What is Inflammatory Bowel Disease?
Cats with this disease exhibit a chronic infiltration of inflamed cells in the intestine. This infiltration invades the walls of the gastrointestinal tract, causing them to thicken and disrupting the intestine's normal functioning. When inflammation continues over a long period of time, normal tissue is sometimes placed by a very fibrous scar tissue.
In addition, chronic indigestion has long-term effects on your cat's immune system, the bulk of which is located in the GI tract. If inflammatory bowel disease continues, your cat's ability to absorb necessary nutrients from his food will be compromised. IBD can also lead to lymphoma of the intestinal tract.
There are many suspected causes of inflammatory bowel disease, including genetic factors, food allergies, and sensitivity to bacteria. While there is presently no specific cure for IBD, there are several treatment protocols that can be used very effectively in giving your cat a long and happy life.
Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) is a common gastrointestinal condition in cats and humans alike for which no single cause has been found. It affects many cats, however Siamese cats and cats of middle age and old age are particularly susceptible to this condition.
Symptoms of Inflammatory Bowel Disease in Cats
While there are common symptoms that your cat might exhibit when they have developed inflammatory bowel disease, signs might not be apparent at first. Cats often hide their symptoms and then exhibit sudden weight loss because of a significant buildup of scar tissue in the intestinal tract. Another important thing to note is that symptoms of IBD are typically cyclical in cats. They might exhibit vomiting and diarrhea for a few days, then be symptom-free for a few weeks, and then have a recurrence. Some of the more common symptoms are:
- Weight loss
- More frequent defecation
- Blood in the stool
- Cat stops using litter box
- Appetite fluctuation from ravenous to no appetite
- Ravenous eating without weight gain
- Thickened intestines
Causes of Inflammatory Bowel Disease in Cats
A single cause of inflammatory bowel disease is “idiopathic” or unknown. However, there is a variety of possible causes including:
- Extreme sensitivity to bacteria
- Food allergies
- Genetic factors
- Abnormalities in the immune system
- A response to elevated stress
- Intestinal parasites
- Chronic infection
Diagnosis of Inflammatory Bowel Disease in Cats
Making a diagnosis of IBD requires an extensive examination and combination of tests because the symptoms of IBD are common to many feline conditions. Your vet will likely recommend a full blood panel, a urinalysis, and a fecal examination. In addition, an ultrasound or an x-ray can help point out whether the intestinal walls have significantly thickened.
The most definitive diagnostic tool for IBD is biopsy. Either an endoscopic biopsy (a non-invasive camera sent into the cat's intestinal tract) or a full thickness biopsy, under anesthesia, can be performed. Tissue samples are collected which show the types of inflammatory cells present in the intestinal wall.
Treatment of Inflammatory Bowel Disease in Cats
There are several treatment options for IBD depending on the symptoms exhibited by your cat. Often several milder treatment protocols are chosen before moving to a more aggressive treatment. The most common protocols involve a combination of dietary change plus use of medication.
Since food allergies are a common cause of IBD, your cat might be placed on a hypoallergenic diet such as a novel protein diet or a grain-free diet. This first type of diet will include a protein source that your cat has not eaten before such as venison or duck. Many cats with IBD respond well to a grain-free diet.
Many vets also prescribe a high-quality pet probiotic to help the cat heal the gut and build up a healthy colony of gut bacteria (the intestine's first line of defense against foreign invaders, parasites, and toxins). Other therapies include B vitamin supplements and fatty acid supplements, both shown to reduce inflammation of the bowel.
Various immunosuppressants are often prescribed because they reduce the number of inflammatory cells. For most cats, especially extreme cases, steroids are highly effective in suppressing the immune system and reducing the symptoms. Medication may be administered orally, or if your cat has severe vomiting, by injection. Antibiotics are often prescribed to fight bacteria which are potential causes of the IBD.
Recovery of Inflammatory Bowel Disease in Cats
Inflammatory bowel disease can be effectively treated and controlled so that your cat can continue a healthy life. Proper management of medication and diet, close monitoring of symptoms, and regular check ups at the vet are essential for a good outcome. Supplements to counteract nutritional deficiencies and rehydrating fluid therapy can greatly help resolve symptoms. The symptoms will wax and wane, but in partnership with your veterinarian, relapses can be assessed and adjustments in the treatment protocol.
Inflammatory Bowel Disease Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals
I have a senior cat, 16 yrs. old who was obese that has become lethargic, and had stopped eating and pooping. He urinates fine but I am at this time taking him to the box. After lots of blood work, a night in the ER Cat hospital for additional blood work & fluids there was nothing other than the Albumin slightly off. He had seemed to stop "pooping" as well (no food) and I noticed him struggling to go and nothing, He has not once stopped drinking water. He drinks a ton and always has. My vet just knew it was diabetes, thyroid or something but again... The tests were all negative. Moving forward, I brought him home, got him checked again by my vet and we decided perhaps we'd treat the treatable and I would not put him through ultra scan or biopsy but my vet thought maybe IBD. I opted for an injection of Prednisolone instead of pills at this time because he is NOT eating and not well . I didn't want to fight him with swallowing pills. We can use pills later if he feels better. The last thing the vet noticed was a little jaundice in his mouth that was not there two weeks ago. I was overwhelmed with emotion and not sure if he talked about the jaundice much. I might mention my cat had weighed 20 lbs plus and now is at 14.7 and I believe it came off within the last 7 months. This morning, not quite 24 hours after injection he seems to have had a better appetite, a little better licking gravy from food. I've tried every food imaginable . He also has some more energy. Can you help with your opinion after reading my story. I am so scared he hasn't pooped almost 4 days.
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How do I know that I should take my cat to get tested if it's so expensive?
I would recommend you visit your Veterinarian since Tyler has jaundice which maybe indicative of destruction of red blood cells, infection, parasites, liver disease or bile duct obstruction; also, if Tyler isn’t drinking he may need to be put on an intravenous drip to maintain hydration levels, he may also require oxygen therapy if the level of red blood cells get too low. Tyler will need a minimum of blood tests and possibly x-rays too. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM
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