Diarrhoea

What is diarrhoea?

Diarrhoea is overly-runny or liquid stools. The normal pattern of defecation is interrupted, resulting in the passing of soft, unformed faeces with an increased water content, or an increased frequency of defecation.

If your pet is lethargic, won’t drink, is vomiting, or there is blood in the diarrhoea, you should take them to your local Greencross Vets immediately.

What causes diarrhoea?

Diarrhoea is not a disease, but rather, a symptom of many possible conditions. Diarrhoea can be a symptom of gastrointestinal disorders like parasites, bacterial or viral infections, dietary intolerances, cancer, or inflammatory bowel disease. It could also be symptomatic of other conditions like liver disease, diabetes, or pancreatic disorders.

Some of the minor causes of diarrhoea include stomach or intestinal bacteria or viruses, intestinal parasites, and consumption of foreign matter (like garbage). Noninvasive tests are performed to rule out certain parasites and infections. These cases may be treated with drugs that relieve inflammation in the intestinal tract, or a special diet for a few days. This approach allows the body’s healing mechanisms to correct the problem. If your pet’s condition doesn’t improve, further testing will be required.

How serious is diarrhoea in dogs and cats?

Many mild cases of diarrhoea can be resolved quickly with simple treatments. Others may be the result of potentially serious illnesses. Even diarrhoea caused by mild illnesses may become serious if treatment is not begun early enough to prevent fluid and nutrient losses.

When presented with a pet with diarrhoea, your vet will normally try to answer a number of basic questions:

Is the diarrhoea serious enough to make the pet systemically unwell?

Your vet will determine whether the diarrhoea is serious enough to cause dehydration, fever, or weight loss. If the answer is no, symptomatic treatment may be all that is required. If the answer is yes, more aggressive treatment and tests to determine the cause of the diarrhoea will be required.

Is the diarrhoea acute or chronic?

Acute diarrhoea is more likely to be due to less serious causes, and more likely to respond to symptomatic or non-specific treatment. Chronic diarrhoea is more likely to require a specific diagnosis for effective therapy.

Is the diarrhoea primary (ie. due to disorders of the gastrointestinal tract) or secondary (ie. due to disorders of other body organs or systems)?

The tests required to diagnose primary diarrhoea are different from those required for secondary diarrhoea. Your vet will decide which test is most necessary during your consultation.

Is the diarrhoea typical of a disorder affecting the small intestine, the large intestine, or both?

If your vet suspects that your pet’s diarrhoea is a sign of something more serious, a number of tests may be required.

What types of tests are performed to find the cause?

If diarrhoea is chronic or is associated with systemic illness (other symptoms may include fever, weight loss, vomiting, change in water intake and loss of appetite), we perform a series of tests to try and make a specific diagnosis. This allows more accurate treatment. Diagnostic tests may include X-rays, blood tests, bacteriological cultures, biopsies of the intestinal tract, or exploratory abdominal surgery. Once the diagnosis is known, treatment may include special medications, prescription diets, or surgery.

If your pet needs professional veterinary attention, contact your local Greencross Vets.