Colitis in cats occurs when the colon, or large intestine, becomes inflamed. The colon’s purpose is to help manage your cat’s waste by both storing feces and removing water from them. When it becomes inflamed, diarrhea can result.
The causes of colitis vary from the simple, like your cat eating something they really shouldn’t, to more serious problems like irritable bowel disease. Colitis can either be chronic, lasting for long periods of time, or acute, occurring for just a few days and resolving on its own without treatment.
Symptoms of Colitis in Cats
One of the main symptoms of colitis is diarrhea, or loose and watery stools. In general, defecation becomes challenging for your cat -- they may strain while defecating, and the stools may have mucous or bright blood in them. If colitis is chronic, continuing for several weeks, cats may lose weight and become lethargic or irritable.
The 5 Most Common Causes of Colitis
1. Anxiety: In general, cats do not always deal well with stressful situations, and any break in the routine, such as moving, getting a new pet, or a dietary change can lead to anxiety. If colitis results from stress, you can help by ensuring that your cat’s environment is comfortable, and reestablishing a new routine to alleviate your cat’s anxiety.
2. Bacteria and parasites: Salmonella and campylobacter are two bacteria that can potentially cause colitis, and if your cat acquires any parasites, such as giardia, intestinal worms, or roundworms, then it’s likely colitis will result. Your vet can prescribe deworming medications that will eliminate the worms.
3. An allergy or food intolerance: If your cat is allergic or has an intolerance to an ingredient in something they eat, they may have diarrhea. With dietary changes, the colitis can be resolved.
4. Eating the wrong thing: Colitis can be one way that your cat will react to eating something that they really shouldn’t be ingesting, like a plant or garbage. With this acute form of colitis, the problem is quickly resolved as long as you can track down the item your cat is ingesting and prevent them from eating it in the future.
5. Illnesses: Sometimes colitis can reflect a really major medical problem, which is why it’s always important to follow up with your vet if diarrhea lasts for several days. Colitis can occur because of pancreatitis, cancer, feline leukemia virus (FeLV), feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV), or irritable bowel disease (IBD). If that’s the case, the underlying cause will need to be treated, as well as the symptoms from colitis.
Diagnosis and Treatment
As you can see from the common causes listed above, the reason for your cat’s colitis can vary widely. In some cases, time alone can clear up the issue. If a bout of colitis lasts for longer than a day or two, or if colitis becomes a reoccuring issue, take your cat to the vet to try to track down the cause.
After you thoroughly describe your cat’s symptoms, and discuss possible causes like changed food or routine, your vet may recommend dietary changes. They may also take a blood count, analyze your cat’s stools, and test for common viruses, like FeLV, which could be leading to chronic colitis. The treatment plan will follow from the cause of the colitis, but regardless of cause, a modified, fiber-heavy diet may be necessary for a few days to help your cat stop having diarrhea.
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