School of Veterinary Medicine, University of California-Davis, Davis, CA, USA
Diarrhea in kittens is a frequent malady facing veterinarians and managers of feline shelters and catteries; however, there is scant literature providing specific information on causes and management of this problem.
The objectives of this study were to determine the prevalence of fecal enteropathogens in weanling kittens and assess whether administration of Enterococcus faecium SF68 affected fecal quality.
One hundred thirty-five kittens 1–2 weeks of age were entered into the 6-week trial. Kittens were maintained on PetAg KMR® milk replacer for a 1-week acclimation period prior to randomization into groups of 2 or 3 for probiotic or placebo administration. Kittens were maintained on KMR® and treated for 2 weeks prior to weaning onto a commercial canned diet at week 4. Fresh feces from all kittens were scored daily for consistency (score 1 = liquid diarrhea; 2 = soft, unformed; 3 = soft, formed; 4 = normal). Feces were evaluated for enteropathogens via flotation, bacterial culture, toxin immunoassays, and PCR.
Eighty-one kittens completed the trial (placebo n = 36; probiotic n = 45). Enteropathogens detected included: Isospora felis (16.2%), Cryptosporidium spp. (8.2%), Clostridium difficile toxin A/B (27.3%), C. perfringens enterotoxin (2.6%), Salmonella (2.7%), panleukopenia (1.4%), and Coronavirus (6.8%). Median fecal consistency scores during weeks 4 and 5 were ≥ 3 in both groups, but were associated with significantly improved scores in the placebo versus probiotic group (p = 0.013).
Administration of the probiotic Enterococcus faecium SF68 to weanling kittens did not result in improved fecal scores prior to or during weaning.