Click to enlargeStray Kitten with Diarrhea

Dear Dr. Margaret:

A very friendly kitten, that is little more than a bag of bones, has chosen us to care for him.

I would like to know if there is anything that I can do to help him get over diarrhea. I am only feeding him small amounts of dry food and fresh water. Have been doing this for two weeks, but we don't seem to be gaining ground. Any suggestions would be appreciated.

Dear Cat Lover,

It certainly is kind to open your home and heart to a stray kitten, but there are certain obligations that come with your guest.

First, especially with a protracted history of diarrhea, it is imperative to have a fecal sample from the kitten analyzed by your veterinarian.

It is not unusual for kittens to harbor internal parasites and most are easily treated. Among the most common parasites to plague kittens are roundworms. These parasites are often conferred to the kittens via mother's milk. They can cause gas, distended abdomen, diarrhea and occasionally vomiting.

In addition to a fecal exam, your new kitten should be thoroughly examined by a veterinarian for external parasites such as fleas and ear mites. Fleas are the intermediate host of tapeworms, which may also manifest as gastrointestinal distress.

Your veterinarian may also want to screen your kitten for Feline AIDS and Feline Leukemia. These viruses do not pose a health risk to humans, but they are highly contagious to other cats in your household.

Some other things that may help your kitten overcome diarrhea are pro-biotics. These are readily available at your supermarket in the form of plain yogurt and skim cottage cheese. Sometimes milk and milkfat are associated with causing diarrhea, but products that contain lactobacillus can be beneficial in reintroducing healthy bacteria to the gut.

Dr. M. C. Lane