Sickness and Diarrhoea: Is it a feline emergency?

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Is your cat vomiting? Have you noticed a change in colour or consistency of their poop? Sickness and diarrhoea are pretty common in pets and can be caused by lots of things. Often it’s nothing to worry about - they might have eaten something unsavoury or picked up a bug like we do. Although most cases settle on their own we do need to be careful because sometimes it may be a sign of a more worrying condition. Vomiting especially can cause rapid dehydration. Here are some pointers to help you decide if your pet’s sickness or diarrhoea needs veterinary attention.

Taking Action

The first step, if your cat is vomiting, is to stop feeding and make sure there is plenty of fresh water available. If your cat continues to vomit for more than 8 hours or is vomiting very frequently, seek veterinary advice. There’s usually no need to withhold food if your cat has diarrhoea. Self-limiting diarrhoea should normally settle in 2-3 days. However, there are some circumstances where you should not wait for 24 hours before talking to your vet, if your cat is being sick.

Call your vet if…

  • Your cat is very young or very old (as they can become dehydrated very quickly)
  • Your cat has an existing health condition, such as diabetes
  • Your cat already takes medication. Ask for advice about whether it can or should be stopped while your pet is being sick
  • You see blood in vomit or diarrhoea or if black tarry looking material is being passed
  • Your cat looks very miserable, becomes depressed or the gums feel dry and tacky
  • After 24 hours, if your cat’s tummy appears to settle and you need advice about what to feed next, talk to your vet. Vets will often recommend a specially formulated food such as Hill's Prescription Diet i/d, rather than an immediate return to your cat’s normal food.

One last word of advice – call your vet before taking your sick cat to the practice. They may ask you to wait in a different waiting area if they suspect your cat could be infectious to other patients.

Reviewed by Dr. Emma Milne BVSc FRCVS