Intestinal Problems in Kittens

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Immediately see a veterinarian if you notice your kitten is dehydrated.

Kittens who show symptoms of vomiting or diarrhea may have a serious intestinal problem. Infection of the gastrointestinal tract can stem from internal parasites. Since young kittens have not developed a strong immunity against certain parasites, it is necessary to seek treatment immediately after noticing symptoms. Mothers can directly transmit infections to their newborn kittens while nursing.

  1. Roundworms

    • The most common intestinal parasites found in kittens are roundworms. Adult roundworms may grow up to 5 inches in length and live within the intestines. Kittens become infected by larvae that pass through an infected mother's milk. Roundworm infections have the possibility to become life-threatening for kittens. If left untreated, the roundworms may accumulate in the intestines and cause a blockage. Veterinarians confirm a diagnosis for roundworms by discovering parasite eggs in the stool during a microscopic examination.


    • Coccidiosis is an infection in the intestinal tract caused by a one-celled organism called coccidia. Coccidia are not worms, but microscopic parasites that live inside cells of the intestinal lining. It is common for kittens to be diagnosed with coccidiosis. Newborn kittens are constantly exposed to the mother's feces. If the mother sheds infective cysts in her feces, kittens may ingest them while nursing. Kittens under six months of age do not have immunity to coccidia. As a result, these organisms can rapidly reproduce in large numbers and cause serious health issues.


    • Panleukopenia, also known as feline distemper, is a virus that causes severe intestinal tract disease in kittens. It is commonly found in areas with a large population of stray cats. Kittens with panleukopenia have severe vomiting, diarrhea and dehydration. This virus destroys the lining of the gastrointestinal tract. As a result, bacteria infect the blood and septicemia occurs. The combined effects of dehydration and septicemia cause kittens with panleukopenia to die. It is not necessary for kittens to have direct contact with infected cats to get the virus. Panleukopenia travels on dust particles in the air.


    • Giardia are one-celled organisms that live in the small intestine of cats. Infection with giardia is referred to as giardiasis. A kitten becomes infected by eating the cyst form of the parasite. Kittens are commonly affected by giardiasis. The usual symptoms of this infection are either acute or chronic diarrhea. Giardiasis prevents kittens from properly absorbing nutrients and damages their intestinal lining. Infected kittens can transmit giardia to humans.

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