Vomiting and diarrhea are medically known as gastroenteritis, or gastro, which is the inflammation or infection of the small intestine and stomach. There are a number of causes of gastroenteritis including:
- Viral infection.
- Bacterial infection.
- Parasitic infection.
- Dietary indiscretion.
- Dietary intolerance.
- Certain medications.
- Inflammatory bowel disease.
- Liver disease.
- Kidney disease.
The occasional bout of vomiting or diarrhea is quite common in cats, vomiting especially. Prolonged vomiting and diarrhea, lasting longer than a day or two are cause for concern and should be checked out by a veterinarian. Dehydration can quickly occur, which is life threatening and must be reversed quickly.
What are the symptoms of gastroenteritis in cats?
Vomiting and diarrhea (which may or may not contain blood, mucus or be frothy in appearance), are most commonly seen. Other symptoms will vary depending on the underlying cause, but may include:
How is the cause of vomiting and diarrhea diagnosed?
Your veterinarian will perform a physical examination of your cat and obtain a medical history from you. He will want to know how long your cat has had vomiting and diarrhea if you have noticed any other symptoms, what food he has been eating, if he is on any medication. He may wish to perform a number of tests including:
Fecal flotation - A stool sample is taken from your cat and mixed with a liquid solution. Parasitic eggs or cysts float to the top, which your veterinarian can then check under the microscope to determine the parasite.
Complete blood count - To check for signs of infection or inflammation.
Biochemical profile - To evaluate kidney and liver function.
Urinalysis - To check for kidney disease, infection, check for dehydration or sugar in the urine (which is indicative of feline diabetes).
T4 concentration in cats over 5 or 6 years of age to check for hyperthyroidism.
X-rays and/or ultrasound to check for obstruction, foreign bodies, tumours.
Endoscopy of the intestines to obtain biopsies.
What is the treatment of vomiting and diarrhea in cats?
As dehydration is commonly seen in cats with vomiting and diarrhea, fluids may be administered to correct this, fluids may be given either subcutaneously (under the skin), or via IV for more severe cases, this requires a stay in the hospital while the fluids are administered. Your veterinarian may recommend your cat be either fasted for 24 hours to rest the intestines and stomach and/or have your cat placed on a very bland diet for several days while he recovers.
Other treatments are aimed at addressing the underlying cause and may include:
- Anti-parasitic medications to treat parasites.
- Antibiotics to treat bacterial infections.
- Radioactive iodine or surgical removal of the thyroid gland if your cat has hyperthyroidism.
- Viral infections usually have to run their course with supportive care provided while your cat fights the infection.
- Poisoning may be treated by pumping the stomach or the ingestion of activated charcoal. Anti-seizure medications may be required if your cat is having seizures as a result of ingested toxins.
- Changing your cat's diet or avoiding foods which cause intolerances (such as milk).
- Obstructions may need to be treated with surgery.
- Hairballs may be treated with a change in diet or the addition of lubricants of fibre to the diet. Read here for more detailed instructions on how to treat hairballs at home.
- Painkillers and anti-nausea medications to treat pancreatitis along with supportive care and if possible, treating the underlying cause.