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Cat Diarrhea: When To Be Worried

Cat Diarrhea: When To Be Worried

Gastrointestinal upset and diarrhea are common problems in cats. Diarrhea is not a disease; instead, it’s a side effect of different diseases, infections, and more. Cat diarrhea can sometimes subside on its own or with at-home treatment. However, diarrhea can be a sign of a bigger issue that needs to be addressed and treated. It’s important to be familiar with cat diarrhea causes and concerning symptoms that may require a visit with the veterinarian.

Cat Diarrhea Causes

There are numerous different causes of cat diarrhea, which means determining the cause isn’t always straightforward. Here are a few factors that may upset your cat’s gastrointestinal tract:

  • Intestinal parasites: coccidia, giardia, and worms
  • Bacterial infection
  • Viral infection
  • Stress
  • Diet change
  • Food intolerance
  • Medications and antibiotics
  • Diseases and disorders: inflammatory bowel disease, cancer, immune disorders, panleukopenia, thyroid imbalances, and disorders of the pancreas or liver

When To Be Worried

Although diarrhea in cats is common and isn’t always a serious issue, there are certain times when loose stools are concerning. These symptoms are red flags:

  • Cat diarrhea with blood
  • Dark, tarry stool
  • Vomiting along with diarrhea
  • Lethargy
  • Fever Depression
  • Frequent diarrhea
  • Large amounts of diarrhea
  • Watery or explosive diarrhea
  • Loss of appetite
  • Pain or discomfort

Ongoing diarrhea can quickly lead to dehydration and become a serious issue. Cats that have other medical issues, are very young, or are very old may be more susceptible to the effects of dehydration and should be evaluated by a veterinarian.

Because diarrhea can be caused by various issues, including a variety of diseases and disorders, it’s important to call your veterinarian if your cat displays any worrisome symptoms. You should also seek professional help if you’ve tried at-home treatment with no change in symptoms. A veterinarian can determine the underlying cause of diarrhea and develop a treatment plan.

Cat Diarrhea Treatment

Treatment will vary depending on the underlying cause of diarrhea. Treatment may include fluid therapy, electrolyte replacement, antibiotics, anti-diarrheal medications, dewormers, or probiotics. (Note: You should never give human medication to your pet unless your vet recommends it.)

Mild cases of cat diarrhea can often be successfully treated at home. There are a variety of treatment options you can try:

  • If you’ve changed your cat’s diet or food lately, try switching back to the old food. An ingredient in the new cat food might be upsetting your pet’s digestive system and causing diarrhea. You can also find food that’s advertised for cats with sensitive stomachs.
  • If your adult cat has a case of simple diarrhea, your vet may recommend you withhold food for 12 to 24 hours or feed small amounts of a highly digestive diet until the diarrhea subsides.
  • It's important to encourage water intake during episodes of diarrhea to help prevent dehydration. Make sure your cat has constant access to clean, fresh water. You can also add water to canned food to increase water intake.
  • Replacing electrolytes is also important for preventing dehydration and an electrolyte imbalance, which can cause serious issues in cats. You can prevent an electrolyte imbalance by offering an electrolyte supplement or diluted chicken or beef broth. (Thomas Labs® tip: Giving your cat an electrolyte supplement like Thomas Pet's HydrADE can help support normal hydration and encourage water consumption during episodes of diarrhea.)
  • Probiotics can help support gastrointestinal health and return your cat's intestinal bacteria back to normal. (Thomas Labs® tip: Giving your cat a probiotic like Acidophilus Forte can help reestablish and maintain a healthy gut. It contains beneficial bacteria to help reduce occasional episodes of diarrhea in cats and support the intestinal tract.)
  • Some types of diarrhea may respond to fiber supplementation, such as Metamucil or canned pumpkin. You can easily mix either of these options into your cat’s food.

If your cat has diarrhea, it’s important to keep a close eye on his symptoms. You should also monitor his activity to see if he starts using the litter box less often and to ensure his bowel movements return to normal. If your cat’s diarrhea becomes worse or doesn’t resolve with at-home treatment, be sure to check with your veterinarian on what you should do next.

--Do you have a kitten with diarrhea? Learn more about the causes and treatment of diarrhea in kittens!


The materials and information provided on this website are not intended to replace the medical advice or services of your veterinarian or other pet healthcare professional. Consult your own veterinarian if you have medical questions concerning diagnosis, treatment, therapy, or medical attention. 

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