Fruit Valley Veterinary Clinic

Gastrointestinal Problems in Cats

Gastroenteritis General Information

Gastroenteritis is inflammation of the stomach and small intestine. This commonly results in vomiting and diarrhea. There may be blood in the stool or vomit. The condition can be caused by infection, food allergy, eating garbage or foreign materials, intestinal parasites, changes of diet or even stress. Because most cases of gastroenteritis resolve with medical therapy (or none) and no definitive diagnosis, it is usually treated with dietary restrictions and management. If the signs continue or become severe, more extensive investigation is needed.

Important Points in Gastroenteritis Treatment

  1. Laboratory tests and radiographs (x-rays) are usually necessary to diagnose the c ondition and monitor the effectiveness of treatment. Hospitalization is often necessary in severe cases or when dehydration is present. Bring in a stool sample if possible.
  2. Give all medication as directed. Please call the doctor if you cannot give the medication.
  3. Your pet may require a special diet: Hill’s i/d OR 3 parts (a cooked volume): Overcooked rice, overcooked pasta, overcooked potato, or baby cereal and 1 part (a cooked volume): Hard-boiled egg, low fat cottage cheese, low fat plain yogurt (with live culture), baby meat food (with NO ONION POWDER, Beechnut Brand OK). IMPORTANT: NO or reduced FAT
    Feed as follows: No food for 6-24 hours after last vomiting. Start with just a mouthful of food; offer more every 2-4 hours if hungry and not vomiting. Gradually switch to normal meal sizes and normal meal times, then gradually switch to normal diet.
  4. Restrict pet such that it can’t get into things, they are often hungry for fibrous non-digestible things like grass, carpets and hair.
  5. Your pet may require restricted water intake: Start with a mouthful of water, Pedialyte, or Gatorade, 2 hours after last vomiting. Offer more every half-hour if thirsty, gradually switch over to water available all the time. If pedialyte or gatorade are offered, but not touched, offer water as well.

Notify the doctor if any of the following occur:

Hairball Treatment

Place level teaspoon glob of white petroleum jelly or hairball medicine in cats' mouth or food daily for 3 days (or twice a day if having severe problems). Then give petroleum jelly or hairball medicine once or twice a week for recurrent hairballs. The special diets for hairballs (or "sensitive stomachs") may decrease how often hairball treatments need to be given. Hairball treats contain white petroleum jelly- and work very well - the recommended dose will be on the package.


Giardiasis is an intestinal disease found in people, dogs, cats and other animals. It is caused by a microorganism called Giardia. The most common way to get giardia is by drinking contaminated water. It can also be contracted by ingesting contaminated food or feces, however, direct animal-to-animal transmission can occur especially when in close contact. Young animals have an increased rate of infection.

Many dogs and cats who have giardia will not show any symptoms. However, one of the most common symptoms is recurrent diarrhea with mucus. Most patients remain bright, alert, and have a normal appetite. The diarrhea may cause dehydration, lethargy, and anorexia.

Giardia most often infects the small intestine. The infective cysts are passed in an individual's stool. Giardia is usually identified by looking at a stool sample under the microscope. Diagnosis may be difficult, therefore, repeated microscopic examinations of multiple stool samples are often needed to find the cysts. If giardia is suspected, but not confirmed, treatment for giardia may be indicated. However, stopping of the diarrhea does not indicate definite diagnosis.

Giardia is usually treated with metronidazole. This medication is bitter and tastes bad, but is effective in most cases. Specialty pharmacists can compound metronidazole in suspensions that are flavored to appeal to pets. Metronidazole is not for use in pregnant animals. A powder or suspension dewormer called Panacur (Fenbendazole) is very safe and may also be used to treat giardia. Because infective cysts may be present in small amount of fecal material adherent to the hair or in the environment, bathing and disinfection of the environment can help prevent reinfection. Persistent clinical signs after treatment may suggest treatment failure, reinfection, lack of client compliance, or underlying gastrointestinal disease. Prolonged treatment, use of a different drug, or further testing may be indicated.


Giardia is a relatively common intestinal parasite in people. Good personal hygiene should be practiced in homes where giardiasis has been diagnosed in a pet. Your pet's stool should be cleaned up and disposed of promptly. Giardia cysts are susceptible to many common disinfectants as long as the item is allowed to dry completely. Children and immunocompromised adults should avoid contact with feces. To help limit your pet's exposure to giardia, keep your pet under control if it goes outside. Do not let it drink water outside and when it comes inside, dry its feet. Have two water dishes, letting one dry out for a day while the other's in use, then switch.


  1. Laboratory tests are often required to evaluate the patient's response during and after treatment.
  2. Sun exposure and drying help eliminate giardia from your yard.
  3. Give all medication as directed. Call the doctor if you cannot give the medication.
  4. Bathing the animal and disinfection of the environment is important to prevent reinfection.
  5. Notify the doctor if your pet's diarrhea persists or your pet's general health worsens.