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Ask the Doctor May 2016 Issue

Ask The Doctor - Chronic Diarrhea in Cats

A case of chronic diarrhea
Q have been a Catnip subscriber for several years, and am a mom to two domestic shorthair kitties, both about eight years old.

My female, Lily, is barely seven pounds, and seems to be pretty healthy except that she has chronic loose bowels/ diarrhea. Texas, the male, is about 10.5 pounds, and has normal bowels (sometimes, even on the hard side). I mention him because the cats are both fed the same diet of primarily wet food. Also, I live in a small apartment so it would be extremely difficult to feed them separately.

I have not taken Lily to the vet for this condition because I fear that I might be required to pill her on a regular basis. She is somewhat skittish already, and I am afraid that having to capture her each day for a pill would cause a rift in our already tenuous relationship.

Could you please advise me on this issue? I am concerned for her health. She does make it to the litter pan. Any guidance you have for me will be greatly appreciated.
Nancy Orrell

A Dear Nancy: Chronic diarrhea is not an uncommon problem in cats. However, you did not mention exactly how chronic. If Lily has had the problem for years and is maintaining her weight and seems healthy otherwise, than we are probably dealing with an issue of dietary intolerance or bacterial overgrowth.

If the problem is only of a few months chronicity, than the possibilities may still be dietary intolerance or bacterial overgrowth. Additional concerns would be intestinal parasites, such as tapeworms and nematodes (round worms, for example).

In the older cat, chronic diarrhea may be a manifestation of inflammatory bowel disease or a more serious scenario, like intestinal cancer. Metabolic disease or systemic diseases — such as certain types of liver disease — may also cause soft stools or diarrhea. You could also try a diet change to see if that controls the situation.

However, the best advice is to have Lily diagnosed by your veterinarian. If she needs medication for a diagnosed problem, your veterinarian will be able to work with you to find a form of treatment that may be less stressful than daily pilling.
Mary Labato, DVM, DACVIM
Clinical Professor
Cummings School of Veterinary
Medicine at Tufts University

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