Diarrhea is a symptom of many problems in cats, ranging from a mild infection or stomach upset to FIV and feline leukemia virus. For many years, the over-the-counter drug Kaopectate was recommended for treating mild feline diarrhea. The product's new formulation may not be suitable for pets, though. While kaolin and pectin, the traditional ingredients in Kaopectate, are not harmful to cats, the bismuth subsalicylate in the new product could poison pets.
Minor cases of diarrhea in cats are indicated only by loose stool, and sometimes elimination outside of the litter box. Cats with severe cases may also vomit, lose interest in their food, have blood in the stool, and suffer from dehydration, fever, and lethargy. Never treat serious symptoms with Kaopectate or any other over-the-counter product – see a vet immediately.
Minor diarrhea may be caused by viruses in the stomach or intestine, by intestinal parasites, or by cats that eat garbage, houseplants or other irritating substances. Major problems are more likely to be caused by bacterial or fungal infections, neoplasia, inflammatory bowel disease, hyperthyroidism or diseases which affect the proper function of the pancreas.
The original formulation of Kaopectate included kaolin, pectin, and attapulgite, an inert clay aluminum. Now, according to the American Veterinary Medical Association, the product contains bismuth subsalicylate, a substance which can cause salicylate toxicosis in cats. The new formula has been on the market since 2004, and should not be administered in the same doses as previously recommended. While the new formulation can still be given to cats, the chance of poisoning from a too-high does makes it more difficult for pet owners to do so.
Pet owners wishing to use Kaopectate to treat feline diarrhea may be able to find products which still use similar formulations to the original. High doses of kaolin/pecting may cause constipation, but are not toxic. The new Kaopectate formula may also be used with careful dosing. According to the AVMA, the recommended dose for aspirin derivatives (such as bismuth subsalicylate) in cats is between 10 mg/kg to 25 mg/kg, every other day. A tablespoon of the new Kaopectate formula contains 130 mg of aspirin equivalent, and extra strength Kaopectate contains 230 mg, requiring careful dosing.
If diarrhea persists for more than 48 hours, or the cat appears to become lethargic, pet owners should stop home treatment and contact a veterinarian immediately. Some cats are also hypersensitive to kaolin/pectin or to aspirin derivatives, and should never receive these drugs. All pet owners should discuss use of new formula Kaopectate with their vets before administering it.
- Cat image by Develio13 from Fotolia.com