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Diarrhoea in youngsters - kitten or puppy

Updated: Nov 15, 2023


A nutritional approach to treating a four-month-old kitten (or puppy) suffering acute diarrhoea fed a commercial processed ‘sensitive tummy’ diet.

The current nutrition

Acute diarrhoea occurs when there is inflammation of the intestinal tract as a result of irritation. The inflammatory response which occurs is an immune response to the presence of an allergen or trigger of which there are many possible forms which may include bacteria, parasites, but more commonly is due to consumption of ‘foreign’ foods, especially denatured or difficult to digest proteins. Digestion and nutrient absorption are limited by the inflammation with the gut increasing the rate of mucus production as it attempts to shield itself from the foreign matter or pathogen. Complete with mucous, the partially digested food moves quickly through the digestive system and enters the large bowel where it can be expelled [1].

Client/Owner concerns

Transitioning the pet to a nutritionally balanced raw diet with the additional support of gut probiotics and supplements to aid the immune system in responding normally rather than over-reacting often resolves diarrhoea and will correct any other nutritional deficiencies which have developed. Unlike a medicated response, changes in response to a new diet can take a number of weeks as we are nutritionally correcting the cause of the symptoms rather than artificially acting on the symptoms themselves.

Management of the condition, nutritionally.

A species appropriate diet for a cat comprises 50% muscle meat, 30% meaty bones, 10% Offal and 10% plant matter and supplements. Transitioning the pet to a species appropriate raw diet over a period of around 12 days is essential with a number of considerations specific to the pet.

A. Bone broth: Can be beneficial as it provides the body with collagen and other essential nutrients to reduce inflammation and support healing of the intestinal barrier whilst also being extremely palatable for the fussy cat[2]. Once accepted, bone broth can then be used as a medium to increase the palatability and acceptance of other dietary items.

B. Gut flora: Restoring healthy gut bacteria is also an essential part of restoring a healthy digestive system, adding a natural, unsweetened Greek yoghurt or other suitable probiotic to the pets’ diet until symptoms subside is recommended [1]. Many cats find the milky yoghurt treat extremely palatable however there are pet probiotic supplements which could be utilized if necessary.

C. Meat protein: A meat source the pet has not previously been exposed to and therefore least likely to produce an immune response should be selected. Selecting a lean red meat such as goat or venison is ideal as red meat stimulates a more acidic gut environment than white meat, it should be free of any preservatives to avoid any unwanted additional toxins or triggers being included in the diet[1]. Use of minced meat enables other foods or supplements to be blended and gently introduced into the diet.

D. Meaty bones: Turkey necks, chicken necks or chicken wings are a great choice for cats new to meaty bones due to being small and relatively soft. Wings can be broken at the joints to avoid them getting in the cats eyes whilst cuts can be made into the skin to improve palatability.

E. Organs: an essential component of any balanced diet; Raw Liver is packed with valuable B12 whilst raw green tripe is naturally high in enzymes and probiotic bacteria whilst being low in fat making it an ideal dietary choice.

F. Plant matter: There are a number of ‘gut friendly’ foods which can support a return to healthy digestion, blending with the already accepted bone broth can aid in enticing the fussy cat. Dark leafy greens such as spinach are an excellent source of fibre which aid in slowing digestion as well as providing Vitamin C and other much needed antioxidants, enzymes and other nutrients to the diet. Bananas are also useful for the symptomatic pet, a very versatile and easily accessible fruit rich in vitamin B and other valuable nutrients which aid digestion as well as providing valuable pectin which firms stools by drawing out excess water.

G. Supplements: With the pet nicely transitioned onto a raw diet and healthy digestion restored other additives may be provided to further enhance the nutrient profile of the diet and address any deficiencies that have built up for the pet.

  1. Eggs are an excellent source of the highest quality protein available suitable for pets of all ages containing all of the vitamins, minerals, amino and fatty acids dogs need for good healthy which makes them an ideal addition to a balanced diet[3].

  2. A good quality, cold pressed flaxseed oil adds valuable omega 3 and omega 6 fatty acids to the diet which are often lacking in the pets fed a commercial product. EFA’s are key to maintaining and supporting all aspects of our pets’ health as they are components of cell membranes, supporting the flow of molecules into and out of cells as well as supporting enzyme and membrane receptor function[4]. An appropriate Vitamin E source should also be provided to protect the pet against the oil becoming rancid in their body [3].

  3. Brewer’s yeast, as a rich source of vitamins B-complex, antioxidants and assorted minerals, and is a useful dietary supplement for pets not sensitive to yeast[5].

  4. Kelp, among the many minerals found in kelp there are iodine and selenium, both of which are lacking in New Zealand soils and can be provided in the diet safely, without fear of toxicity, by the inclusion of kelp [3] .

With the cat successfully transitioned to a raw balanced diet incorporating a variety of species appropriate foods, it’s useful to ensure the owner can maintain the diet long term. A meat patty ‘recipe’ incorporating the meat, offal, plant matter and supplements whilst providing the owner guidance as to interchangeable items to further add variety and cope with seasonal availability is provided. Pets on a raw diet don’t tend to have weight issues; discussing changing energy requirements as the kitten grows and develops enable the owner to adjust meal sizes appropriately whilst maintaining balance.


[1] Syme, B. 2011. Scientific Guide to Natural Nutrition. Southbank, Australia: Vets All Natural Pty Ltd. [2] Johnson, J. 2020. What are the benefits of bone broth? Retrieved October 22nd, 2020, from Medical news today web site: [3] Billinghurst, I. 1993. Give Your Dog a Bone. Bathurst, New South Wales: Warrigal Publishing. [4] Patel, A. 2017. Essential Fatty Acids In Veterinary Dermatology: Do They Have A Place? Retrieved May 10th, 2020, from [5] Elfenbein, H. 2017. Brewer's Yeast for Dogs: Understanding the Benefits and Risks. Retrieved October 22nd, 2020, from Pet MD web site:

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