Excessive Bacteria in the Small Intestine Average Cost

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What is Excessive Bacteria in the Small Intestine?

If a cat is experiencing signs of gastrointestinal distress, a veterinarian should be consulted. There are many possible causes and proper diagnosis is needed to determine the correct course of action. With the right treatment, prognosis for SIBO is excellent and the condition usually clears up within a few days to a few weeks.

The upper part of the small intestine is responsible for food digestion. A certain number of bacteria must be present in the intestines in order for the system to function properly. When the bacteria feeds on undigested food material, it begins to thrive and can multiply to problematic levels. This condition, known as small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO), causes loose stools and rapid weight loss. If left untreated, toxins caused by excess bacteria can severely damage intestinal cells, causing permanent digestive disorders and food intolerances. 

Symptoms of Excessive Bacteria in the Small Intestine in Cats

Cats with excessive bacteria in the small intestine are likely to experience one or more of the following symptoms:

  • Loose stools
  • Rapid weight loss
  • Loss of appetite
  • Voracious appetite
  • Stunted growth
  • Diarrhea
  • Foul-Smelling Feces
  • Vomiting
  • Gas
  • Gurgling in intestinal tract

Causes of Excessive Bacteria in the Small Intestine in Cats

There are several possible causes the accumulation of excess bacteria in the small intestine of cats: 

  • Low thyroid levels
  • Insufficient enzyme production by pancreas
  • Insufficient levels of hydrochloric acid in stomach
  • Intestinal disease
  • Overeating
  • Eating poor quality food
  • Malnutrition
  • Immunodeficiency
  • Partial obstruction

In some cases, the cause of SIBO cannot be determined. This condition is also known as idiopathic antibiotic-resistant diarrhea. It is more common in younger cats and often resolves itself as the animal ages, presumably due to the development of the immune system.

Diagnosis of Excessive Bacteria in the Small Intestine in Cats

Symptoms of SIBO are similar to those caused by a variety of other conditions, making it difficult to reach a definitive diagnosis. The veterinarian will want to review the cat’s full medical history and discuss its current diet. It will be helpful if you are able to provide a detailed description of the specific symptoms and any past problems. A complete physical exam will be completed and blood work will often be ordered to rule out other potential causes. A series of fecal tests will often be necessary. If the vet feels that he or she need visual aids, an x-ray or ultrasound may be ordered. An endoscopy is typically only used in extreme cases as the procedure is highly invasive and requires anesthesia.

Treatment of Excessive Bacteria in the Small Intestine in Cats

Hospitalization is not typically required for treatment of SIBO. In the absence of a more severe underlying cause, a fast and full recovery is expected.


The first line of treatment is usually a prescription for antibiotics or antimicrobials to control the growth of bacteria in the small intestine. Symptoms typically subside within a week, but treatment may be continued for several weeks to ensure that bacterial growth has slowed to normal levels. With long-term or chronic antibiotic use, there is a concern regarding the development of antibiotic resistance or the possibility of liver damage. Owners may wish to discuss this with their veterinarian.

Probiotics such as acidophilus and lactobacillus and prebiotics like fructo-oligosaccharides (FOS) are often recommended to encourage the growth of beneficial bacteria to help restore normal function in the small intestine. If the cat is suffering from long bouts of diarrhea, dehydration and electrolyte imbalance are serious concerns. Vets and owners will need to closely monitor affected cats and additional medication may be administered to treat the condition.

Diet Changes

Your veterinarian is likely to recommend that you make changes to your cat’s diet to aid in healing. Foods that are highly digestible and low in fiber tend to work best for affected cats. Owners should closely follow veterinarian recommendations and changes should not be made without prior consultation.

Treatment of Underlying Conditions

If it is determined that SIBO is caused by a pancreatic inefficiency, enzyme replacements should be added to the food. This is often necessary for the remainder of the animal’s life. Vitamin supplements are often necessary to correct deficiencies that may develop as a result of pancreatic conditions. Vitamin K plays an important role in blood clotting and a shortage can cause bleeding problems. Vitamin B12 deficiency must also be corrected in order for animals to properly respond to treatment and survive. Owners should always consult a veterinarian before administering supplements or any other medications.

Recovery of Excessive Bacteria in the Small Intestine in Cats

Regular veterinary check-ups will be needed to ensure proper recovery. Protein and B12 levels should be regularly monitored and the cat’s behavior should be observed closely. Owners and vets should both weigh the cat regularly and take steps to ensure that it remains hydrated and properly nourished.

Excessive Bacteria in the Small Intestine Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals

American Shorthair
14 Years
Moderate condition
0 found helpful
Moderate condition

Has Symptoms

Loose Bowel Movements

Seeking a second opinion if possible
My vet wants me to give my 14 year old male cat 1/4 tablet twice a day of Metronidazole

Will this kill my cat -
also he has bitten me twice trying to administer oral meds
I have a pilling device from the vet but he still manages to get me
Any suggestions.

Thank you

Dr. Michele King, DVM
Dr. Michele King, DVM
1610 Recommendations
Thank you for your email. If your veterinarian has prescribed Metronidazole for an intestinal bacterial overgrowth, that is a very appropriate medication, and a very commonly used medication. If giving pills is challenging, which it often if in cats, Metronidazole can be compounded into a flavored liquid. You just need to ask your veterinarian to have this done. I hope that he does well!

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13 Weeks
Mild condition
0 found helpful
Mild condition

Has Symptoms

Loose Bowel Movements

A kitten i took in recently started having light drown loose stool issues. She has been pooping in her sleep or while relaxing. She still has the same appetite. She's been drinking fluids. She's sleeping more often but is still very active and playful most days. I bought an antidiarrheal medication. It has helped with the swollenness around her back side but her stools still loose. It has been 3 days, is this an emergency?

Dr. Michele King, DVM
Dr. Michele King, DVM
1610 Recommendations
Thank you for your email. Kittens are commonly affected by parasites and infectious disease. Some of the causes for loose stools need to be treated with prescription medication, and it would be a good idea to have her examined by a veterinarian to make sure that she is healthy otherwise, do any necessary testing, and get appropriate treatment for her. If she is generally healthy otherwise, it does not seem to be an emergency, but it can't be comfortable, and getting her in as soon as possible is probably a good idea. I hope that everything goes well for her.

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Maine Coon
14 Years
Critical condition
0 found helpful
Critical condition

Has Symptoms

Weight Loss

My 14 year old cat was diagnosed with SIBO secondary to EPI. He's had a good deal of weight loss, with voracious appetite. The vet put him on Flagyl 30mg BID and pancreatic enzymes QD. The Flagyl has ruined his appetite to the point wear I now have to give him Mirtazipine for an appetite stimulant. He has never had diarrhea. His stools have been formed, tan-colored, and somewhat hard. Is it possible to have SIBO with normal stools?

Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
3319 Recommendations
Diarrhoea is usually the main symptom of small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO), but in some cases the only symptom may be weight loss. I cannot say whether or not Tigger has SIBO or not but it is not uncommon in dogs with endocrine pancreatic insufficiency. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

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