What is Stomach and Intestinal Inflammation?
Inflammatory bowel disease occurs when inflammatory cells, usually lymphocytes and plasmacytes in cats, infiltrate the wall of the stomach and/or intestines. These cells cause chronic inflammation within the digestive system, which results in difficulties digesting food, absorbing nutrients, and passing waste. It is important to schedule an appointment with your veterinarian if you see signs of IBD, as your cat is likely in great discomfort and possibly lacking in important nutrients.
Stomach and intestinal inflammation, also referred to as inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), is a designation given to a number of gastrointestinal disorders that can occur in cats as well as human beings and other animals. The name of the condition is actually a misnomer as IBD is not a disease but rather a syndrome that is often a symptom of another underlying condition, which may or may not be diagnosable. Common conditions that cause IBD are food allergies, intestinal parasites, and bacterial infections. If the underlying condition is known, that condition will need to be treated while the IBD is treated as well.
Symptoms of Stomach and Intestinal Inflammation in Cats
Understandably, the most common symptoms of inflammatory bowel disease are connected to patterns in eating and passing solid waste. If you observe any of these symptoms it is wise to call your veterinarian as these symptoms are not only indicative of IBD, but can also be signs of many other feline health conditions such as intestinal parasites and even cancer.
- Vomiting, sometimes after every meal
- Weight loss
- Straining to pass solid waste
- Blood in stool
- Mucous in feces
- Extreme hunger
Causes of Stomach and Intestinal Inflammation in Cats
The most common causes of Inflammatory Bowel Disease are inflammatory red blood cells called lymphocytes and antibodies called plasmacytes that are deployed by the body to the stomach and intestines to fight an infection. Other inflammatory cells that are sometimes present in the digestive system of a cat that is suffering from IBD are eosinophils and neutrophils. Additional factors may include one or more of the following:
- Food allergy
- Mental distress caused by a dangerous or stressful environment or traumatic experience
- Bacterial infection
- Age may be a contributing factor, as cats older than 5 years old tend to be more susceptible to IBD than younger cats.
Diagnosis of Stomach and Intestinal Inflammation in Cats
Diagnosis of inflammatory bowel disease can be quite difficult as it involves diagnosing both the IBD and the underlying condition that has caused the IBD. This is complicated by the fact that the most commonly presented symptoms—diarrhea and vomiting—are common symptoms of dozens of diseases that commonly occur in cats. In order to determine if your cat is suffering from IBD and, if so, what kind of IBD is present your veterinarian will likely utilize some of the following diagnostic tools:
- Blood test
- Fecal sample
- Abdominal x-rays
- Abdominal sonogram, also called ultrasound
- Tests for food allergies
- Biopsy of tissue of the stomach or intestines, which is the most definitive way to diagnose IBD
- Exploratory surgery
Treatment of Stomach and Intestinal Inflammation in Cats
The most effective way of treating stomach and intestinal inflammation is to treat the underlying condition that is causing the IBD. If that cause cannot be determined and, often while a diagnosed underlying condition is being treated, your veterinarian will likely prescribe one or more of the following treatments for IBD:
- Change in diet, which often requires trial-and-error attempts at introducing different foods that may not contain whatever ingredient your cat may be allergic to in its normal food.
- Corticosteroids, which are powerful anti-inflammatories.
- Antibiotics if it is determined or suspected that the IBD is the result of bacterial infection
Recovery of Stomach and Intestinal Inflammation in Cats
Recovery is generally dependent on two factors—whether the underlying causes of Inflammatory Bowel Disease can be determined and subsequently treated and whether your cat responds positively to the treatments for inflammation such as a change in diet, corticosteroids, and antibiotics. Even if a cat can be treated effectively, there may be times throughout the cat’s life when they have flare-ups of IBD for no apparent reason. In this case you should contact your veterinarian for guidance as to whether or not you should be concerned. Many cats with IBD go on to live long normal lives, albeit on an altered diet and possibly on medication during occasional episodes.