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Gastroenteritis in Cats

Posted October 21, 2011 in Cat Health

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Gastroenteritis is an irritation of the stomach and intestines; it usually results in vomiting and diarrhea. There are several causes of gastroenteritis.

These include:

  • Dietary indiscretion, which refers to eating inappropriate things like string or tinsel; this is very common and may lead to obstruction of the gastrointestinal (GI) tract 
  • Hairballs, also very common
  • Changes in diet
  • Parasitic infection
  • Food allergies
  • Viral infection
  • Bacterial infection
  • Obstruction
  • Kidney disease
  • Liver disease
  • Diabetes
  • Feline pancreatitis
  • Inflammatory bowel disease
  • Stress
  • Cancer


All cats are at risk for gastroenteritis, which can cause extreme vomiting and diarrhea, leading to dehydration and an electrolyte imbalance. Contact your veterinarian immediately if the vomiting and diarrhea persist.

In addition to vomiting and diarrhea, your pet may seem listless or depressed, and there may be blood in his stool or vomit.


Because there are so many causes of gastroenteritis, be sure to provide your veterinarian with a thorough history for your cat, including answers to the following:

  • Symptoms?
  • Exposure to other cats (such as going to the groomer or daycare)?
  • Unsupervised access to your yard?
  • Changes in cat food?
  • Ingestion of foreign objects?
  • Ingestion of garbage or people food?

If your veterinarian suspects gastroenteritis, they will want to identify the underlying cause.

In order to do this, they may recommend a combination of the following tests:

  • Chemistry tests to evaluate for kidney, liver, and pancreatic function as well as sugar levels
  • A complete blood count to evaluate inflammation, infection, anemia, and other blood-related conditions
  • Electrolyte tests to ensure your cat is neither dehydrated nor suffering from an electrolyte imbalance
  • X-rays of the abdomen to evaluate for foreign material and/or obstruction of the GI tract 
  • Ultrasound imaging of your cat’s digestive tract and other major abdominal organs
  • An endoscopy to evaluate the lining of the stomach and intestinal tract
  • Specific tests to rule out viral infections, such as feline leukemia and feline immunodeficiency virus
  • Fecal tests to identify if fecal parasites could be the cause
  • Special fecal tests, such as cultures and polymerase chain reaction (PCR) testing

Cats with gastroenteritis, regardless of the cause, are often dehydrated and sometimes need to be given fluids under the skin (subcutaneously) or directly into a vein (intravenously). Depending on the severity, your pet may be hospitalized to get the diarrhea and vomiting under control. In less severe cases, your veterinarian may give you medications and instructions on how to care for your friend at home. It is very important that you carefully follow the treatment instructions from your veterinarian, to reduce the chance of the diarrhea returning.


Some of the best ways to keep your cat healthy are to watch what he eats, keep him free of parasites with monthly preventatives, and submit his fecal samples to your veterinarian. Keep him away from trash and other unfamiliar items, such as people food, and restricting his contact with potentially sick cats will also protect him from becoming sick

If you have any questions or concerns, you should always visit or call your veterinarian – they are your best resource to ensure the health and well-being of your pets.

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