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Diarrhea (diarrhea) in dogs and cats: causes and treatment

Most various diseases and conditions can accompany diarrhea (diarrhea). The frequency, speed, and physical characteristics of diarrhea, along with a history of the disease and other clinical signs that manifest in your pet, can provide sufficient information for a diagnosis. For example, a puppy with a liquid stool containing thin white long worms, like threads, is likely to suffer from intestinal parasites (worms). Unfortunately, in most cases, the underlying cause of diarrhea is not so obvious.

What causes diarrhea in dogs and cats?
Although the list is incomplete, some of the most common causes of diarrhea in animals are described below.

Causes associated with the gastrointestinal tract include inflammation, bacterial or viral infections, endoparasites, tumors, diet changes, dietary intolerance, and maldigestion (indigestion) or malabsorption (impaired absorption).
Systemic and endocrine (hormonal) diseases such as liver disease, kidney disease, pancreas, hyperthyroidism, and hypoadrenocorticism can lead to diarrhea attacks.
Some medicines and toxins may be causes of diarrhea.
This list is huge! How can we determine the cause of the liquid stool in my pet?

There are common diseases for certain types of animals (cats and dogs) or breeds, and there are also common diseases for certain age groups (puppies and kittens) that can narrow the range of probable causes.

In addition, detailed information about the maintenance and feeding of your pet, including any medications or supplements that your pet has recently received, in combination with the results of a thorough examination, often narrow the list of causes to a minimum.

In turn, the list of screening tests chosen by the doctor will allow to make a final diagnosis in the future.

What screening tests are recommended
Screening tests include a complete blood count (general blood count, biochemical blood test), coprogram, ovogelmintoscopy, pancreatic lipase level, and urinalysis. In older cats, it is also recommended to measure the concentration of thyroxin (total T4) in the serum.

Do I need to perform all tests if the pet feels good
Not. If your pet is mobile and physical examination does not reveal any significant abnormalities, then all these tests are probably not necessary in a single attack of diarrhea. This is especially true if there is a reasonable explanation for this condition – for example, intestinal parasites (worms) or a recent change of diet. In this case, coprograms and appropriate antiparasitic treatment, or a more gradual change in diet, would suffice.

If episodes of diarrhea are more common, if your pet does not respond to conservative therapy (diet, for example), or if your pet shows clinical signs of indisposition (fever, depression, abdominal pain), then an extended range of diagnostic tests is strongly recommended.

What do the tests show?
In addition to your pet’s medical history, laboratory tests can identify secondary causes of chronic diarrhea, such as electrolyte imbalance. Older animals can also be found to have previously unnoticed diseases that require veterinary care.

A general blood test gives us an estimate of the volemia (volume) of blood, red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets. Accordingly, the total number of these cells is estimated along with specific cellular characteristics.

Since diarrhea involves loss of fluid, blood flow will tell you how much your pet is dehydrated. Dehydration is indicated by an increase in hematocrit and the total number of red blood cells in the sample.

Blood loss associated with diarrhea can also be noted in OKA (general clinical analysis of the blood). Blood can be lost due to intestinal inflammation, ulceration or swelling. Such blood loss indicates a reduction in the total number of red blood cells in your pet’s blood sample. Depending on the etiology, location and duration of hemorrhage, signs of anemia of various etiologies can be noted.

Increased white blood cell counts in cats and dogs can be a sign of inflammation or infection that causes diarrhea in dogs and cats. Some diseases may be accompanied by an increase in specific white blood cells; for example, the number of eosinophils increases during food allergies and intestinal parasites.

Some viral infections are initially accompanied by a decrease in the number of white blood cells. Such changes are important because they not only help determine the possible cause of the illness of your animal, but also because they determine the need for the prescription of many drugs, such as antibiotics or drugs that stimulate blood formation.

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