Visit Your Vet: What are the causes of diarrhea in kittens?

You have a new kitten and the first week is going great. Milly has been introduced to her new family members, is eating well, enjoys playing, and is using her litter box. However, one morning you notice that she seems quiet and subdued, and you find that her stools have become loose and unformed—Milly is experiencing diarrhea. What should you do?

Causes of Diarrhea in Kittens

Diarrhea is a common problem in kittens and can vary from one or two mild episodes that resolve quickly, to severe gastrointestinal signs that may indicate a more serious illness. Because there are a variety of causes, it is important to seek veterinary advice whenever you see that your kitten has diarrhea. Several common underlying causes include:

Stress. Adoption into a new home is exciting for kittens but can also be stressful because of weaning, travel, and meeting a new family. Therefore, it is not unusual for kittens to react with a mild gastrointestinal tract (GI) upset and develop diarrhea.
Change in diet. A change in food can cause temporary GI upset in kittens, especially
if the new food is introduced too rapidly.
Intestinal parasites. Several infectious parasites can cause diarrhea in young kittens. Some common parasites include hookworms, roundworms, tapeworms, toxoplasmosis and coccidia. Parasitic infestations must be treated with veterinary-prescribed medications. Some parasites are zoonotic, which means they can also infect humans.
Infectious illness. Diarrhea is one of the most common signs of several infectious diseases in kittens. The most serious of these is panleukopenia. Panleukopenia is sometimes referred to as “feline distemper,” but the virus that causes this disease is not related to the virus that causes distemper in dogs. Panleukopenia is a highly contagious disease that can be life-threatening to young kittens. In addition to developing severe diarrhea, infected kittens will be lethargic, have a fever, and show signs of abdominal pain and discomfort.
When to Contact Your Veterinarian

Because there are many possible causes, and because kittens can rapidly become dehydrated, it is important to contact your veterinarian whenever you see signs of diarrhea. A veterinarian can conduct a complete physical along with necessary tests to obtain a diagnosis and to provide treatment options.

Preventing Diarrhea in Kittens

You can do several things that will help to keep your kitten safe and may help prevent diarrhea from occurring:

Reduce stress. Allow your new kitten to acclimate to her new surroundings gradually. Limit the number of visitors that she meets during her first weeks to avoid overwhelming her. Provide your kitten with plenty of quiet time and naps, and set up a daily routine of regularly spaced feeding, play and rest times.
Introduce a new food gradually. If you are changing your kitten’s diet, mix a small amount of the new food with the previous food, increasing the proportion of new food over a period of 7 to 10 days.
Visit your vet. Schedule an appointment with your veterinarian as soon as you bring your kitten home. Your veterinarian will assess the kitten’s overall health and condition, check for the presence of parasites, and answer any questions that you may have about feeding and health care.
TIPS TO TAKE AWAY   
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Diarrhea is a common problem in kittens and can vary from one or two mild episodes that resolve quickly, to severe gastrointestinal signs that may indicate a more serious illness. 
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Because there are a variety of causes, it is important to seek veterinary advice whenever you see that your kitten has diarrhea.