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Persistent diarrhea in kittens can be caused by many factors; parasites, coccidia, Giardia, allergy to food, salmonella, or other health issues. Prevalent among kittens is a pesky protozoa known as coccidia. These one-celled organisms multiply rapidly in the intestinal tract especially in young kittens (under 6 months old).
The kittens come in contact with coccidia when they begin to sample the mom cat’s feces while in their typical kitty exploration mode. If the mom cat is infected, the protozoans enter the kitten’s system and will multiply by procreating within the kitten’s intestines. Kittens with lowered immune systems become especially vulnerable to this parasite. The high load of coccidia clusters together, attacking the lining of the kitten’s intestine.
“Kittens can have a low load of coccidia in their system and not have diarrhea,” advises Dr. Susan Little DVM. “It’s when we see a larger load that we become suspicious this might be the cause of the problem.”
Dr. Susan Little DVM is a feline consultant for the Veterinary Information Network and moderator in the forums at GoodNewsforPets.com.
Coccidia can be diagnosed with the right fecal analysis. When you take a stool sample into the vet, you are ahead of the game if you present the freshest sample that you can. Even if the sample is only two hours old, this can hamper the test results. If a smear doesn’t locate the problem, a float or culture may become necessary. Your vet is looking for oocysts within the feces in order to make the proper diagnosis. The quicker you get the fecal sample to the vet, the better off your kitten will be.
Other symptoms of coccidia are rough coat, bloody diarrhea, weight gain or weight loss. Fever is rare with this infection. Untreated, coccidia can quickly take a young kitten’s life depending on the severity of infestation. Stress plays an important role when dealing with coccidia. Keeping a sick kitten isolated from the others, keeping the environment quiet within the room and not adding more stress on the kitten will aid the kitten to recovery.
Kittens with coccidia will be put on Albon or Tribessen. The drugs do not kill the organism, but the drug stops the organism from reproducing. You can also speak to your veterinarian about ways to boost the kitten’s immune system to help prevent re-infection. The drug treatment lasts about three weeks, depending on the severity of infection. Be aware of any side effects that might occur with these drugs.
Until the organisms multiply within the kitten’s system, the fecal test results can prove inconclusive. Diarrhea in kittens should never be ignored. Diarrhea can quickly dehydrate a kitten and cause other serious problems if not taken care of promptly.