Q. - I have a one-year-old neutered male cat that has suffered diarrhea since we brought him home. We have tried everything that our vet suggested, including several prescription diets, fiber supplements, diarrhea medications, antibiotics, digestive enzymes, and a stool test for worms. Aside from the diarrhea, he is a very healthy cat. When we first took him to our vet, he told us that he might outgrow this. Do you have any suggestions on what we can do to solve this problem?
A. - I understand your concern and frustration. Chronic diarrhea in young cats is not an uncommon problem and often difficult to cure. Unlike acute diarrhea, which is often self-limiting and may be managed with symptomatic or supportive therapy alone, chronic diarrhea is likely to require specific diagnosis and treatments.
The cause of diarrhea in kittens has not been completely understood. Various viral, parasitic, bacterial, dietary and miscellaneous causes have been identified or suspected, though many are considered uncommon. It seems like your vet has taken several steps to try to classify the diarrhea and target the most helpful treatment.
Currently, your veterinarian is having you feed your cat a special food to eliminate dietary sensitivity. If you have recently started this diet, you will need to be patient. It often takes eight to 12 weeks of new food before signs improve. You must be sure you are not feeding anything other than the recommended diet (even treats) for it to work.
I would suggest, if you have not already done so, to have your cat empirically dewormed for roundworms and hookworms. Some of these parasites can cause diarrhea and may be missed on one or two fecal exams. Have your vet run a special specific for Giardia parasites, which seem extremely difficult to pick up on routine fecals. Have your cat's blood screened for Feline Leukemia Virus and Feline Immunodeficiency virus. You can also have your vet culture your cat's feces for abnormal bacteria such as Salmonella.
Finally, make sure you evaluate the cat's environment for any stress that may be occurring, including stress during the day when you are away from the house. A second opinion or referral to a specialist of internal medicine is a reasonable option if the current therapy is not working.
Laura L. Wade, DVM
Prepared as a public service by the Niagara Frontier Veterinary Society. Send questions to Pets, P.O. Box 403, East Aurora, N.Y. 14052-0403. Sorry, personal replies cannot be provided.