Preventing Gastroenteritis in Cats
What is gastroenteritis?
Gastroenteritis is the medical term used to describe inflammation of the gastrointestinal tract, or what is otherwise known as the stomach and intestines. As with humans, the main signs of gastroenteritis in cats are vomiting and diarrhoea. Symptoms will differ in severity depending on your pets’ condition and overall health.
The main causes of gastroenteritis
There can be a number of reasons why your cat has gastroenteritis. In some instances, it could be a result of consuming an unsuitable food or it could be a result of something more serious like an infection or disease. Here are some of the most common causes of gastroenteritis:
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- Eating ‘human’ food or food that’s spoiled: leftovers, bin raiding
- Toxins: Eating something they shouldn’t like chocolate, plants, cleaning products, dried fruits, artificial sweeteners
- Infections: viral, parasitic or bacterial
- Foreign objects like string or thread that gets trapped in the intestines
- Liver, kidney or pancreatic disease
- Tumours or cancer
It’s a fair assumption that if your cat is vomiting, has diarrhoea, is visibly in pain and resists handling, then they have some form of gastrointestinal issues. Your cat’s condition could deteriorate rapidly so it’s important not to overlook these symptoms – nip them to the vet pronto. Sickness and diarrhoea can cause severe dehydration and electrolyte imbalance if this isn’t addressed within 24 hours. No one likes to see their pet in pain, so check out our digestion supplement range so you can at least ease symptoms on the way to the vets. Once a diagnosis has been met, your vet will advise you to withhold feeding for 8-12 hours to clear their digestive system. Low fat and highly digestible foods are recommended to recover, which should be reintroduced slowly into your cats eating routine.
It’s uncommon but in severe cases, gastroenteritis can lead to death, especially in kittens or older cats. If your pet has haemorrhagic gastroenteritis, your vet will need to undertake further tests like x-rays and blood tests to rule out disease or foreign object consumption.
Diagnosing gastroenteritis is often a process of elimination (no pun intended). As there are so many possible gastro scenarios, it’s important to be able to provide your vet with a thorough medical history of your pet. They will carry out a full examination but will also ask many questions to establish the route of the issue:
- Have you made any changes to their diet?
- Do you give them any treats or rewards?
- Do they have any chronic illnesses?
- Could they have consumed leftovers, food from the bin or any foreign objects?
- Have they been exposed to any pesticides, chemicals, medicines or anything toxic to cats?
- Have they been exposed to any new humans or animals?
- What medications, supplements or vitamins have they consumed recently?
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How to prevent gastroenteritis
We don’t have eyes in the backs of our heads and the little opportunists our pets are, they’ll try their luck to get that last leftover sausage from the BBQ –especially if you’ve kept them sausage free during the event! However, the best way to prevent any tummy troubles is to try and keep a close eye on what they’re eating. While the odd ‘treat’ may not cause any harm, allowing them to eat human foods on a regular basis could cause long-term gastro issues as their digestive systems simply cannot process certain foods.
Last but not least, make sure your moggy is fully vaccinated to prevent contracting nasty diseases like feline parvovirus (FPV). It is otherwise referred to as feline infectious enteritis (FIE), feline distemper or feline panleukopenia. The highly contagious and potentially fatal disease attacks the gastrointestinal tract and causes severe sickness and diarrhoea. And remember also to keep them up to date with their wormer medications as an easily contractable hookworm or tapeworm can also wreak havoc on the gastrointestinal tract.
This article is for guidance only and if you have any concerns about your pet you should always seek the advice of a qualified vet.
If in doubt contact your veterinary practice
And always keep your vet's phone number handy - just in case!