A closer look: Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) in Cats
Symptoms of IBD vary in accordance with which part of the GI tract is inflamed. Inflammation of the stomach and/or the first part of the small intestine causes chronic vomiting, whereas inflammation of the colon causes diarrhea and blood in the stools.
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IBD is among the most common causes of chronic vomiting and diarrhea in cats. It is not life-threatening, but can cause debilitating symptoms. It is more common in middle-aged to geriatric cats, but it can affect younger cats as well.
IBD has no known cause, but dietary and immune-mediated factors as well as the impact of these on the gut microbiome are suspected to play a role.
Testing and diagnosis
Diagnosing IBD is challenging as symptoms of IBD are common to a number of different conditions.
Typical diagnostics include:
- Blood tests
- Diagnostic imaging
- Endoscopic biopsy
- Surgical biopsy
- Fecal test: to rule out parasite infection
Steps to Recovery
Treatment of IBD is generally systematic, based on a trial and error approach to resolve or improve symptoms. The success of treatment usually falls into one of the following categories:
- Food responsive
- Antimicrobial responsive
- Steroid responsive
Food-responsive IBS typically includes use of a hypoallergenic or hydrolyzed diet.
If food therapy is unsuccessful, a typical next step is an antimicrobial trial, which is generally outlined as:
- Two-week antibiotic treatment: if the animal responds positively, treatment is continued for one month
- 3-5 day trial with the anthelmintic medication fenbendazole
If the antibiotic trial is successful, the cat may need lifelong antimicrobial treatment.
If the animal’s symptoms do not improve, the next step is the suppression of the immune system with corticosteroids.
Stem cells and fecal transplantation therapy are being investigated as treatment options for IBD.
Cats with chronic vomiting and diarrhea tend to develop cobalamin deficiency, so Vitamin B supplementation is often helpful. Prebiotics and probiotics may provide additional support for healthy gut flora. IBD often is a lifelong condition. With proper treatment, the animal can lead a healthy life.
Even with proper treatment, symptoms of IBD can return periodically. A cat diagnosed with IBD needs frequent life-long monitoring.
IBD is not contagious. There is no way to prevent IBD. Keeping up to date to date with vaccinations and annual veterinary check-ups can help identify conditions in their early stages, increasing the animal’s general health condition.
Is Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) in Cats common?
IBD is the most common cause of chronic diarrhea and vomiting in cats.
- Hypoallergenic diets
- Hydrolyzed protein diets
- Antibiotic therapeutic trials
- Steroid therapeutic trials
Symptomatic and supportive therapy
- Vitamin supplementation