Gastroenteritis in Cats: Gastroenteritis, also known as stomach flu, is inflammation of the stomach and intestines. It can cause vomiting, diarrhea, loss of appetite, and abdominal pain in cats. The most common causes of gastroenteritis in cats are:
- Bacterial infections: Certain bacteria like Salmonella, E. coli or Clostridium can infect the GI tract. These often come from contaminated food or water.
- Viral infections: Feline parvovirus, corona virus, and calicivirus are common and highly contagious viruses that can cause gastroenteritis in cats.
- Parasitic infestations: Worms such as roundworms, hookworms or whipworms that infect the intestines can also trigger gastroenteritis.
- Dietary indiscretion: Eating spoiled food, toxic plants, or other foreign objects can irritate the stomach and intestines, leading to vomiting and diarrhea.
- Allergic reaction: Food allergies or sensitivities may manifest as GI upset in some cats. The most common culprits are beef, dairy and wheat.
If your cat shows symptoms of frequent vomiting, diarrhea, loss of appetite or seems lethargic, it’s best to have your vet examine them. They can check for underlying infections or other causes, and may run blood tests or stool cultures. Treatment typically includes fluids to prevent dehydration, bland diet, probiotics and medication such as antibiotics, dewormers or other drugs depending on the diagnosis.
With proper treatment and care, most cats recover well from gastroenteritis. However, severe or prolonged cases can be life-threatening, so consult your vet right away if symptoms persist for more than a couple of days.
Common Causes of Gastroenteritis in Cats
One of the most common causes of gastroenteritis in cats is dietary indiscretion, like eating spoiled food or getting into the trash. It’s important to keep food properly stored and secure your trash.
- Certain parasites can also wreak havoc on your cat’s stomach. Giardia and roundworms are common culprits, especially in kittens. Have a stool sample checked if symptoms persist or your cat isn’t improving with diet changes. Antiparasitic medication may be needed.
- Bacterial infections are another frequent cause of gastroenteritis in felines. Salmonella, E. coli, and Campylobacter are some of the bacteria that can infect the gut. Your vet can test a stool sample to determine if bacteria are present and prescribe a course of antibiotics.
- Some cats may have adverse food reactions or intolerances that lead to digestive upset and diarrhea. Common culprits include beef, dairy, and high-fat diets. You may need to try an elimination diet under the guidance of your vet to determine the offending ingredient.
- Certain medications like NSAIDs can also irritate the stomach lining and cause nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea as side effects. Always talk to your vet before giving any OTC medications to avoid adverse drug interactions or side effects.
- Stress and anxiety may play a role for some kitties. Moving to a new home, changes in routine, or inter-cat aggression can trigger gastrointestinal issues. Calming aids, pheromones, and environmental enrichment may help in these situations.
With proper diagnosis and treatment, most cases of feline gastroenteritis can be resolved. Be sure to keep your cat well hydrated and call your vet if symptoms become severe or last more than a couple of days. Close monitoring and follow-up care are key.
Symptoms of Gastroenteritis to Look Out For
If your cat is experiencing gastroenteritis, there are several symptoms you should watch out for. Be on alert for your cat exhibiting:
- Diarrhea or loose stools: This is one of the most common symptoms of gastroenteritis in cats. Their stools will become loose, watery, and may contain mucus or blood. Frequent trips to the litter box and straining are also signs of diarrhea.
- Vomiting: Your cat may vomit undigested food, bile, or blood. Excessive vomiting can lead to dehydration, which requires immediate vet care.
- Lethargy or depression: Gastroenteritis often makes cats feel unwell, causing them to become lethargic or less active. Your usually energetic cat may seem depressed or sleepy.
- Loss of appetite: Nausea, vomiting, and an upset stomach will likely cause your cat to lose interest in eating. It’s important to keep your cat hydrated even if they won’t eat.
- Abdominal pain: Gastroenteritis can cause cramping, pain, and tenderness in the abdomen. Your cat may meow or cry when you touch their belly, or hold their body in an arched position.
- Dehydration: Frequent diarrhea and vomiting quickly deplete a cat’s fluids and electrolytes. Signs of dehydration include dry gums, sunken eyes, lethargy, and loss of skin elasticity. Dehydration is a medical emergency and you should take your cat to the vet right away.
If your cat is showing multiple symptoms, especially diarrhea, vomiting, and dehydration, it’s best to have your vet examine them as soon as possible. Blood tests and stool samples can help determine the exact cause of the gastroenteritis and the most effective treatment. With proper care and medication, most cats will recover from gastroenteritis within a few days.
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Treatment of Gastroenteritis in Cats
Once you’ve determined the cause of your cat’s gastroenteritis, it’s time to get them on the road to recovery. The main goals of treatment are to replace lost fluids, provide electrolyte balance, reduce inflammation in the GI tract and eliminate the underlying cause.
- Fluid therapy is critical and often done via IV to combat dehydration from diarrhea and vomiting. The vet will administer electrolyte solutions to restore proper balance. They may keep your cat hospitalized for a day or two to provide aggressive fluid treatment if they are very dehydrated.
- Medications like anti-nausea, anti-diarrhea, probiotics and antibiotics may be given depending on the cause. Probiotics help restore good gut bacteria. Antibiotics will only be used for bacterial infections. These meds can help reduce symptoms, repopulate healthy gut flora and eliminate infection.
- Dietary changes are key. Your vet will recommend a bland, easy-to-digest diet for a few days like boiled chicken, rice and pumpkin. Once stools are normal, you can gradually mix in your cat’s regular diet. In some cases, a prescription GI diet may be recommended long-term.
- For parasites or infections, appropriate dewormers or other medications will be prescribed to kill the organisms. Strict hygiene and environmental control measures should also be taken to prevent re-infection.
- Hospitalization may be required for severe dehydration or if your cat is not keeping anything down. Intravenous or subcutaneous fluid therapy, medications and a temporary bland diet can all be administered to help your cat recover in a controlled setting before going home.
With prompt vet care and by following recommended treatments carefully, most cats will recover from gastroenteritis within a couple of days to a week. However, for chronic or severe cases, longer term medication and diet changes may be needed to fully resolve symptoms and get your cat’s digestive system back to normal. Call your vet right away if symptoms do not improve with initial treatment or get worse at any time.