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
- Foul-Smelling Feces
- 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
- Eating poor quality food
- 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.
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
Hello! Our cat is almost 8 and has a history of chronic vomiting that a previous vet suspected from gobbling food. It has increased over time to once every 3 days. When it would be vomiting more then once in an episode or if he wasn’t eating great (for a day or two), we would take him in to rule out an obstruction. He has had them twice in his stomach (surgery once and endoscopy once). We are very vigilant, but he sometimes finds something random to eat. For the obstructions, it was mostly hair and a bit of plastic bag once and a pony tail with hair the second time. He also is usually somewhat constipated at that time when we take him in to be evaluated for vomiting with gas shown in his intestines on the X-rays. He was also constipated when he had he last obstruction that he was scoped for.
Our vet is currently suspecting SIBO or IBD for our cat. At this point, he is just recommending a diet change with a follow up in 6 weeks to see if he has improved. We currently have him on Royal Canin urinary + hydrolyzed protein diet that he was just switched fully to last week from the SO diet. He previously had repeated urinary obstructions over the course of a week which resulted in a PU. (He did not have crystals but ‘sludge’. Or if there were crystals they were low.) He had regular bloodwork done a month ago along with xrays when we took him in to rule out a GI obstruction that showed slightly low neutrophils and slightly high bicarbonate. The vet gave him the Cerenia shot (with the idea to work him up for IBD when he feels better) and fluids. He was better and vomited once per week for two weeks and then started the every 3 days again. We took him back for bloodwork that showed a TLI number of 11 (slightly low he said - normal range 12-82), Cobalamin on higher end of normal at 1251 (normal range 276-1425), and Folate level of 21.5 (which he said was slightly high Normal range 8.9-19.9). He maintains weight or gains up to this point (though since the diet change and removing the wet food he could have before, I’m suspecting he may be losing a little in this transition). He does not have diarrhea generally (has had loose/soft stool maybe once or twice over the last year - more around after he had the PU). He has also always been gassy and does this ‘burp’ thing after he eats or drinks most of the time.
The vet is suspecting SIBO or IBD with the recommendation of punch biopsies if he doesn’t improve with the diet change. I am not keen on surgery if we don’t have to because of all the procedures he has already had. If he needs it, we certainly will. I am afraid to do it if it’s not necessary. Especially with his crafty ability to find things to eat that he shouldn’t despite our crazy best efforts, I am concerned that there may be a future procedure for that.
Does this seem to line up with SIBO or IBD or lymphoma? Are biopsies the only option for the next step? Should we take him to an Internal Medicine vet for a second opinion or treatment? I am concerned because our vet has said that their scope is bad for endoscopies and that he referenced journal articles when he saw the results. He is the sweetest cat and I want to make sure we are doing the right thing at the right place. We are new to the area, so we feel lost on where to take him. I will say that I really like our vet. He has been great. I just don’t know if he needs to be seen by someone with more knowledge based on his responses to me.
So sorry for the loooong post! I wanted to give as much detail on his history as possible. He has been through so much and we want to do the right thing. It is so hard to find information or know if we are doing the right thing. Thank you in advance!!
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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?
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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?
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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
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