Most kittens can experience an episode of diarrhea every now and then. But when should you be worried and call your vet, and when should you wait for several hours before doing so?
We are answering that question and more in today’s post, so keep on reading!
Why is diarrhea in kittens worrying?
While the causes of diarrhea in kittens can be extremely varied, so at first the exact cause might be practically impossible to tell – especially if you are caring for very young kittens – this health issue can also be life-threatening.
Along with seniors, kittens are among the most sensitive types of cats, especially to dehydration. They do not have a fully developed immune system yet, and if they are younger than 3 months of age, they aren’t equipped with the mechanisms that can help them fight disease properly.
This is our way of telling you that if you notice that your kitten has diarrhea, you should take them to the vet clinic without waiting for something else to happen. Your pet is losing precious fluids in this way, and in cats (and other species, for that matter), dehydration can be fatal.
What causes diarrhea in kittens?
Diet errors are at the top of the list when it comes to diarrhea in young cats. People tend to think that cats can drink regular dairy milk without experiencing any health complications, but this rule does not apply to all cats. By the time they are several months of age, most cats develop lactose intolerance, which means that they shouldn’t have any kind of milk.
Table scraps can cause diarrhea due to the various ingredients that might be present in them, whether because of too much salt, too much chili, or any other spices or seasonings.
Switching your kitten to a new type of diet too suddenly can be another possible cause.
Both bacterial and viral infections in kittens can be dangerous. We might have previously mentioned the reason for this at the beginning of the article, but the truth is that kittens just can’t cope with the abuse of these germs as well as their adult counterparts.
They can easily lose their life in a matter of several days if they contract Panleukopenia, a highly infectious virus, for example, or if they develop a case of severe food poisoning with a bacterium such as Salmonella.
These are by far the worst because not only do intestinal worms basically deplete your cat’s intestines of food that your pet’s body would otherwise use to provide them with energy and calories, but they also cause severe damage to their organs.
It’s not uncommon for kittens to have diarrhea and expel worms while doing so. Roundworms are usually at the root of the issue as tapeworms are less likely to show up in very young cats, especially if they don’t have any fleas or haven’t contracted them from their mothers.
What other symptoms might you notice?
Diarrhea can be accompanied by other clinical signs, and if you notice any of the following ones, we urge you to get veterinary assistance as soon as possible:
- Abdominal pain or discomfort
- The presence of blood in the feces/vomited material
- The kitten’s feces might smell bad (not a general rule)
If your kitten is both vomiting and experiencing diarrhea, they have to be taken to the animal hospital in order for a vet to administer fluids to them, whether intravenously or subcutaneously.
How is diarrhea in kittens diagnosed and treated?
As we previously noted, treating dehydration is an emergency here, and during that time, the vet needs to find out what could be wrong with your cat. They could do a number of tests that can range from typical blood tests (a CBC or blood chemistry) to performing an ultrasound, taking a fecal sample for the feces to be tested and checked for parasites, and more.
The fever can go down with specific antipyretic medication, which the vet can also administer intravenously. The treatment of diarrhea should usually be symptomatic until the exact cause is discovered.
However, if the consequences on your cat’s health are very severe, the veterinarian might choose to administer a broad-spectrum antibiotic just to be on the safe side of things.
Whether your cat has a viral or bacterial infection or a severe parasitic infestation, the antibiotic will be useful in preventing secondary bacterial infections.
Typically, fecal samples are sent out to the lab in order for a microbiologist to find out what bacteria is present in your cat’s ‘bathroom productions’ and what the germs discovered might be sensitive to antibiotic-wise.
There are rapid tests that can be used for various viral infections, whether those involving microorganisms like Rotavirus, Feline Leukemia Virus, FIV, or any other. If your kitten is found to have a viral disease, the treatment will be long and costly, and the prognosis might still be reserved. Some cats never recover, while others remain carriers for the rest of their lives.
Can diarrhea in kittens be prevented?
There are some ways of preventing diarrhea in young cats. For example, you can keep them indoors only for the first few months of their life until you get them vaccinated against highly contagious cat viral diseases.
You can also protect the mother from parasitic infestations by deworming her on a regular basis before she becomes pregnant and also after she’s given birth to the kittens – there are some safe wormers out there that will not affect the offspring through the milk they drink.
As for bacterial infections, they can usually be prevented by maintaining good hygiene around the home.
Sure, caring for kittens can be quite messy, especially in the first weeks of their lives, but we recommend keeping several blankets on hand so that you can change their bedding each time an ‘accident’ happens or clean it as quickly as possible.
Once they’re older than 3 months of age, making sure they are vaccinated and dewormed regularly can prevent them from experiencing severe diarrhea.
If you want to switch your kitten to a new diet, always do so gradually. Cats do not tend to do well with sudden changes, so make sure you replace the old diet with the new one over a period of 5 to 7 weeks (by mixing the old kibble/wet food with the new one).