Diarrhea (Antibiotic-Responsive) in Cats

Victoria Heuer
May 11, 2009
2 min read
Image: Photo Grapher / via Image Bank

Antibiotic-Responsive Diarrhea in Cats

It is not known why some types of diarrhea are responsive to antibiotic while others are not. Veterinarians often find it controversial to give antibiotics to treat diarrhea, but when antibiotics do resolve the diarrhea, they speculate that the cause of this kind of diarrhea was from a small intestinal bacterial overgrowth. 

Current theories as to its cause focus on the possibility of immune dysregulation possibly associated with abnormal CD4+ T cells (immune cells), IgA plasma cells (antibodies), and cytokine (a chemical messenger) expression.

Symptoms and Types

  • Small bowel diarrhea
  • Lack of appetite
  • Vomiting
  • Weight loss
  • Large amounts of diarrhea
  • Large bowel diarrhea       
  • Straining to defecate
  • Blood in the diarrhea
  • Increased amount of defecation
  • Increased intestinal sounds
  • Gas

Causes

Unknown, but certain bacteria are suspected:

  • Clostridium perfringens
  • Escherichia coli
  • Lawsonia intracellularis

Diagnosis

You will need to give a thorough history of your cat's health, onset of symptoms, and possible incidents that might have preceded this condition. Your veterinarian will perform a complete physical exam on your cat, including a blood chemical profile, a complete blood count, an electrolyte panel and a urinalysis.

A fecal smear should be examined microscopically to rule out parasite infestation. Blood levels of cobalamin may be low. X-rays should be taken to rule out other causes of diarrhea. Because there are several possible causes for diarrhea, your veterinarian will most likely use differential diagnosis. This process is guided by deeper inspection of the apparent outward symptoms, ruling out each of the more common causes until the correct disorder is settled upon and can be treated appropriately. To diagnose antibiotic-responsive diarrhea all other possible diagnoses will need to be ruled out. In addition, the diarrhea should improve and resolve when your cat is treated with antibiotics.

Treatment

Most patients may be treated on an outpatient basis. Your veterinarian will guide you in planning a low-fat, highly digestible diet for your cat during the treatment and recovery process, along with the prescribed antibiotics. If  your cat has decreased blood cobalamin levels (due to lack of intestinal absorption), cobalamin (vitamin B12) supplements will be prescribed until levels have increased to a normal level.

Living and Management

During the recovery, feed your cat a low-fat, low stress, highly digestible diet. Your veterinarian will schedule follow-up appointments with you for your cat to monitor the diarrhea until it has resolved.
 

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