What are Gastroenteritis?
The most common symptoms of gastroenteritis are vomiting and diarrhea. Although it’s normal for your cat to vomit or have diarrhea on occasion, if it is happening repeatedly within a short time frame, this signals something more serious. Cats can become severely dehydrated if their gastroenteritis is not properly treated, so it’s important to seek medical attention as soon as possible.
Gastroenteritis describes the inflammation of your cat’s stomach and intestines, or the gastrointestinal tract. It can be caused by something as minor as a change in your cat’s diet to more serious issues such as infections, pancreatitis, and intestinal blockages.
Symptoms of Gastroenteritis in Cats
Gastroenteritis disrupts the functioning of your cat’s gastrointestinal tract and causes discomfort. You may notice your cat acting sluggish or lazy, with little to no energy. Besides lethargy, some of the other symptoms you may observe include:
- Dry heaving
- Abdominal pain or tenderness
- Loss of appetite
Causes of Gastroenteritis in Cats
A cat’s stomach and intestines can become irritated and inflamed for a number of reasons. Some of the underlying causes will require treatment by a veterinarian, while others can be treated at home. However, you will need to bring your cat to the vet to determine the cause. Gastroenteritis is most commonly caused by:
- Dietary changes
- Reaction to medication
- Pancreatitis, or other abdominal disorders
- Bacterial infection
- Exposure to toxins
- Parasitic infection
Diagnosis of Gastroenteritis in Cats
To determine what is causing your cat’s gastroenteritis, the vet will need to perform tests to eliminate as many causes as possible. As soon as you arrive at the vet’s office, it’s important to give the vet information on your cat’s diet and medical history. If your cat has just started to take a new medication or eat a new cat food, don’t forget to bring this up in the consultation. Vets will also need to know if it’s possible your cat has been exposed to anything toxic in your home. For example, if you accidentally left a household cleaner out where your cat could reach it or sprayed pesticides in your yard, it’s important to let the vet know.
After collecting all of this information from you, the vet will most likely perform a complete blood count test, urinalysis, and blood chemistry profile. These tests will help the vet identify any abnormalities in the cat’s health. For example, if a bacterial infection is the cause, the vet will see an elevated level of white blood cells in the complete blood count test. The vet may also perform an ultrasound on the cat’s abdomen to determine if there are any blockages that could be causing the cat discomfort.
Treatment of Gastroenteritis in Cats
The treatment of gastroenteritis in cats will depend on the underlying cause of the condition. First, the vet will focus on stabilizing your cat if the tests reveal the cat is severely dehydrated or suffering from an electrolyte imbalance due to vomiting and diarrhea. If the diarrhea and vomiting is ongoing, the vet can also administer medications that will disrupt stomach and intestinal activity.
If a bacterial or parasitic infection is the cause, medication will be prescribed to your cat. However, if it’s a virus, you will have to wait for it to pass since it can’t be treated with medication. Medication will also be administered if the cause is pancreatitis or hyperthyroidism. However, it’s important to note the vet will most likely require that you wait about 24 hours before giving the first dose of medication. During the first 24 hours, the treatment will focus on putting a stop to the vomiting and diarrhea. If you don’t stop the vomiting before you administer medication, chances are your cat will throw up a pill not long after you give it to him.
Most gastroenteritis cases can be treated with medication. However, your cat will need surgery if the cause of the gastroenteritis is a blockage in the stomach or intestines.
Recovery of Gastroenteritis in Cats
After your cat is rehydrated and given medication to slow down his gastrointestinal tract, he should begin to immediately feel better. If the symptoms go away, the vet will most likely not need to see your cat again. However, if after 48 hours, your cat is still exhibiting gastroenteritis symptoms, you should have him reevaluated.
The vet may ask that you adjust your cat’s diet while he recovers from gastroenteritis. You may need to cut back on the food you give your cat for the first 24 hours and then slowly begin to reintroduce him to very bland food that won’t upset his stomach. The vet may also tell you to limit the amount of water your cat drinks for the first 24 hours. But, do not make these decisions on your own—always ask a veterinarian what is right for your cat.