Kittens, just like other pets, can develop gastrointestinal upset from time to time, which may result in loose stools. But sometimes diarrhea is an indication of a more serious underlying problem, and your kitten is depending on you to help it.
There are many reasons why a kitten may develop diarrhea and some are more common than others. But regardless of the reason for diarrhea, it should never be ignored if it lasts more than a couple of days.
- Dietary changes: Any change in food, whether it is the main diet, treats, a medication, nutritional supplement, or edible toy, can cause a kitten to get diarrhea, but it is usually only temporary. Once its body adjusts to the new item, diarrhea typically stops after a couple of days of eating the new food item. If you are regularly providing different foods, treats, etc. then diarrhea may also occur regularly, especially in a kitten with a sensitive gastrointestinal tract. If your kitten has eaten something they aren't supposed to eat, such as your dog's food or human food that has fallen on the floor, this is still a change in its diet and diarrhea could be the result.
- Medication side effects: While sometimes necessary, pharmaceuticals such as antibiotics and pain medications often have side effects. Diarrhea is, unfortunately, a common side effect of several medications and your veterinarian should be contacted if you think your pet is experiencing loose stools or any other potentially adverse effect of a drug.
- Intestinal parasites: More often referred to as worms, intestinal parasites make their homes in the intestinal tracts of kittens and other animals. Intestinal parasites often cause diarrhea in kittens, as they disrupt and irritate the intestinal lining. Sometimes they and/or their eggs will exit the body in feces, but other times special tests will need to be performed by your veterinarian to diagnose and effectively treat an infestation.
- Environmental stress: Just like people, kittens can get stressed in life. When a kitten is brought into a new home or is frightened by something in its environment, like a dog or child, it may develop diarrhea as part of its body's "fight or flight" response.
- Toxicities: Kittens are curious and tend to eat and chew things they shouldn't. Sometimes these items that kittens consume are, unfortunately, toxic and can cause a variety of symptoms including diarrhea. Exposure to chemicals, even some meant to kill fleas and ticks, can be toxic to kittens and also cause diarrhea.
- Digestive disorders and disease: A variety of diseases and problems with the digestive tract, including absorption problems, low vitamin levels, and more, can also cause diarrhea.
Diarrhea, by definition, is more-frequent-than-normal bowel movements that are marked by loose, watery stool. Diarrhea will cause a kitten to become severely dehydrated and weak because of the loss of fluid in its stool.
Dehydration, if left untreated, can cause death.
Some kittens may not make it to the litter box and have accidents when they have diarrhea. They may also get messy paws if they step in their stool or may have stool stuck to their tails and rear ends.
There are some simple ways you can help to prevent diarrhea in a kitten.
- Make gradual food changes: Make sure any food changes are done slowly by mixing the old and new food together. Gradually add more of the new food over a week until your kitten adjusts to the change.
- Use probiotics: When a kitten is on antibiotics, the medication is not only killing off the bad bacteria but also potentially destroying some of the good bacteria in its system. Ask your veterinarian about giving your kitten probiotics to help support its intestinal tract if it needs to be on medications for an illness.
- Get routine fecal screens: Kittens and adult cats can get intestinal parasites if they are outside or exposed to them from another animal. By getting your kitten's poop checked for worms at least once a year, you can help to prevent diarrhea from an infestation.
- Use parasite prevention: Parasites like fleas, worms, and ticks not only pass diseases to kittens, but they can also stress kittens out because of the discomfort they cause. Many monthly preventatives will help control or prevent these parasites from stressing out your kitten and therefore help to prevent diarrhea.
- Use pheromones: Environmental stress may be unavoidable sometimes, but you can help to keep your kitten calm by utilizing pheromones in its home. These will help to calm your kitten and make it less likely for it to develop diarrhea from the stress of any household changes.
Depending on the cause of diarrhea, you may need to seek veterinary attention to have it treated. If dietary changes have occurred, diarrhea may stop without medications once the kitten has adjusted to the new food or the food is discontinued. But if parasites or illness cause diarrhea, or if it lasts for more than two to three days, you need to have your veterinarian see your kitten. Anti-diarrhea medications that are safe for kittens may be prescribed, or your vet may recommend increasing the fiber in your kitten's diet. If your kitten has become dehydrated or is at risk of dehydration, administration of fluid through an intravenous (IV) line or under the skin (subcutaneous) may be necessary.
What should you feed a kitten with diarrhea?
Adding some canned pumpkin to your kitten's food may help diarrhea resolve. Then, feed it bland food for a few days.
How long does kitten diarrhea last?
Diarrhea in kittens doesn't usually last more than two to three days.
When should I take my kitten to the vet for diarrhea?
If it lasts longer than a few days, if your kitten seems listless and is sleeping all the time, or if you see blood in diarrhea, it's time to call the vet,