Hi stranger! Signing up for MypetMD is easy, free and puts the most relevant content at your fingertips.

Get Instant Access To

  • 24/7 alerts for pet-related recalls

  • Your own library of articles, blogs, and favorite pet names

  • Tools designed to keep your pets happy and healthy

or Connect with Facebook

By joining petMD, you agree to the Privacy Policy.

petMD Blogs

Written by leading veterinarians to provide you with the information you need to care for your pets.

Your cat's nutrition is important for a healthy & happy life. petMD experts help you to know what to feed your cat, how much food to feed, and the differences in cat foods, so your cat gets optimum nutrition.
Nutrition Nuggets is the newest offshoot of petMD's Cat Nutrition Center. Each week Dr. Coates will use her expertise and wisdom to blog about the intricacies of cat nutrition.

Diets for Helping Cats with Chronic Diarrhea

October 17, 2014 / (1) comments

Chronic diarrhea is an all too common problem for cats and their owners. In a perfect world, veterinarians would always be able to fully work up the case, come to a definitive diagnosis, and prescribe treatment that cures the diarrhea. But as we all know, this is not a perfect world.


Financial considerations or other health problems may prevent a complete work up. Sometimes, a diagnosis remains elusive despite running “every” test, or the diarrhea may not fully resolve even with appropriate treatment. Whatever the reason, it’s not unusual for veterinarians and owners to find themselves searching for “something” that will firm up a cat’s stools.


A study published in 2012 points to what that “something” should often be. It’s not a new drug or miracle supplement but the therapeutic diets that are designed specifically for cats with GI disease. The study was run to compare the effects of a newly designed GI diet made by one manufacturer with another company’s product. Sixteen cats (15 completed the study) with chronic diarrhea of unknown origin were first fed an over the counter canned cat food for two weeks to standardize their initial diets.


For the following month, half the cats were fed one of the therapeutic diets while the other half ate the second therapeutic diet. The two groups were switched to the opposite diet for the final month of the study. Both therapeutic diets were canned formulations.


Trained technicians evaluated the cats for diarrhea during the last week of each dietary trial. They found that both therapeutic diets led to significant improvements. The diarrhea improved in 40 percent (resolving in 13.3 percent) of the cats eating one diet and improved in 67 percent (resolving in 46.7 percent) or those eating the other.


I’m not sure knowing which diet was “best” in this study is all that relevant now since companies are constantly tweaking their recipes as research continues. This study is now two years old and only compared two therapeutic GI diets when several more are readily available. Keep in mind also that GI diets can be quite different from each other and no one formulation is best for every patient, so if you try one and aren’t impressed with the results, it is certainly worth trying a couple more.


I want to make sure we are all on the same page here. I am not recommending that cats with diarrhea be fed a GI diet in lieu of a full work up and treatment aimed at a specific disease. Rather, this study simply serves as a reminder that dietary modification can help many cats with diarrhea, regardless of their specific diagnosis or lack thereof.


Dr. Jennifer Coates




Evaluation of canned therapeutic diets for the management of cats with naturally occurring chronic diarrhea. Laflamme DP, Xu H, Cupp CJ, Kerr WW, Ramadan Z, Long GM. J Feline Med Surg. 2012 Oct;14(10):669-77. Epub 2012 May 10.


Image: Moyan Brenn / Flickr


Comments  1

Leave Comment
  • Diagnosis
    10/17/2014 08:49pm

    I'd much rather have a diagnosis and treat the initial problem. The diarrhea would then hopefully resolve.

    And, of course, my first thought is that a GI diet may only work IF the cat will eat it. And that's a big IF.




Photo of Jennifer

... graduated with honors from the Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine in 1999. In the years since, she has practiced veterinary medicine in Virginia, Wyoming, and Colorado. She is the author of several books about veterinary medicine and animal care, including the Dictionary of Veterinary Terms, Vet-Speak Deciphered for the Non-Veterinarian .

Jennifer also writes short stories that focus on the strength and importance of the human-animal bond and freelance articles relating to a variety of animal care and veterinary topics. Dr. Coates lives in Fort Collins, Colorado with her husband, daughter, and pets.