One of the most common reasons for taking a pet to the vet is diarrhea.
Diarrhea is characterized by changes in the stool consistency—runny stool—and the stool’s color.
Diarrhea can be caused by a disease of the small intestine, large intestine or other organs outside of the intestinal tract—the liver for an example.
There are few differences between the diarrhea that is originated from the small and the large intestine.
Small intestinal and large intestinal diarrhea have different causes, require different tests to diagnose and are treated differently.
Your vet will ask you instructive questions in order to understand, better locate the pet’s problem, and to plan for specific tests to determine the cause of the diarrhea.
There are numerous reasons for diarrhea—intestinal parasites, viral, bacterial or fungal infections, food allergies, intestinal foreign body, tumors and pancreas, liver or kidney diseases, to name just a few.
The most common reason for diarrhea is probably dietary indiscretion, meaning the pet got into garbage or other bad food.
Some pets have a very sensitive digestive system and just a change in the pet’s diet can elicit diarrhea.
When the pet has diarrhea it is not absorbing the nutrients from the diet properly, which leads to weight loss and electrolytes imbalance that can lead to severe consequences if left untreated.
Diarrhea may also lead to dehydration and occasionally severe blood loss.
I recommend consulting your vet with any change in your pet health condition. If your pet, normally healthy and has a normal body condition (not too thin or fat), suddenly shows diarrhea, without any other signs of sickness such as lethargy, you may try stop feeding it for 24 hours to rest the digestive system.
Make sure your pet has constant access to fresh water to prevent dehydration.
After 24 hours, providing the diarrhea has subsided, you can try to offer the animal a small amount of low fat easily digestible food such as rice with boiled chicken flesh (without the bones, skin, salt or any other spices), pasta, or boiled egg.
You can also consider using a commercial food carried by veterinarians that it designed for animals with digestive problems. This food is available in both cans or dry forms.
In the first day, you should offer the food in small amounts every three to four hours. Gradually over the next two to three days, if the animal tolerates the food well and the stool is forming back to normal consistency, decrease the frequency of the feeding and increase the amount of food in each feeding.
When the pet is back to normal, don’t switch to its normal diet abruptly—it is better to provide a mix over a few days to prevent recurrence of the diarrhea.
If there is no improvement in the pet’s condition after 24 hours fasting, it would probably be better to go and see your veterinarian right away.
Take note that overweight cats shouldn’t be fasted. Depriving food from fat cats can cause severe liver damage.
Other reasons for contacting your vet right away would be presence of blood in the stool or if the diarrhea is also accompanied by other sickness symptoms such as lethargy, fever, vomiting, weight loss or any other concerning condition.
While diarrhea may be just a simple and transient condition that may be simply treated at home with a diet change, often it can be a symptom of a much more severe condition that requires medical treatment.
Routine deworming is also very recommended for prevention of diarrhea caused by intestinal parasites. If left untreated, diarrhea can lead to severe consequences.
Moshe Oz operates the Rose Valley Veterinary Hospital in West Kelowna, 2476 Westlake Rd.