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26 August 2009

Could a grain-free diet fix my problems?

Ever since we adopted Sammi 8 months ago she has had intermittent loose stool and diarrhea. And there was no mistaking her stools from Raven's because 1) they were runny and 2) they smelled worse than any cat poop I've ever smelled. She's been treated for intestinal parasites and given a course of antibiotics in case her intestinal flora were out of balance due to the medications she had been given after her amputation. She was also rechecked (negative) for fecal parasites. We were past the point of thinking new-home stress could be factor and had tried several different foods - all with varying degrees of success.

When we adopted them, we started the cats on Blue Buffalo Spa select (both the salmon and chicken versions), but that didn't work for Sammi. We knew that anytime she ate Raven's favorite dry food (Castor & Pollux Ultramix) she got terrible diarrhea. Even the ultra-premium, organic, and minimal ingredients canned foods gave her diarrhea. The Blue Buffalo Longevity adult dry food seemed to work best for her, but she was still having problems. I tried mixing in some of the new Wellness CORE grain-free dry food, and that seemed to help, but then she'd have diarrhea again.

Based on all the different foods we've tried and the tiny specks of stuff that looked like finely-milled grain in her stool, I thougth maybe the rice or barley were giving her problems. But that was just a hunch because I have no idea what those little specks were and maybe it was just a result of everything going through her system so quickly.

We were at our wits end with different foods, cleaning the bathroom floor because she often avoided the litter box when she had diarrhea, and cleaning Sammi's bottom (even her clippered hair was still getting soiled). And she was tired of it too! I sure she doesn't feel great when the best her system can produce is something the consistency of a gummy worm. Usually she was producing something akin to pancake batter. Besides being unpleasant, it isn't good for her fluid balance to be losing so much water in her stool, and I can't imagine she's absorbing all the nutrients properly.

So we called our vet to get his suggestions or make an appointment to start some testing. The vet said it was ok to try Hills z/d to see if a low-allergan formula would help her. Boy was that a mistake! Her diarrhea was the worst it's ever been and we could tell she didn't feel well. That feeding trial lasted only 3 days. The z/d ingredients of hydrolyzed chicken protein and rice gave me the best indication that rice, and maybe other grains are something Sammi's digestive system can't process.

We're transitioning her to a grain-free diet and seeing positive results. We're slowly mixing the Blue Buffalo Longevity out of her diet and switching to Wellness CORE grain-free dry food. She's also eating about 2 tablespoons Wellness grain-free canned food (chicken) twice a day. Her stools aren't perfect, but they're mostly formed, and the best they've been since we adopted her. Another wonderful benefit is that she's using the litter box consistently.

We're hoping a grain-free diet is the solution, otherwise we're in for some vet visits and probably some expensive diagnositc work. Within a few days she should be on a 100% grain-free diet and hopefully after a few weeks of letting her intestines calm down she will have firm, normal stools.

I'm also monitoring another of Sammi's "issue", and that's the amount of dark goop her eyes produce. Every day I wipe gunk from her eyes, and I'm wondering if that's possibly related to her digestive issues. A mom can hope!

I think all the foods we've tried are excellent cat foods that I would be happy to feed my cats. They just don't appear to agree with Sammi's digestive system.

Keep your fingers (and paws) crossed that a grain-free diet is the solution to Sammi's problem.

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