact your cat, causing symptoms like diarrhea, constipation, and a lack of appetite.
  • Inflammatory disorders: Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) and other inflammatory conditions can impact the gastrointestinal system, causing diarrhea.
  • Medications or toxins: Many types of medications, like antibiotics, can trigger uncomfortable side effects like diarrhea. Toxins can cause diarrhea and lead to potentially life-threatening complications.

What are the treatment options for diarrhea in cats? 

Our veterinarians have experience treating many gastrointestinal illnesses in pets, and understand how to stop acute (sudden onset) and chronic (long-term) diarrhea in cats. Once your cat has been examined and diagnosed, your primary care veterinarian will provide a treatment plan to target the cause of the diarrhea, whether acute or chronic, while relieving the symptoms.

If you are wondering what you can give your cat to calm their stomach upset, consult a veterinarian to ask which products might help. A veterinarian may recommend treatments such as anti-diarrheal agents, dewormers, or probiotics (bacteria that support intestinal health).

If your cat is experiencing severe diarrhea or their condition does not begin to improve after one day, they may require further care, including hospitalization and intravenous (IV) fluids to combat dehydration.

How long will my cat have diarrhea?

The outcome for cats with diarrhea will depend on factors like the underlying cause, severity, and your kitty's overall health. Healthy cats experiencing mild or moderate acute diarrhea will generally recover quickly with proper treatment. Cats that have chronic diarrhea will require an ongoing care plan that may include a special diet to help manage the symptoms. In many cases, the symptoms will start to resolve in the first day or so.

When should I be concerned about my cat's diarrhea?

If you have a sick cat, your first instinct might be to type, 'How to treat cat diarrhea' into your favourite search engine and look for home remedies. This may yield pages of results, some of which may be inaccurate or unhelpful. 

Please don't hesitate to consult your veterinarian if you have any concerns. If you have a healthy adult cat, you may be able to simply speak with your primary care veterinarian for advice. Regardless of the symptoms that your cat is experiencing, it is never a bad idea to contact your veterinarian.

Some symptoms can point to a serious medical issue requiring emergency veterinary care, such as:

  • Loss of appetite
  • Lethargy/depression
  • Pain/discomfort
  • Blood in the stool (dark, blackish stool or visible, red blood)
  • Associated vomiting

If the symptoms last more than 24 hours or you have a very young, old, or ill cat, you should bring them to Coastal Care Veterinary Emergency & Referral Hospital for emergency veterinary care.

Emergency Care at Coastal Care Veterinary Emergency & Referral Hospital

If your cat or dog is experiencing a veterinary emergency, please contact us right away. We offer 24/7 emergency care for pets from across Halifax including Bedford, Dartmouth, Clayton Park and beyond.

Our emergency veterinarians are available evenings, weekends, and holidays to deliver critical medical attention when your pet needs us most.

Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.

If your cat is experiencing uncontrollable diarrhea, please contact our veterinarians at Coastal Care Veterinary Emergency & Referral Hospital right away. We provide emergency care for pets from Halifax, Dartmouth, Bedford, Clayton Park and the surrounding area.

Diarrhea in Cats: Common Causes & When It's Serious

Caring for Pets in Atlantic Canada

Our specialists are pleased to accept new patients by referral from primary care veterinarians. Our emergency service welcomes all clients – 24/7/365. 

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