IBD in Cats
When chronic irritation and inflammation occur in your cat's gastrointestinal (GI) tract, it can lead to the development of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). IBD in cats is a multifactorial condition and does not have a singular cause. Instead, it is believed to arise from a complex interplay between abnormal immune system responses, intestinal bacterial populations, diet, and various environmental factors.
This inflammation causes thickening of the GI tract walls, which disrupts your cat's ability to effectively digest and absorb food. Diagnosing and treating IBD in cats can be a time-consuming process. However, with dietary modifications, medication, and other appropriate treatments, your feline companion can experience an improved and sustained quality of life.
Risk Factors for Cats With IBD
Genetic abnormalities in a cat’s immune system may be a factor in the development of IBD. The disease is common in middle-aged cats, although cats of any age can be impacted by IBD.
A number of factors typically contribute to IBD developing in cats. Cat's risk factors may include:
- Hypersensitivity to bacteria
- Genetic factors
- Food allergies (such as food additives, proteins in meat, preservatives, artificial coloring, gluten, and/or dairy proteins)
Symptoms of IBD in Cats
Symptoms of inflammatory Bowel Disease in cats are similar to other illnesses. The most common symptoms of IBD can mimic those of intestinal lymphoma, which is a type of cancer seen in cats. You may notice a number of symptoms in your cat that vary in severity and frequency. The types of symptoms your cat gets depends on the part of the GI tract that is affected.
For example, if your kitty's colon is inflamed, diarrhea with or without blood in the stool is likely. However, if your cat's problem is in the stomach or higher areas of their small intestine, chronic vomiting may be your cat's most noticeable symptom.
If your cat is suffering from IBD you may notice one or more of the following symptoms:
- Gas (flatulence)
- Gurgling sounds from abdomen
- Abdominal pain
- Coat in poor condition
- Lack of appetite
- Unexplained weight loss
- Chronic or intermittent vomiting
- Bright red blood in stool
- Lack of energy
Diagnosing IBD in Your Cat
Our Fayetteville vets have a number of diagnostic tests and methods that can be used to diagnose IBD in your cat. Your veterinarian will start by taking a detailed medical history of your cat and asking questions about the frequency and duration of your cat's IBD symptoms.
After a complete physical examination, if IBD is suspected, routine laboratory tests may be completed in order to help diagnose the cause of your cat's symptoms. Your kitty's tests may include:
- Complete blood count
- Fecal Exam
- Biochemistry profile
These tests cannot guarantee the diagnosis of IBD. However, they are useful in ruling out other diseases including elevated thyroid, liver disease and kidney disease. It is important to remember that these routine laboratory tests may come back normal even if your cat does have IBD. Some cats with IBD may have an abnormally high number of white blood cells, along with anemia, or abnormal levels of liver enzymes and protein levels. Multiple tests may be required in order to find out how well your cat’s small intestine is functioning.
An abdominal ultrasound can be recommended to help your vet rule out other diseases not revealed with blood work like cancer or pancreatitis. Ultrasound imaging can also help vets examine the stomach and find out how thick the intestinal wall is.
The only way to definitively diagnose your cat's IBD and determine the extent of the disease is to take a biopsy. Stomach and intestine biopsies can be performed with surgery or endoscopy. Following a definitive diagnosis of IBD your vet will create a customized treatment plan to help reduce your kitty's symptoms and manage their condition long-term.
Treatment for IBD in Cats
If your cat has not recently been treated for intestinal parasites, your vet may recommend this along with changes in diet and introduction of medications. No single treatment is best for treating this IBD in cats. This means that you may need to try several different combinations of medication and diet to find the best therapy for your cat.
Your Cat's Diet
If your cat has an issue with allergens, a hypoallergenic diet may help to resolve your cat's IBD symptoms. Protein or carbohydrate sources & novel protein diets, including venison, rabbit or duck-based diets may be recommended.
If a novel protein diet does not reduce your cat's symptoms of IBD, a diet of low-fat, easily digestible, high-fiber foods may be recommended next. Be patient with dietary changes as it can take several weeks or longer for symptoms to begin clearing up. In order for the diet to be successful, all other food sources, including treats, flavored medications and table scraps should be removed from their diet.
Your Cat's Medications
Along with dietary changes, medications may be required to help calm symptoms. Metronidazole has antibiotic & anti-inflammatory properties which can help relieve your cat's symptoms.
Corticosteroids, potent anti-inflammatory and immune-suppressing agents, may be recommended if diet changes or metronidazole is ineffective for your kitty.
While corticosteroids are usually well-tolerated, it's important to monitor them closely as immune suppression and diabetes can be potential side effects. The next options include more potent immunosuppressive drugs such as chlorambucil or azathioprine. These can suppress the production of red and white blood cells and sometimes, platelets within the bone marrow.
Therapy for Cats With IBD
Substances that promote certain bacterial populations and bacterial strains that promote GI health may help balance your cat's GI bacteria. These prebiotics and probiotics can also reduce your cat's symptoms of IBD.
Fiber such as psyllium may also be added to your cat’s diet if inflammatory colitis is an issue. Folate or vitamin B12 may be recommended by your vet if your kitty is deficient in these.
Life-Expectancy for Cats With IBD
Remember, there is no cure for IBD in cats, but, with the right treatment, symptoms can often be managed to help keep your cat comfortable and healthy.
With proper management, your kitty's symptoms of IBD may come and go. Strict compliance with dietary measures and medications is necessary for managing your cat's symptoms. Diligent monitoring by you and your vet will be ongoing throughout your cat's lifetime.
When relapses occur your cat should be assessed by your vet as soon as possible so that medications and other treatments can be adjusted as required.
Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.