How to manage feline chronic diarrhea, Part I: Diagnosis - Veterinary Medicine
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How to manage feline chronic diarrhea, Part I: Diagnosis
A combination of patient history, fecal analysis, and additional diagnostic tests will help you discover the cause of this all-too-common clinical sign.



A few cases of chronic diarrhea may warrant an exploratory laparotomy, such as cats with mass lesions or those in which jejunal disease or submucosal pathology is suspected. When compared with an endoscopic examination, a surgical approach provides some advantages, including therapeutic mass removal, collection of full-thickness biopsy samples, and examination of the liver, pancreas, and abdominal lymph nodes. However, patient discomfort and recovery time are increased with surgery, and the risk-benefit ratio of surgery vs. endoscopy should be carefully evaluated in each patient. If surgery is performed, it is essential to evaluate the entire abdominal cavity. Even if focal disease is identified, it is often worthwhile to take full-thickness biopsy samples from each area of the GI tract, even if it looks and feels grossly normal.


Accurate and thorough diagnostic testing is often crucial in determining the underlying cause of chronic diarrhea. Even with the most sensitive tests, the disease process leading to chronic diarrhea can be painstakingly elusive. Ultimately, test results partnered with response to therapy may be the only way to definitively diagnose the cause of chronic diarrhea in many of our feline patients. See the second part of this article for details on treatment.

Sally Purcell, DVM
Department of Small Animal Clinical Sciences
College of Veterinary Medicine
Texas A&M University College Station, TX 77843-4474


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