Haemorrhagic gastroenteritis in cats

Haemorrhagic gastroenteritis is not a specific condition in cats, as in dogs, but severe diarrhoea with blood is still a major concern. If lack of energy, no appetite, or frequent vomiting are also present, an urgent vet visit may be needed.

Repeated episodes of diarrhoea or straining will often cause a small amount of blood to appear in the stool. However, large amounts of blood or severe diarrhoea are signs of significant intestinal damage. This may lead to severe dehydration and electrolyte imbalance and needs to be treated straight away.



What is haemorrhagic gastroenteritis in cats?

In dogs, there is a condition called hemorrhagic gastroenteritis or acute haemorrhagic diarrhoea syndrome. This causes sudden, severe diarrhoea with large amounts of blood and may have a specific cause, although this is not known for sure yet. The same condition doesn’t appear to exist in cats, but other types of gastroenteritis can have similar symptoms if severe.



Symptoms of severe gastroenteritis in cats

Gastroenteritis can have a range of symptoms. The urgency of the problem often depends on how severe and frequent one or more of these symptoms are. Common symptoms are:



Cats at higher risk of gastroenteritis

Gastroenteritis can affect cats of any age or breed, although young kittens and older cats may have a weaker immune system and struggle to cope with the symptoms.

Cats that hunt are more likely to catch infections or eat things that are hard to digest.

Cats with ongoing digestive problems often develop symptoms more easily if they eat something outside of their normal diet.



Diagnosis of severe gastroenteritis in cats

In severe cases of gastroenteritis, the following tests may be recommended:

  • Blood tests to check for immune response, underlying diseases and electrolyte imbalances
  • Stool tests to check for infections and parasites
  • X-rays to check for swelling of the intestines and foreign materials
  • Ultrasound scans to check mobility, shape and structure of the intestines


Vet treatment

Vet treatment of severe gastroenteritis in cats

If symptoms are serious, your cat will need to see a vet immediately. Depending on what is found, the vet may recommend:

  • Intravenous fluids (a drip) to correct dehydration and electrolyte imbalances
  • Anti-vomiting medication
  • Antacids to help the stomach heal
  • Pain medication
  • If fever or signs of blood infection are present, antibiotics will be administered.


Home treatment

Home treatment of gastroenteritis in cats

Once your cat has improved with treatment at the vet, a few things can be done at home to help with recovery:

  • Encourage them to drink small amounts of fresh water, little and often.
  • Small, frequent meals and an easy to digest diet for a few days will help the healing of the gut while reducing the symptoms. Plain chicken or white fish can help in many cases. Special foods, such as Hills Prescription Diet I/D, are available to boost the healing of the gut.
  • Anti-diarrhoea pastes contain special minerals (for example, kaolin or montmorillonite) that firm up the stool and help reduce the symptoms.
  • Good bacteria (probiotics) and their food (prebiotics) will help the gut function return to normal.



Can severe gastroenteritis in cats be prevented?

  • Gastroenteritis has many possible causes. Keeping a healthy, balanced diet and limiting hunting will help prevent many of them.
  • Keeping up to date with vaccinations and parasite preventatives will prevent some types of gastroenteritis.
  • Some viral causes of gastroenteritis are highly contagious between cats. Avoid contact with other cats during illness and for a couple of weeks after recovery. Try to clean litter trays as quickly as possible.

Can I catch gastroenteritis from my cat?

This is rare, but some infectious causes of gastroenteritis in cats can also affect people. Speak to your GP if you have any concerns.


When to worry

When to worry about gastroenteritis in cats

Take your cat to see a vet immediately if they show:

  • Large amounts of blood in their diarrhoea
  • Black or tarry stools
  • Constant vomiting
  • Weakness or lack of response when you interact with them

Speak to a vet as soon as possible if your cat:

  • Continues to vomit even on an empty stomach
  • Is constantly passing watery diarrhoea
  • Loses interest in food
  • Is quiet or lethargic
  • Passes blood in their diarrhoea

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