You can learn a lot about your cat's health from his poop. Whether you’ve just adopted your first kitten or you’ve shared your home with cats for years, watch for a few key signs when you scoop out the litter box.
Cat Poop: What’s Normal?
Most cats will poop at least once a day. If they’re healthy, their poop should:
Be deep brown in color
Feel not too hard or too soft or mushy
Not smell too foul, though some odor is normal
Diarrhea is not uncommon for cats, and there are many reasons why your cat might have it. Sometimes, it comes and goes quickly. Other times, it can last for days, weeks, or months, or come back on a regular basis.
Diarrhea that lasts for 24 to 48 hours probably won’t cause a problem, but if it lasts longer, your cat can get dehydrated, which can be dangerous.
Some common causes of cat diarrhea include:
Changes to their diet or food allergies or intolerances
Inflammatory bowel disease
Worms (intestinal parasites)
If your cat has diarrhea that lasts more than a day or two, see your veterinarian to figure out the cause. Call your vet right away if the diarrhea is black or bloody, or if it happens along with fever, vomiting, sluggishness, or a loss of appetite.
The treatment your cat will need depends on what’s causing his diarrhea. Some will need prescription medications, such as metronidazole or prednisolone, to control inflammation. Your vet may recommend a special diet if she thinks a food allergy or intolerance, IBD, or colitis is the problem.
To prevent diarrhea, don’t give your cat dairy products like milk or yogurt -- many cats can’t digest them properly. Also, if you switch the brand or type of food you give him, be sure to introduce it over several days by mixing it with smaller and smaller amounts of the old food until he’s eating only the new stuff.
When a cat is constipated, he’ll strain a lot when he tries to poop or won’t be able to produce anything for the litter box. You don’t need to worry if it only happens sometimes. But if it’s more common for your pet, you should contact your vet.
Cats can get constipated for a number of reasons, including:
Over-grooming, which leads to extra hair in the digestive tract
Feline megacolon -- when the colon gets very large and its muscles no longer squeeze, making hard, dry stool build up inside
Something blocking their colon, such as string or bones
Diets that don’t have enough fiber
Problems inside the colon, such as tumors or narrow places
Spine problems or pain
To ease your cat’s constipation, your vet may suggest that you give him more fiber, such as by adding canned pumpkin to his regular food. Or she might tell you to change to food that’s easier for your pet to digest.
It also helps to make sure he gets more exercise and drinks more water so that waste will move through his system more readily.
Q: Will diabetes shorten my cat’s lifespan?
A: It sure can, because it can be associated with infections, with peripheral nerve disorders, and other problems. If it’s poorly controlled you can get into some pretty severe emergency situations. But I can tell you that we see lots of diabetic cats that are older that are managed for many years and they can get into their late teens. It requires a lifelong, daily commitment, but it’s something that can be done.
Q: What does it cost to care for a diabetic cat?
A: Most clients probably spend about $20-$30 a month on insulin, syringes, and other supplies. It’s not terribly expensive once it’s being managed.
Q: What are the newest treatments for feline diabetes?
A: There are newer insulins that are being evaluated. Some of the insulin analogs that are available for treating human diabetics are being looked at in diabetic cats and they have some promise. These provide more blood sugar control, often with fewer side effects. People are constantly trying to find new and better ways to care for diabetic cats.
Q: If caught early enough, can my cat be cured of diabetes?
A: It’s usually not cured. Some cats, when you start treating their diabetes and you get their blood sugar under control and get them on a reasonable diet and get them in a better body condition, their diabetes actually goes into remission or partial remission. There are cats that stay that way for many months. Some might even stay that way for years. It can happen. But for the most part diabetes is a disease that we control and don’t really cure.
Q: Can I prevent my cat from getting diabetes with diet and not letting her get too fat?
A: Nobody can tell you that you can prevent your cat from getting diabetes with diet because those studies haven’t been done. There are some commonly held beliefs, based on a handful of clinical studies, that support the use of low-carbohydrate diets in helping diabetic cats control their blood sugar better. And we do know that obesity is a risk factor. But there also are some breeds of cats that get diabetes more than others do, so that suggests there may be a genetic component involved as well.
Q: Will it be better for my cat if I cook for her instead of buying her food?
A: It’s hard to make a decent, balanced diet for a cat if you’re cooking it. You have to make sure they get all the amino acids that they need, and their needs are different from dogs and people and other omnivores. You have to know what you’re doing.
Q: Should I only feed her dry food or just wet food or both?
A: That’s the raging argument right now. It’s fairly controversial. If you think about what a cat’s natural diet would be, they’re carnivores. So the diet they would eat, if they were running around outside eating the animals that they prey upon, would be a very high-protein, very low-carbohydrate diet. So the argument is, that is what they have evolved to eat and that is healthier for them. So why do we have dry food for cats? Because it’s more convenient for people. Some people just don’t like dealing with canned food. And there are a gazillion cats that eat dry food and don’t get diabetes. We see 20-year-old cats that eat dry food.
An alarming number of cats are developing diabetes mellitus, which is the inability to produce enough insulin to balance blood sugar, or glucose, levels .Left untreated, it can lead to weight loss, loss of appetite, vomiting ,dehydration, severe depression, problems with motor function, coma, and even death. To find out why so many cats are being diagnosed with diabetes, and what owners can do, WebMD talked to Thomas Graves, a former feline practitioner who is associate professor and section head of small animal medicine at the University of Illinois College of Veterinary Medicine. Graves’ research focus is on diabetes and geriatric medicine.
Q: How common is feline diabetes?
A: The true incidence isn’t known, but it’s estimated at 0.5% to 2% of the feline population. But it’s also probably under diagnosed.
Q: What are the signs of diabetes in cats?
A: The main symptoms are increased thirst and increased urination. And while we do see it in cats with appropriate body weight, it’s more common in obese cats. Some cats with diabetes have a ravenous appetite because their bodies cannot use the fuel supplied in their diet.
Q: What’s the treatment for a cat with feline diabetes?
A: Diet is certainly a component. It’s felt that a low-carbohydrate diet is probably best for cats with diabetes. Treatment is insulin therapy. There are some oral medications, but they have more side effects and are mainly used when insulin can’t be used for some reason. There are blood and urine tests, physical examinations, and behavioral signals, which are used to establish insulin therapy. This is done in conjunction with your veterinarian. We don’t recommend owners adjust insulin therapy on their own because it can be sort of complicated in cats. Most patients come in every three or four months. It’s a good thing to make sure nothing else is going on.
Q: Will I have to test my cat’s blood every day and give her shots ?
A: Usually the blood tests are done during the regular visits with your veterinarian, although people can do them if they’d like. But the owners will have to give their cat shots. People are often afraid of that whole thing. But once you teach an owner how to do it properly, it’s something people find quite easy. Many people even find it a bit empowering, that they can do something like that to help their pet.
Another possible cause of stomach swelling in dogs, this serious infection is usually caused by puncture or rupture of your dog's stomach or intestine, due to splinters from a bone, ulcers, tumors, or other causes. Peritonitis can also occur if the gallbladder or urinary bladder ruptures.
Extremely painful, a dog with peritonitis may be listless, reluctant to move, have a swollen abdomen, or vomit. Shock is likely, so emergency treatment is crucial.
Treatment for peritonitis may include intravenous fluids, antibiotics, and pain relief. Surgery will also be necessary to repair the puncture, remove the infected fluids, and flush the abdomen.
A dog with a pot-bellied look may have hyperadrenocorticism, or Cushing's syndrome, a condition caused by the overproduction of the hormone cortisol. More common in dogs 6 years or older, other signs of Cushing's syndrome include eating, drinking, and urinating more, as well as hair loss and increased panting.
Cushing's syndrome is usually caused by the pituitary gland overproducing a hormone; less commonly, it is due to a tumor on one of the adrenal glands. There is a newer medication that treats both forms of Cushing’s syndrome. However, surgery can be done to remove the tumor associated with the adrenal form of Cushing’s syndrome.
Ascites is the accumulation of fluid in the abdomen, often leading to swelling. Ascites can be caused by a wide range of problems, including heart failure, liver disease, kidney problems, or severe intestinal disease. Treatment for ascites varies depending on the condition causing it.
Other Causes of Dog Stomach Swelling
Stomach swelling in dogs can also result from the dog eating too much all at once, internal bleeding due to trauma or a ruptured mass, intestinal obstruction, or tumors. Severe roundworm infection in puppies can also cause a swollen abdomen.
Tips to Prevent Stomach Problems in Your Dog
To help prevent stomach problems, be sure to take your dog in for regular checkups so that your vet can keep tabs on the health of your pet's heart, lungs, stomach, bowel, and other organs.
A quick exam of your dog's abdomen can also help you recognize some of the signs of stomach trouble. To examine your dog's stomach, feel for tenderness to touch, heat, stickiness, lumps, and of course, swelling. Take your dog to the vet right away if you notice any problems.
Stomach swelling in dogs can be a life-threatening emergency, or it can be as simple as your dog eating too much.
To keep your canine companion in good health, it helps to know the signs of dog stomach problems and what you can do when they happen.
Dog Stomach Swelling: Common Causes and Treatments
Because stomach swelling in dogs can be dangerous, never try to diagnose the cause of your dog's stomach trouble yourself. If your dog's abdomen looks bloated or unusual, get your pet to a veterinary hospital or emergency veterinarian immediately, as timing can be critical.
Some causes of stomach swelling in dogs include:
Bloat / Gastric Dilation Volvulus
Called "the mother of all emergencies," untreated gastric dilatation and volvulus (GDV) can be fatal to a dog within hours. Bloat happens when gas or food stretch a dog's stomach. GDV happens when the distended stomach rotates, trapping the gas inside, and blocking off the stomach's blood supply.
Extremely painful, there doesn't seem to be one cause for GDV, though swallowing air plays a part; heavy exercise after a meal can be a trigger, too. The exact cause of GDV is still debated. A few of the many proposed things that can increase a dog's GDV risk include:
Being deep-chested. Breeds like the Great Dane, St. Bernard, and Weimaraner are at the greatest risk for bloat; as a matter of fact, dogs weighing over 99 pounds have a 20% bloat risk. Though rare, small dogs can also suffer from the condition.
Feeding your dog only one meal a day
Using elevated food/water bowls.
A family history of bloat/GDV
Eating too quickly
Being older; dogs between 7-12 years old are at highest risk.
Treating bloat requires immediate emergency care and may include decompressing the stomach (releasing excess gas from the stomach), managing shock, and stabilizing the heart, often followed by surgery once stable. If your dog's abdomen looks swollen or distended, or if your dog seems uncomfortable, don't wait; rush your pet to a veterinary hospital immediately.
Preventing bloat is hard because so many things may play a part in causing it, but a few things you can do that may reduce your dog's risk include:
Feed your dog two or more meals daily
Include canned food
Make sure your dog rests after a full meal; no strenuous exercise on a full stomach
Your pup needs to stay clean and well-groomed, so it is essential to get grooming supplies before your puppy arrives. You need to clean and brush the pup’s coat, trim his nails, and brush his teeth from an early stage. Starting the grooming routine early helps your pup to learn how to behave during the process. Some of the grooming products that you will need include bristle brushes, conditioning spray, shampoo, towels, toothbrush and dog toothpaste, ear cleaning solution, and nail clippers.
Food and treats
Do not be fooled by your pup’s tiny body size. Puppies have huge appetites and a massive calorie requirement for their growth, so you need to have some food and treats when your pup arrives. The ideal food to get is puppy food like Nutro Wholesome food. Puppy food is much better than general dog food because it contains all the nutrients that your pup needs for a healthy development. Treats, on the other hand, are essential for behavior training and other forms of training. You give the treats to your puppy when he behaves well to condition him into repeating that behavior in the future.
Food and water bowls
Your pup needs feeding bowls when he gets home. There are many varieties to choose from, but the main ones are plastic, ceramic, glass, and stainless steel. Plastic bowls are the cheapest, but they are light and can harbor bacteria in cracks. If you decide to get plastic bowls, make sure that they are made from hard plastic and replace them immediately you notice signs of wear. Ceramic and glass bowls are heavier and durable if you can keep your pup from breaking them. You should go for dishwasher-safe bowls if you choose to go with glass or ceramic bowls. Stainless steel bowls are the most durable, but they are also a bit pricey.
It is essential to get all these items and set them up beforehand so that your pup transitions smoothly to the new surroundings. In addition to getting all these items, you also need to puppy proof your home for the puppy’s safety. Move plant pots and cables out of the way and make sure that no tiny objects are lying around which your puppy might ingest.
You are about to receive your new puppy either from an orphanage or a breeder. You are excited as you prepare for the arrival of a new furry addition to the family, but you are feeling a bit nervous amidst all the excitement. Just like every other new puppy owner, you are not sure of what you will need for your puppy. Getting a puppy does not have to be complicated when you know the right things to get for your pup. Let us look at the items that you should have on your shopping list as you prepare for the puppy’s arrival.
Appropriately-sized crate and containment
You will need a crate when going to pick up your puppy, so it is essential that you buy it beforehand. Both the crate and containment should be big enough for the puppy to stand, stretch, and turn around. We do not want the puppy to feel like a captive, do we? Since crates and containments come in different sizes and shapes, it is good to know your puppy’s breed and his estimated size.
Crates come in different materials like steel, fiberglass, and plastic. Steel crates are durable, but they are not very cozy. Plastic and fiberglass crates replicate a cozy den when outfitted with a warm, soft bed and blanket. Fiberglass and plastic varieties also provide security and safety to your puppy especially when flying or driving. Containments are essential for use in the house where you can confine your puppy for observation. They are also good since they aid in house training a pup. Just like the crate, the containment should be large enough for your puppy to move freely and stretch.
Collar/harness and leash
It is essential to get a collar or harness and a leash for your puppy when you bring him home. A collar holds the pup’s identification details and attaches to the leash when you want to walk the puppy. The harness serves the same purpose as the collar but takes the stress away from the pup’s neck to prevent trachea injuries that occur when puppies keep yanking at the leash. The leash attaches to either the collar or the leash when you are walking your puppy and during obedience training.
The best collar for your puppy is an adjustable light nylon collar with a two-piece buckle. Make sure to fit the collar snugly so that it’s neither too loose to fall off, nor too tight to choke the puppy. You should be able to fit two fingers between your pup’s neck and the collar when your pup wears it. The leash should be well-made and sturdy. The link that attaches to the collar or harness should also be strong. The ideal leash size for walks should be about 4 feet. You will, however, need a longer leash for obedience training.
Your puppy needs a soft surface to lay his head after a long day of playing and looking cute. You will need to get a small bed for the containment area since that is where your pup will spend most of the time. A fleece or fur dog bed like MidWest Deluxe bed is the best for your puppy since it is warm and cozy. Once your puppy is house trained, you can get a real dog bed or pillows. Keep an eye on the puppy to make sure that he does not chew his beddings. Chewing the beddings might cause intestinal problems in your puppy.
Pet identification is essential for your puppy. The primary importance of pet identification is helping find lost pets. The two main types of identification are a microchip and a tag. A microchip is a device the size of a rice grain containing a code which links to a database with your contact details. A vet injects the microchip between your puppy’s shoulder blades to help identify the puppy.
In case your pup is lost, a worker at the animal shelter scans the microchip with a handheld device and uses the code to pull your contact information from the database. A tag is a medallion made of plastic or metal with your contact information engraved on it. You can include your name, phone number, and address on the tag. In case your pup gets lost, anyone who finds him can call you and arrange for you to collect the pup.
Puppies need toys to entertain them and help them develop. One of the types of toys that you need for your puppy is a non-toxic, chewable rubber toy. Puppies have a strong urge to gnaw at things, and chewable toys help satisfy that urge. Another type of toy that you need to get your pup is a plush animal to provide comfort to your puppy. Puppies can get lonely in their containment areas, and they need some form of company. Plush toys act as companions to your pup so that he does not feel too lonely. Treat dispensing toys are another smart choice of toys for your puppy. Treat dispensing toys play a crucial role in improving your puppy’s intelligence and critical thinking capabilities. You can also get fetching toys like flying discs and balls for your puppy’s entertainment when you take him outdoors.
It’s important to know all the facts about Cushing’s disease.
This disease is presently being diagnosed at earlier stages in life. However, a dog should still have some of the symptoms and a low urine specific gravity to consider it.
Both Trilostane and Lysodren are detoxed by the liver. In fact, it’s clearly stated that you shouldn’t give Trilostane to a dog who has kidney or liver disease. So there’s no good reason to place an animal with a liver problem and not Cushing’s disease on either of these drugs.
I wanted to bring you the very best information on Cushing’s syndrome, I spoke with Dr Rhett Nichols. Dr Nichols is a world renowned expert in endocrinology. He said:
“I believe these tests are reliable if used properly. A major point that should be made is that any screening test for any disease should only be applied to a population of animals/people where it is likely they have the disorder based on history, physical exam findings, and lab work. If a screening test is applied to animals where the disorder is unlikely, false positives (outliers) are going to occur. Bottom line? The screening tests are not bad, but their use in certain situations (eg high ALP with no clinical signs, sick animals with no signs consistent with Cushing’s) is questionable.”
What if your dog really does have Cushing’s disease? Is there anything holistic you can do?
I’ve used homeopathic ACTH with some slight success and Chinese herbs with great success.
The most effective Chinese herbs I’ve used, from the Chi Institute of Chinese Medicine, are:
You can get these herbal combinations from a variety of Chinese herb companies.
[RELATED] There are several natural remedies to help you manage Cushing’s disease in dogs. Find them here.
I apologize for the rather clinical disposition of this article. I wanted you to know the facts and understand how the testing procedure for Cushing’s disease works. This info will help save unnecessary expenses and worry. Both pickles and Cushing’s disease can make one thirsty but there’s no need to be in a pickle with Cushing’s.
Deva Khalsa VMD
Since beginning her holistically oriented veterinary practice over 25 years ago, Dr Deva Khalsa has been incorporating homeopathy, acupuncture, Chinese herbs and nutritional advice into her practice. She also offers her unique Allergy Elimination 4 Pet technique to naturally reboot your pet's inappropriate immune system responses. She's the author of Dr Khalsa's Natural Dog, now in its second edition.
There’s another misunderstanding called atypical Cushing’s disease. I’m convinced that a dog diagnosed with Cushing’s without corresponding symptoms doesn’t have the disease.
While there is such a thing as atypical Cushing’s disease, it’s not what most people think it is. About ten years ago, veterinarians at the Royal Veterinary College in England observed dogs that had all the classical signs of Cushing’s disease. These dogs:
Were drinking a lot of water
Were urinating a lot
Had urine specific gravities below 1.025
Had pot-bellied appearances
Showed muscle wasting
Had weakness in the hind legs
Had ravenous appetites and excessive panting
But their Low Dose Dexamethasone Suppression test and ACTH Stimulation tests came back normal.
And they all got better on Lysodren.
So these vets did some excellent research. They found that every dog had an elevated sex steroid called 17-hydroxyprogesterone. This was thought to be a marker or possibly the cause of all the symptoms of Cushing’s disease. Yes, these dogs with atypical Cushing’s disease had all the symptoms of the disease. But in the end a different hormone was causing these symptoms.
Cushing’s disease seems to be on every veterinarian’s mind these days. Because of this, many screening tests are recommended to diagnose Cushing’s disease. These tests are relatively reliable if there are signs and symptoms as well as lab abnormalities.
But what if these same tests are used on animals that aren’t showing these signs and symptoms? False positive results can occur.
In addition, these tests are done at the veterinary hospital. That has impacts too. The dog is caged and the stress of hospitalization alone may cause a false positive result. Even the suggestion that a dog will wind up at the vet is enough to start the dog’s adrenals working overtime.
Because of its sensitivity, many vets consider the Low Dose Dexamethasone Suppression Test the best option. The problem with this test is it gives too many false positive results. As I said before, the stress the dog is undergoing will have a definite influence on the test results. Being locked in a cage and having blood drawn is definitely enough stress to create a false positive.
Another test, the ACTH Stimulation Test, is a popular screening test. I can’t tell you why. In general, this kind of test would be used for hypofunction, not hyperfunction, of the adrenal glands. This test misses many animals that have the disorder. I’m talking typically 20% to 30% of dogs with pituitary abnormality and 50% with an adrenal tumor.
These tests should only be used when the animal has the clinical signs of the disease. These are all the signs I mentioned above that Spot didn’t have.
There’s an excellent test you can do on your dog’s urine called a Cortisol-Creatinine Ratio Test. This test is very useful for ruling out Cushing’s disease; it has an accuracy rate of 90%. The urine has to be taken at home and the dog can’t be stressed out. Don’t even let him know that he might be going to the veterinarian’s office later on that day!
When you bring the urine sample for testing, ask the veterinarian to do a urine specific gravity. A urine specific gravity of less than 1.025 is consistent with Cushing’s disease. Dogs with a urine specific gravity greater than 1.025 are less likely to have Cushing’s.
By far, the most accurate, safe and effective method of diagnosing Cushing’s disease is the Cortisol Creatinine Ratio on an unstressed urine followed by an ultrasound.
So let’s look at this scenario. Spot has none of the signs and symptoms of Cushing’s disease. He has a high alkaline phosphatase. His cortisol creatinine ratio is elevated. What do you do? The best thing to do is find a specialty clinic that has a radiologist who does ultrasounds. Ask for a full abdominal ultrasound and have the doctor check and size both adrenals. If they’re normal in size, and your dog has none of the symptoms, it’s very likely your dog doesn’t have Cushing’s disease.
I wrote this article because Cushing’s disease in dogs is often over-diagnosed.
Over-diagnosed is a euphemism for “your dog never had it in the first place.” And that’s a problem.
My goal? To give you the facts on how the testing procedure for Cushing’s disease works and what exactly vets are looking for. This should help save unnecessary expenses and worry.
So it’s important that we fully understand this disease.
What Is Cushing’s Disease In Dogs?
Cushing’s disease is an endocrine disorder of middle aged and older dogs. It’s the result of the overproduction of cortisone by the adrenal glands. These are tiny glands the size of a pea located on each kidney.
Normally, your dog’s pituitary responds to stress by producing something called ACTH. This stimulates his adrenals to produce more cortisol/cortisone. In Cushing’s disease, really high levels of cortisone hormone are produced continually.
Cushing’s disease results from three possible situations:
A dog will have a microscopic benign tumor of the pituitary gland. This tumor overproduces ACTH. This stimulates the adrenal glands to produce too much cortisone. About 85% of Cushing’s cases in dogs are due to a pituitary tumor.
Cushing’s disease is caused by a tumor in the adrenal gland that’s busy secreting too much cortisol. This is the case in about 15% of dogs.
The third scenario occurs when a veterinarian prescribes excessive steroids as a medication. With NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs), the incidence of this is waning.
And when it comes to Cushing’s disease in dogs, there are two problems to contend with:
Tests that determine if your dog has Cushing’s disease are expensive and can be unreliable.
One commonly used drug to treat Cushing’s, Lysodren, will destroy your dog’s adrenal glands. This just compounds the problem created by an incorrect diagnosis.
Let’s start at the very beginning, using a typical experience that might very well happen to you and your dog. Let’s name your imaginary dog Spot. Spot is over six years old and you take him in for his annual examination. He gets his annual Wellness Profile: a blood test. Spot has none of the symptoms of Cushing’s disease. He’s not drinking a lot or urinating a lot. He doesn’t have a sagging, bloated, pot-bellied appearance or excess panting. He’s not extra hungry or stealing food, hasn’t gained weight and he’s not weak on his hind legs, having no loss of muscle mass. His coat is beautiful and thick with no thinning of his fur and he has no areas of pigmented skin. He never gets an infection.
Spot has one thing and one thing only: elevated alkaline phosphatase. This is a liver enzyme and if it’s 2 to 3 times the normal range, Cushing’s disease is often pegged as the likely problem.
But any disorder causing endogenous stress can cause high alkaline phosphatase in dogs …