Why do Cats Suffer from Chronic Diarrhea?


Many thanks to Mrs. Kitty, who offered several good feline questions when I asked cat lovers to help me give the “second species” of veterinary medicine its due.

Mrs. Kitty works in feline rescue. This means she may have more cats in her house than the average reader.

Let’s answer one of her questions.

What do you do with a cat with chronic diarrhea who has been on repeated courses of Albon and has a clear stool sample?

Chronic diarrhea is a common complaint in multi-cat households. Especially in rescue situations, a new bogeyman has emerged as a leading cause of the problem.

A relatively-new-to-the-scene (in cats) parasite called Tritrichomonas appears to be a common cause of refractory, chronic diarrhea in households in which multiple cats reside.

The parasite is not detected by standard fecal tests. Specific Tritrichomonas cultures or PCR assays (DNA testing) on feces is required to diagnose the poorly understood parasite. Many cats in rescue situations who suffer from chronic diarrhea will respond to treatment for Tritrichomonas regardless of test outcome. I recommend that you talk to your vet about this.

Although treatment for Tritrichomonas may solve the problem, you should remember that there also are plenty of old bogeymen out there causing chronic diarrhea in cats. Infiltrative (also known as inflammatory) bowel disease is a common cause of feline diarrhea. Food intolerance, chronic pancreatitis, and a number of viral and bacterial infections also may cause the problem.

Albon treats a different parasite, coccidia, that is ubiquitous and causes diarrhea in young animals. If your cat already has received several courses of this medicine, I wouldn’t repeat it. Also, you should know that Albon isn’t terribly effective. A newer medication, ponazuril, is believed to be much better.

Finally, in a rescue situation one must consider stress-based diarrhea. Cats are exquisitely sensitive to overcrowding. Diarrhea may be the only outward manifestation of this stress.

Photo: Dude is a rescue cat with no known history of diarrhea.

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