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What is Irritable Bowel Syndrome?

Irritable bowel syndrome often causes pain and discomfort in affected cats. Prompt veterinary treatment is recommended so that the cat can maintain a good quality of life. With proper treatment, symptoms can be managed and the condition should not affect life expectancy.

Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a sensitivity of the lower bowels characterized by frequent urges to defecate, diarrhea or constipation, and cramping. The condition can be caused by stress, dietary intolerance, or a disruption in the bowel’s chemical functions. Irritable bowel syndrome is often confused with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). The difference is that IBS is a more acute inflammation, while IBD causes chronic signs.

Irritable Bowel Syndrome Average Cost

From 369 quotes ranging from $200 - $1,500

Average Cost

$650

Symptoms of Irritable Bowel Syndrome in Cats

The symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome in cats can range in frequency and severity and may include: 

  • Difficulty with defecation 
  • Chronic intermittent diarrhea
  • Frequent passing of feces 
  • Mucus or blood in the feces
  • Constipation
  • Abdominal pain
  • Changes in appetite
  • Nausea 
  • Gas
  • Bloating
  • Vomiting
  • Weight loss
  • Lethargy
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Causes of Irritable Bowel Syndrome in Cats

It is often difficult to pinpoint the exact cause of irritable bowel syndrome. The condition is primarily related to stress caused by factors such as a change in living situation or routine, the addition of new pets or children to the home, trauma, or lack of stimulation. Other causes may include:

  • Separation anxiety
  • Dietary intolerances
  • Lack of dietary fiber
  • Abnormal colon function
  • Neural dysfunction 
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Diagnosis of Irritable Bowel Syndrome in Cats

Prior to examination, the veterinarian will review the cat’s medical history and discuss details regarding the onset of symptoms. Owners should be prepared to provide the vet with information regarding changes in the cat’s personality, theories regarding other possible causes, and information regarding recent changes to the cat’s environment. A physical exam will be performed and a standard set of lab tests will likely be ordered to assess the cat’s overall health. This may include a complete blood count (CBC), biochemistry profile, urinalysis, fecal examination, and electrolyte panel. Negative test results may indicate the presence of IBS since there is rarely an underlying disorder. X-rays or ultrasounds may be ordered to help with visual diagnosis and intestinal tissue biopsies may be recommended. 

The symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome are similar to those of other conditions. Prior to making a definitive diagnosis, the vet will attempt to rule out other possible causes including inflammatory bowel disease, food allergies, feline leukemia, metabolic disease, bacterial or parasitic infections, or cancer. 

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Treatment of Irritable Bowel Syndrome in Cats

Unless the cat is severely dehydrated, outpatient treatment will likely be sufficient. There is no single treatment for irritable bowel syndrome, so the vet is likely to recommend a combination of therapies.

Dietary Changes

A hypoallergenic food trial may be recommended. This is done by feeding the cat a diet consisting of a protein and carbohydrate source that it has never previously consumed. Options may include duck, venison, or rabbit-based foods. Hydrolysed diets can also be trialled. During a food trial, the cat should not be fed any other substances including table-scraps, treats, or flavored medications. It usually takes several weeks or longer for improvements to be seen. After this time period, if the cat still continues to suffer from IBS, the diet may be changed again. Cats tend to respond well to diets that are easily digestible, high in fiber, and low in fat. Be sure to consult closely with the veterinarian throughout the process to ensure that the diet is appropriate for the cat’s breed, age, and level of activity.

Medical Treatment

Corticosteroids, primarily prednisolone, may be prescribed to treat inflammation. In some cases, antibiotics and/or immunosuppressive drugs will be prescribed. Each of these medications may cause side effects and close veterinary supervision will be necessary.

Veterinarians have recently had success in treating IBS with prebiotics and probiotics to help support the production and maintenance of the beneficial bacteria that aids in gastrointestinal health. 

Stress Management

If the cat is living in conditions that are causing undue amounts of stress, this will need to be addressed promptly. In some cases, anti-anxiety medication may be prescribed to help the cat deal with situations that cannot be otherwise resolved. Owners may also try using calming essential oil diffusers or sprays to help soothe the cat’s anxiety. Increasing the amount of human interaction and ensuring that plenty of toys are available will help to reduce stress and ensure that the cat is getting sufficient exercise.

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Recovery of Irritable Bowel Syndrome in Cats

Symptoms can be usually be controlled with stress reduction, dietary changes and medication. It will be necessary to maintain the recommended dietary restrictions and ensure that the environment remains as stress-free as possible. Relapse is likely, making regular follow-up appointments an important factor in long-term recovery.

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Irritable Bowel Syndrome Average Cost

From 369 quotes ranging from $200 - $1,500

Average Cost

$650

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Irritable Bowel Syndrome Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals

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Siggi

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Norwegian forest cat, Maine coon, ragdoll

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17 Weeks

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Moderate severity

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6 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Moderate severity

Has Symptoms

Diarrhea,
Behavioral Issues

My kitten is about 17 weeks old. She has been having intermittent diarrhea for about 3 weeks now. Our first thought was that it might be her food. Initially, she had been weaned onto some basic kibble from the grocery-with cheap fillers, etc and a similar brand of wet food. Soon after we got her, we noticed that she was producing wet stool. We then switched her to what seemed to be a higher-quality brand, but the diarrhea persisted and I noticed that it contained corn. Around this time, I also noticed that her “third eyelid” protrudes, and it seems that she has Haw syndrome. Our vet told us to switch the food to grain-free and see if it clears up. So, about a week and a half later, we switched her again to a “wilderness diet” kind of kibble that contains no fillers of any kind. We had gotten her a very natural wet food as well but recently (2 days ago) cut that out too in case it might be the problem. We dewormed her for precaution (and bc she never was desormed at 3 weeks) about 4 days ago. From what I can see, she hasn’t eliminated any worms and the diarrhea and constant grassiness have not yet abated. Her stool will be more solid during the day, then in the evening it will be a soft-serve-like consistency. Most recently, she has continued pooping in her box during the day, but at night, precisely at around 10 pm on the dot right before my husband leaves for work, she has started defecating the soft-serve stuff on the floor next to her box. It’s just so odd that it’s always just once a day at the same time each night. I should mention that she seems to be fine otherwise. She plays a lot, cuddles a lot, and seems to be in a good mood pretty much all the time. Any help with this mystery would be greatly appreciated!!

Sept. 4, 2018

Siggi's Owner

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Kungpao

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Siamese

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4 Years

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Moderate severity

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0 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Moderate severity

Has Symptoms

Diarreah,Pulling Out Fur

My precious adopted kitty has had chronic diarrhea since I brought him home he was 2 yrs.old he's now 4,I've taken him to vet several times,tried different diet suggestions,put through tests, and about $1000 later,diagnosed with IBD,we were givin prescription,including steroids ,he had a little blood in his stool,and outer anus red,painful &swollen,prescribed ointment for that,it cleared that up. He was also put on prescription diet,plant based dry food(I/Z for cats with food allergies,skin problems. Still suffers from very wet diarrhea and lately( he's never done before) been going under the dining table not pee, where its dark and "hidden"from us. He has always and is used to being an outdoor kitty, I've tried the lets make you inside only plan, he was miserable,so was I,he loves to climb trees and freedom, he Howell all day all night,24/7. I couldn't see him so sad and miserable,so gave in. I bought and tried really nice catio,so it's outside for him,but unable to do or go anywhere he wants so he's free to get into,eat anything he finds. He's an avid hunter too😫Always bringing home dead presents. I can't control that the way things are,(he refused and cried trapped in catio too) spent $600 on that,special expensive prescription food,which we can barely afford,and lastly,for about the past month,he's been pulling out chunks of his furr,I hear that's from stress,and will lay near me and meow ,nonstop,as if he's trying to tell me something,it has been suggested to take him back to best friends where I adopted him from,to being put down either one makes me sick and extremely sad and depressed,I just couldn't part from him. He's been like a service cat,I have seizure and have mental disorders,he is ALWAYS right by by side or on top of me,he cares so much a loves me so loyally, it's unreal. He has even saved my life once,literally,10 minutes from sure death. Nobody understands how much I love my kitty,he's my world,at the same time I want what's best for him,not be selfish .Can you please help,any suggestions? I would so appreciate anything you can give,kungpao will too. Thank you so very much!!!

July 28, 2018

Kungpao's Owner

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0 Recommendations

Conditions like this never have a simple one fits all solution, many times you spent your time trying to balance diet, environment and other factors to make the best living situation possible for them; I wish I could recommend a specific diet or other solution for the diarrhoea and pulling out fur but you really need to return to your Veterinarian to discuss the new symptoms and adjust as necessary. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

July 29, 2018

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Irritable Bowel Syndrome Average Cost

From 369 quotes ranging from $200 - $1,500

Average Cost

$650

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