Diagnosing Feline IBD: Irritable Bowel Disease in Cats

Feline IBD is a very common gastrointestinal problem in middle age and older cats. Irritable bowel disease occurs when there is an increase in the inflammatory cells found in the lining of the intestinal tract. There are several causes of feline IBD, and it often occurs due to a combination of reasons. Feline IBD can exist in different forms.

Forms of IBD

  • Lymphocytic-plasmacytic enterocolitis
  • Eosinophilic
  • Neutrophilic
  • Granulomatous

The forms of IBD usually describe the features of the disease. As IBD in cats needs to be treated promptly, watch for signs or symptoms in your pet. Cats may exhibit either one or all of the symptoms.

Symptoms of IBD

  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting
  • Weight Loss
  • Increased appetite
  • Increased thirst
  • Abdominal pain
  • Tarry stools
  • Defecating outside the litter box

The symptoms of feline IBD may be cyclical in nature. The cat could have bouts of symptoms and return to normal after a short period. To find out the true cause of the disease, diagnostic tests are mandatory.

Diagnostic Tests for Feline IBD

  • Complete blood cell count (blood test)
  • Serum thyroxine level
  • FeLV (feline leukemia virus)
  • FIV (feline immunodeficiency virus)
  • Stool examination
  • Serum biochemistry
  • Ultrasound
  • Radiographs or X-ray


Apart from these tests, the vet may conduct an intestinal biopsy. This test involves a microscopic examination of the lining of the intestine. The procedure can be done either during laparotomy or endoscopic examination. Although this test can determine the severity and features of IBD, it has to be conducted under anesthesia and requires specific equipment. The endoscope allows the vet to perform small biopsies without major surgery involved. It also allows the doctor to examine the stomach and intestines through a flexible tube that's inserted in the cat's stomach. This procedure is short and doesn't require hospitalization for the entire day.

Treatment of Feline IBD

The treatment of IBD is based on the findings of the diagnostic tests. Very often cats are allergic to certain food ingredients. The cat's diet has to be managed, along with medication for relief from IBD symptoms. There are several commercial food diets that benefit cats with IBD. The diet is generally a new protein source that the cat has never consumed before. Fiber is also an essential dietary requirement for pets suffering from IBD. It could take a few weeks to a month for pets to respond positively to the hypoallergenic diet.

Medication involves the use of corticosteroid therapy. Corticosteroids have anti-inflammatory properties. The medication is available as tablets and injections. The most common drug used to treat IBD is prednisone. Therapy continues for a period of nearly 3 months. The medicine is slowly reduced after the initial 3 month course. Antibiotic medication is prescribed if the cat doesn't respond positively to corticosteroid therapy.

Although IBD cannot be completely cured, it can be managed with medication and diet control. A relapse of IBD can occur if the drugs aren't administered for the specified amount of time.