Gastroenteritis in Cats

Gastroenteritis refers to an inflammation of the stomach and intestines (gastrointestinal tract).  The condition may be caused by bacterial infection, parasites, viruses, reactions to medication or new foods.

The Symptoms of Gastroenteritis

Gastroenteritis often causes abdominal discomfort, diarrhea and vomiting. The vomit may appear foamy and yellow in colour. Cats suffering with this condition will often ‘dry heave’ or gag after consuming food or liquid. Cats will not want to be picked up due to the abdominal pain, they will also appear lethargic and have a decreased appetite.

What causes Gastroenteritis?

There are many causes of sickness and diarrhea in cats, your vet will attempt to rule out the following causes during diagnoses:

  1. Systemic infections such as pneumonia, septicemia (a potentially life-threatening bacterial infection in the blood), urinary tract infection, and meningitis
  2. Foreign bodies (especially string or thread) or other objects
  3. Intussusception (the telescoping of the intestine into itself, causing an intestinal blockage)
  4.  Tumors
  5. Poisoning
  6. Exocrine pancreatic insufficiency (failure of the pancreas to make sufficient digestive enzymes)
  7. Hypoadrenocorticism (Addison’s disease, the failure of the adrenal gland to make sufficient cortisol)
  8. Hyperthyroidism (an overactive thyroid gland)

How is Gastroenteritis treated?

Once your vet has determined the cause, they will prescribe the best course of treatment. Rehydration is very important due to the loss of fluids, depending on the pets level of dehydration, the fluids may be given orally, by IV treatment of subcutaneously (under the skin).

If gastroenteritis has been caused by bacterial infection a course of antibiotics may be prescribed. If intestinal obstruction or other mechanical and anatomical issues have been ruled out then antidiarrheal agents may be used to alter intestinal activity and stop the episodes of diarrhea. Your vet will advise you on the best diet to feed your pet for a speedy recovery.

What is the prognosis for gastroenteritis?

Cases of gastroenteritis should improve rapidly after rehydration. However, if you do not see any significant improvement within 48 hours of treatment, contact your vet immediately.

By Gordon Roberts

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