Dear Most Esteemed and Knowledgeable Kitties:
One of my cats had major dental surgery in January. When we adopted her, we found that her teeth were all rotten and had to be removed. Since being on the antibiotic regimen back then, she has had chronic diarrhea. She was put on antibiotics twice to treat it at first and has been on probiotics as well (Culturelle and others), but to no avail. I have her on a chicken and rice diet, and she eats WD dry as well, despite having no teeth. She is hungry all the time, but she has gained weight–before her surgery she was very sick with her infected teeth and was unable to eat well. Any ideas as to how to get rid of the diarrhea? Do I just have to wait it out, as I had to do with another cat a couple of years ago after a similar reaction to antibiotics? I am at a loss.
Siouxsie: Antibiotics are certainly known to cause diarrhea in cats. As well as killing the bacteria that cause infections, they kill the normal bacteria that live in the intestines and help to digest food.
Thomas: Parasites, food intolerance, and chronic conditions like colitis or malabsorption syndrome can also cause diarrhea.
Dahlia: In cases of simple, acute diarrhea, vets often recommend a 24-hour liquid fast, in which you feed the cat only beef broth so it can get the electrolytes and nutrition it needs while allowing the intestines to rest for a while. After fasting the cat for 24 hours, you would gradually transition the cat to canned food and then to solid food.
Siouxsie: You did the right thing by giving your cat probiotics, but we wonder if it would be more effective to feed her yogurt rather than giving her probiotic pills. Plain yogurt without any artificial sweeteners or other additives will provide the probiotics your cat needs in order to get her intestines back in order. And it tastes good, too!
Thomas: Have you had a stool sample examined by your vet? Parasites, particularly roundworms and hookworms, can cause diarrhea because they irritate the intestines. Giardia, a protozoal parasite, tends to cause a cat to have watery, incredibly stinky diarrhea. If parasites are part of your cat’s diarrhea issue, proper treatment of the infection will rid your cat of the diarrhea as well.
Dahlia: If your cat is suffering from food intolerance, diarrhea can result. Since you’re feeding her chicken and rice, it’s probably pretty unlikely that she’s having a food intolerance reaction. But you never know!
Siouxsie: However, if food intolerance is suspected, your vet may suggest that you change the type of food you’re feeding her: when using canned food, substitute rabbit or game bird formulas for the common tuna, whitefish, or beef formulas. There are also dry foods that are hypoallergenic because they’re made without grains such as corn that commonly cause food intolerance.
Thomas: Your vet will be able to tell you about prescription diets available to settle your cat’s intestines. You can also try premium cat foods such as Merrick’s Before Grain (our current favorite) dry and canned food, Eagle Pack, or Innova/Evo.
Dahlia: These foods cost more than most, but we eat less of them and absorb more nutrients. As a result, our stools are smaller and don’t smell as bad. And our vet, Doctor Sarah, always raves about how healthy we are and how beautiful our fur is when we go for our checkups!
Siouxsie: Whatever you decide to do, you need to talk to your vet about your cat’s chronic diarrhea.
Thomas: Diarrhea can cause health problems by getting your cat’s electrolytes out of balance. Electrolytes are substances that become ions in solution and acquire the capacity to conduct electricity. The balance of the electrolytes in our bodies is essential for normal function of our cells and our organs. Usually electrolytes are lost from the body by sweating, diarrhea, or vomiting.
Dahlia: Diarrhea can also be a symptom of other health problems such as pancreas or digestive system disorders.
Siouxsie: Dr. Richard Pitcairn, in his bookDr. Pitcairn’s Complete Guide to Natural Health for Dogs and Cats, suggests a couple of holistic remedies that might help. Please use these remedies only after you’ve talked to your veterinarian and eliminated any possibility of parasites or disease causing your cat’s diarrhea.
Thomas: Slippery elm powder, available in most health food stores, is a good treatment for diarrhea of any cause. To make this remedy, thoroughly mix 1 rounded teaspoon of slippery elm powder into 1 cup of cold water. Bring the mixture to a boil while stirring constantly. Then turn down the heat to simmer and continue to stir for another 2 to 3 minutes while the mixture thickens slightly. Take it off the heat, cool to room temperature, and give 1/2 to 1 teaspoon to your cat. Give this dose 4 times a day or about every 4 hours. Cover the mixture and keep it at room temperature; it will keep for a couple of days.
Dahlia: You’ll probably have to give your cat this remedy with a liquid medicine syringe or a plastic eyedropper. Maybe you have some left over from administering liquid antibiotics. She almost certainly won’t lap it up from a spoon.
Siouxsie: The homeopathic remedy Natrum Muriaticum 6X is approprite for longer-lasting diarrhea of cats. The diarrhea is usually dark and offensive-smelling, and the cat who needs Nat. Mur. will act uncomfortable after eating, sitting hunched up on all fours because of the pain of stomach cramps. Give one pellet or tablet every 4 hours for a total of three treatments. Provide no food for 10 minutes before and after treatment. If your cat is not noticeably better in 24 hours, this is not the remedy you need.
Thomas: Homeopathic remedies are available at most health food stores in the U.S., and in the United Kingdom you can find them at many pharmacies.
Dahlia: The 6X after the remedy name refers to the potency. If you can’t find the remedy in 6X potency, you can use 12X or 30C if that’s what’s available. Ideally you’ll be able to use the 6X potency, but use what’s there rather than using nothing at all.
Siouxsie: Homeopathic remedies are not drugs, they’re simply a tiny bit of some naturally occurring substance in a pill made of milk sugar. They affect the body on an energy level rather than killing bacteria or changing our body chemistry.
Thomas: While this may sound “woo-woo” to people unfamiliar with energy medicine, we know homeopathy works. In the United Kingdom and western Europe, homeopathy is a well-regarded type of medical treatment for people and for animals.
Dahlia: We’ve never heard of harmful interactions between homeopathic remedies and prescription drugs, so you need not fear that.
Siouxsie: Although technically you’re not supposed to touch a homeopathic pellet or tablet with your fingers, Mama has had good luck giving us homeopathic remedies as she would give a pill. And the remedy works even when given by hand.
Thomas: So, Trish, we hope this information helps you to treat your kitty’s diarrhea. We’re sending purrs and head-bumps to help her feel better. Please let us know how things turn out. And before we go, we’ll extend a belated “Happy A-Day” to Dahlia. September 19 was the second anniversary of the day she adopted Mama.
Dahlia: Awww, thank you, Thomas! And all that snuggling we’ve been doing today just makes me even happier. This is the best A-Day ever!