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by Casie Bazay

Understanding inflammatory bowel disease in cats

Understanding inflammatory bowel disease in cats

Unfortunately, Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) isn’t just limited to humans; cats, as well as other animals, can suffer from this painful condition as well. Chronic irritation caused by IBD triggers inflammatory cells which invade the wall of the stomach and/or intestines, so knowing how to recognize the clinical signs of IBD in cats, as well as how to treat the condition, is important for any cat owner.

Causes of IBD in cats

Feline inflammatory bowel disease is most common in middle-aged cats, usually between 5-12 years of age. There are multiple causes of the condition, including, but not limited to, bacterial infection, parasitic infection, ingestion of toxins, systemic illness, or an allergy/intolerance to a specific protein in the diet. 

Depending on what part of the cat’s gastrointestinal tract is affected, the disease can go by different names. For example, if the stomach is involved, it’s referred to as gastritis; if the small intestine is inflamed, it’s called enteritis; if it’s the colon that’s affected, the condition is called colitis. 

However, the most common form of IBD, lymphocytic plasmacytic enteritis, involves inflammatory cells that have invaded the small intestine. 

Symptoms of IBD in cats 

If IBD affects a cat’s stomach, they will likely experience chronic vomiting. However, if the intestines are involved, chronic diarrhea will be present, and some cats have the unfortunate experience of having both parts of the digestive tract affected by IBD, and therefore, will have both symptoms simultaneously.

If IBD has been ongoing for several months, cats may experience weight loss and a decreased appetite, but, in some cases, a cat can develop a ravenous appetite when they are unable to absorb nutrients from the food they are eating. Another symptom of IBD in cats is vomiting hairballs more than once per month.

Feline IBD is diagnosed via several methods, including fecal examination, blood tests, and often imaging of the intestines. Ultrasound can be used to measure the thickness of the stomach and intestinal lining. Since there are multiple types of IBD, your veterinarian may want to take a tissue biopsy as well, but this will require anesthesia as it is a surgical procedure.

Treatment for cats with IBD 

Aside from deworming, the first step in treating GI tract inflammation is often through a change in diet. Though IBD isn’t always caused by food allergies, certain proteins often trigger inflammation in the cat digestive system and prevent healing. Therefore, hypoallergenic pet foods are often beneficial, as is eliminating treats and table foods. It may take several weeks to see a difference in your cat’s symptoms, but if a hypoallergenic diet doesn’t help, a low-fat, high-fiber diet should be your next step. 

Adding therapeutic probiotics such as Daily Cat can also help to control feline IBD symptoms. This unique formula was developed by veterinarians and a world-renowned animal nutritionist at Texas A&M University and contains a specific yeast strain of probiotic (S. boulardii for cats), along with prebiotics, enzymes, and L-glutamine, all which help to support the immune system, improve nutrient digestibility and strengthen the natural bacterial populations in the cat’s gut microbiome. 

In some extreme cases, if dietary changes and probiotic supplementation don’t relieve feline IBD symptoms, your veterinarian may prescribe corticosteroids and possibly immunosuppressant drugs, but, as always, using natural treatments first can save your cat from potentially harmful side effects due to medications. 

Check out our natural anti-inflammatory cat probiotic today to support your cat’s long-term gut health!

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