It is always alarming when we discover blood in our cat's stool but in most cases the cause is relatively minor and transient. Blood in the cat's stool may be light, with just a smear or speck or heavy and it may be with or without accompanying symptoms. The presence of blood in the stool can be broken into two types:
Melena - Tarry black stools are associated with upper gastrointestinal tract bleeding including the esophagus, stomach, and duodenum but bleeding may also originate from the nose or mouth. This blood has been broken down by naturally occurring bacteria in the stomach before passing out down the lower intestinal tract and out of the anus.
Hematochezia - Bright red blood which is associated with lower intestinal (colon and rectum) bleeding. This type of blood in the stool is much more obvious than melena. It may be throughout the feces or just on the outside.
The occasional sighting of bright blood in the feces is usually insignificant, however, if it is a regular occurrence, if there is a large volume of blood passed and/or if other symptoms are also present it is something which needs to be investigated as soon as possible. This article looks at the causes of bright red (hematochezia) in cats. There are many possible causes of blood in the cat's feces, some of which include:
- Intestinal parasites (cryptosporidium, intestinal worms) - Cryptosporidium causes inflammation which leads to bleeding, parasitic worms such as hookworm or roundworms suck the blood from the intestinal wall, resulting in blood in the stool. Parasites are one of the most common causes of blood in stool in kittens.
- Constipation - Difficulty passing feces. Hard, dry stools can cause irritation and/or minor tears in the bowel and anus.
- Bacterial infection such as salmonella or e.coli can cause inflammation of the colon (colitis).
- Impacted and/or inflamed anal glands - The anal glands are two small sacs on either side of the anus when the cat defecates, the glands release a thick, foul smelling substance. Sometimes these glands become impacted and inflamed, leading to infection and/or an abscess.
- Dietary indiscretion - Consumption of a hard object such as a bone fragment or hair which irritates the lining of the colon.
- Dietary intolerance or allergy to a particular type of food.
- Inflammatory bowel disease - Inflammation of the gastrointestinal tract. The cause still isn't entirely understood but it is thought to be due to the presence of bacteria, dietary intolerance or parasites. Inflammatory cells infiltrate the mucosa leading to inflammation.
- Blood clotting disorders - Thrombocytopenia (low blood platelets), disseminated intravascular coagulation.
- Colitis - Inflammation of the colon caused by infection, dietary intolerance, cancer, pancreatitis, bacterial infection stress.
- Poisoning - There are many poisons which can lead to blood in the stool.
- Cancer - Malignant growth, usually in the lower bowel, cancers can occur in cats of any age, however, it affects older cats much more often.
- Rectal, anal and colon polyps - Benign (noncancerous) growths.
If you notice blood in your cat's stool it is advisable to seek veterinary attention. Look out for other symptoms too such as loss of appetite, appearance of parasites, lethargy, vomiting etc., as this can assist your vet in determining the cause.
Other symptoms to watch for:
If you notice blood in your cat's stool, be alert to other problems your cat may be experiencing so that you can inform your veterinarian. Is there a lot of blood in the stool, is there mucus too? Other symptoms to watch for include:
- Straining to defecate.
- Pain when defecating.
- Increased amount of bowel movements.
- Abdominal pain.
- Presence of abnormal growths around the anus.
- Weight loss.
- Loss of appetite.
- Blood around the anus.
Often there will be no accompanying symptoms, but this doesn't rule out an underlying problem. If you notice blood in your cat's stool more than once or twice, it needs to be investigated, even without other symptoms present.
How is the cause of blood in stool diagnosed?
If possible, try to obtain a fecal sample to bring along to the vet for inspection.
Your veterinarian will perform a complete medical examination of your cat and obtain a medical history from you. He will ask about your cat's stool such as is it firm and well formed with blood on the surface or is it loose with blood mixed throughout the stool. Cats who pass firm stools most often have constipation, polyps or anal gland issues. Whereas soft/loose stools are more commonly associated with inflammation or infections.
He will need to perform further tests to determine the cause of bleeding. These may include:
- Fecal examination to check for parasites.
- Complete blood count to look for infection, inflammation, anemia.
- Abdominal x-rays to look for growths, foreign bodies and check the internal organs.
- Abdominal ultrasound to look for growths, foreign bodies and check the internal organs.
- Biopsy - If a mass is found, your veterinarian may wish to perform a biopsy to examine a sample of the cells.
- Biochemical profile to determine the overall health of your cat.
- Colonoscopy - Visual examination of the colon with an endoscope while the cat is under sedation. If necessary, tissue will be collected for biopsy.
What is the treatment for blood in feces?
Treatment depends on the underlying cause if one can't be found your veterinarian may recommend putting your cat on a bland diet for a few days.
- Laxatives and/or stool softeners to help with constipation.
- Appropriate treatment to kill parasites such as anti-parasitic medication, de-worming.
- Antibiotics to treat bacterial infections.
- If a food allergy is suspected, your cat will be put on a special elimination diet, in which it will be fed a prescription diet which it has had no prior exposure to (such as duck). If the allergy symptoms clear up, the cat will then be "challenged" and if the allergies return, it is determined the food is the cause of the allergy and your cat will be switched to another brand of food.
- Surgery to remove polyps or tumours.
- Enema to try and flush out foreign bodies etc. If this isn't possible, surgery will be required to remove the object(s).
- If the anal glands are impacted, your veterinarian will drain the glands and flush out with antibiotics. If the problem recurs then your veterinarian may decide to remove the anal glands.
- Supportive care such as intravenous fluids to correct dehydration, where other symptoms such as vomiting or diarrhea have occurred.