By ALISON TURNER, Associate Editor and Featured Columnist
None of want to talk about it, to read about it, or (let's be honest) to write about it: but kitty diarrhea is a problem that is better off addressed than ignored, for all involved.
If you've ever lived with a kitty, you've probably experienced cat diarrhea -- it happens to the best of 'em. However, if the condition becomes chronic it could indicate something more serious and, if left untreated, diarrhea could lead to not only smelly, unpleasant messes for both kitty and owner, but could result in severe dehydration for the cat.
Why do cats get diarrhea? The bottom line is that diarrhea in cats is a response by the feline form to expel anything foreign or toxic that has entered the body. This could be caused by an internal blockage, a change in diet, a virus in the stomach, parasites, or even a fungal infection.
Read the list below for ten was to treat your kitty's diarrhea at home, as well as reasons that your cat may be suffering the condition in the first place.
1. A Dab of Yogurt to Boost Probiotics
Probiotics are microorganisms (that is, live bacteria) that may treat and help prevent some illnesses, such as irritable bowel syndrome and urinary tract infections.
The Harvard Medical School Family Health Guide explains that probiotics are particularly good at treating diarrhea in people (in some cases, reducing diarrhea by 60%), and can be taken as dietary supplements or exist in foods such as yogurt . Research from last year suggests that probiotics may have a similarly-beneficial effect on our furry, purr-y friends.
In 2011, Shawn Bybee and colleagues with the Department of Clinical Sciences at the College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences at Colorado State University analyzed how the administration of a probiotic for four weeks to 217 cats in an animal shelter affected the likelihood of diarrhea in those cats.
Results showed that the percentage of cats with diarrhea after two days of study was "significantly lower" (about 7.4%) in the probiotic group than when compared with those treated with a placebo (20.7%). The team concludes that cats fed the probiotics resulted in fewer episodes of diarrhea, so that "the probiotic may have beneficial effects on the gastrointestinal tract."
If you're worried about giving your cat plain yogurt for her diarrhea, consider speaking to your veterinarian about other forms of probiotics that are available.
2. Keep Kitties Away From Cows.
For those cat-owners out there who live in the city, this strategy of keeping away cat diarrhea might not concern you. But if you plan on visiting the family farm, taking a day in the country, or touring the stock yards with your kitty-in-tow, you might want to reconsider.
There is a delightful little parasite called Tritrichomonas foetus that is well known as a pesky presence in cattle; recent reports suggest that the same parasite may be to blame for diarrhea in cats.
In 2009 Caroline Frey with the Institute of Parasitology at the University of Bern and a team of colleagues investigated intestinal infections in 45 cats suffering from chronic diarrhea in Switzerland over a period of three months.
Eleven of these cats were found to contain Tritrichomonas foetus, the same parasite negatively impacting cattle. The team concludes that this same parasite "appears to range among those organisms that can cause chronic diarrhea in cats in Switzerland."
While it may not be as simple as keeping cats away from cows, realizing that the same parasite can infect both creatures may help to more quickly diagnose the cause of your cat's diarrhea.
3. Glucose and Diarrhea: Can We Blame Diabetes?
We all know how serious diabetes has become in humans; sadly, the disease can be just as devastating in cats.
When felines have diabetes, insulin continues to be produces by the pancreas, though in inadequate amounts because the pancreas is not responding correctly to glucose in the blood. In 2009 experts from Georgia, Illinois, and Germany confirmed that glucose spikes (or, an off-balanced glucose/insulin ration wherein the glucose level is too high) can manifest as diarrhea in cats.
M. Hoenig with the Department of Veterinary Clinical Medicine at the University of Illinois in Urbana led the team in an examination of the oral administration of 2 grams of glucose/ kilogram of body weight to nineteen cats. One of the "disadvantages" of the study was that the glucose was "associated with development of diarrhea in 25% of the cats."
It is unlikely that you would be orally administering glucose pills to your feline friend, but the above study does suggest that a glucose/insulin imbalance may be to blame for your cat's diarrhea: consider asking your veterinarian about testing for diabetes.
4. The Indoors, Lazy Cat: At Risk for Diabetes (and Diarrhea)
If your kitty's glucose levels are out of whack it could be because he or she has diabetes, which could partially manifest via diarrhea (see above). So how can we keep our kitties from getting diabetes?
Research from The Netherlands in 2007 suggests that an active cat is a cat less likely to end up with diabetes.
L.I. Slingerland with the Department of Clinical Sciences of Companion Animals at Utrecht University, along with colleagues, analyzed the dietary history and physical activity of 96 cats with diabetes and 192 matched controls and found that indoor confinement and low physical activity was "significantly correlated with the development of diabetes mellitus."
Next time you leave the house for a run or walk, consider taking Kitty with you: they have leashes for cats, you know.
5. Diabetes in Cats Part III: Weight Gain, Diabetes, and Diarrhea
You can put a leash on your kitty and make her join you for your morning run but that doesn't guarantee she won't gain weight -- and according to work from researchers in the U.S., New Zealand, and France, weight gain may be a separate risk factor for kitty diabetes, which could affect the glucose levels in the kitty and be the cause of her diarrhea (see above).
In 2010 the above team, led by Robert Backus with the Department of Veterinary Medicine and Surgery at the University of Missouri, assessed the glucose tolerance, insulin sensitivity, insulin secretion, and body weights in young and mature female cats. They found that body weight may "induce the pre-diabetic conditions of insulin resistance and secretion dysfunction."
If you're already trying to get your cat some exercise but continue to be worried about his weight, consider asking your veterinarian about other weight-loss methods for cats.
6. Diarrhea: A Possible Indicator of More Serious Conditions. Diarrhea is bad news in its own right, but it's possible that it indicates even worse news for your kitty. In 2009, researchers encountered a cat who suffered from diarrhea for two months, which was eventually diagnosed with both lymphoma and salmonellosis.
Lymphoma is cancer of the lymphatic system, which is a system of vessels throughout the body that moves lymph, a fluid containing protein, water, minerals and white blood cells.
Lymphoma is the cause for nearly one third (33%) of all diagnosed kitty cancers. Salmonella may sound familiar as the pathogen that enters humans through frightening vectors such as undercooked eggs or meats -- animals can be affected by a different strain, and may cause anxiety, anorexia, and diarrhea. In cats, salmonellosis is sometimes called "song bird fever" because it may be a result of the hunting of infected birds.
The work in 2009 came from researchers in the West Indies, Minnesota, and Alabama, including M.I. Bhaiyati with the School of Veterinary Medicine at St. George's University at the first.
The team studied a twelve year old domestic shorthair cat, who had suffered diarrhea and other symptoms (such as vomiting and emaciation) for two months. After examination, pathological analysis of various masses showed that the masses "were compatible with" lymphosarcoma, and that Salmonella enteritidis was found in the thoracic fluid.
While we would all hope that our cat's diarrhea isn't due to the monstrous dual condition of lymphosarcoma and salmonellosis, the work above suggests that it's a possibility. Lymphosarcoma can be treated by surgical removal (if the tumor is accessible), or by chemotherapy, along with extra fluids to prevent dehydration. Salmonellosis also requires excess fluids, and may also be treated with antibiotics.
7. Diarrhea from Hyperthyroidism: Another Reason to Avoid Air Pollutants?