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Cats Inflammatory Bowel Disease







What is inflammatory bowel disease?

Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) is a chronic disease of the intestinal tract. Occasionally, the stomach is involved. Most affected cats have a history of recurrent or chronic vomiting and/or diarrhea or smelly, soft stool. During periods of vomiting or diarrhea, the cat may lose weight but is generally normal in other ways. As a rule, most affected cats eat well (or even have an increased appetite) and appear normal.


What causes this disease?

The cause of IBD is poorly understood. In fact, it appears that there may be several causes. Whatever the causes, the end result is that the lining of the intestine is invaded by inflammatory cells. An allergic-type response is then set in place within the bowel lining. This interferes with the ability of the cat to digest and absorb nutrients.


In most instances, an underlying cause cannot be identified: dietary components may play a role initiating the disease; bacterial proteins may be involved in other cases.


How is IBD diagnosed?

There are two ways to diagnose IBD. The first method is a biopsy of the affected part of the stomach or intestine. The preferred technique is to use a flexible endoscope that allows access to the lining of the stomach, small intestine, and colon. If the site of inflammation involves any of these locations, a confirmed diagnosis is achieved. Sometimes, the small intestine may be difficult to enter because of the cat's small size; in these cases, a surgical biopsy may be needed. Fortunately, this is rarely necessary.


The second method of diagnosis is a therapeutic trial involving administration of particular drugs, along with certain dietary changes. Since not all cats respond to the same drugs, the trial may involve a series of drugs and may take several weeks. Also, different diets may be tried, depending on which part of the bowel appears most involved. These diets include hypoallergenic, low residue, or high fiber foods.


The cat is monitored during the therapeutic trial for a decrease in clinical signs and, in some cases, weight gain.


Is IBD treatable?

When a diagnosis of IBD is made, the cat is placed on a hypoallergenic, low residue, or high fiber diet for 8 weeks or more. This helps to identify the contribution of dietary components to the problem. Although diet is not a common cause of the disease, it is an inexpensive and effective way to treat IBD if an acceptable food is found.


If the dietary trial does not offer any improvement, medication is used to control (not cure) the problem. Since not all cats respond to the same medication, a series of drug trials may be necessary.


What is the prognosis?

Once the appropriate drugs or diet are determined, many cats are maintained on these for life, although dosages of the drugs may have to be changed. Occasionally, a cat will be able to stop drug therapy at some point.


Most cats do well for many years; others require alterations in therapy every few months. Unfortunately, a few cats will ultimately become totally resistant to treatment.


Note: Many people confuse Inflammatory Bowel Disease with Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), a stress-related diarrhea problem. Treatment for IBS is aimed at stress; it is a completely different condition from IBD.