Dietary Management of IBD in Cats

IBD, or inflammatory bowel disease, is a condition that often affects domesticated cats. Cats with IBD are characterized by an inflamed and swollen stomach or intestine. IBD is never a fatally serious condition, but it can cause discomfort and unpleasant symptoms in the affected cat.

Causes of IBD in Cats

Inflammatory bowel disease is caused when inflammatory cells are misplaced into the stomach or intestine. These cells are associated with inflammation, a function of the immune system designed to concentrate bodily fluids in one area to help fight off invasive pathogens. They inappropriately inflame the walls of the stomach and intestines when there are no threatening microbes in the area. The reason these inflammatory cells getting lodged in the stomach or intestine is unknown. Some veterinarians suspect a connection between IBD and genetics, nutrition, infections or abnormalities in the animal's immune system. Other veterinarians doubt that IBD is even a real disease, and assert that it is a natural bodily response to certain internal or environmental conditions.

Symptoms of Feline IBD

If the inflammation is in the stomach or upper small intestine, IBD can cause vomiting, while if the inflammation is in the colon, the condition can cause diarrhea. These symptoms are intermittent, and may not be present all the time. Cats that suffer from IBD will defecate more often than healthy cats, but excrete less each time. To see if your cat suffers from IBD, you can check for mucous and blood in its feces, as these are commonly excreted along with the stool in affected cats. In very severe cases, cats with IBD will suffer from significant loss of appetite, lethargy and depression, or high fever. Most of these symptoms are not present in every feline case of IBD, and some cats will exhibit no symptoms except for weight loss and blood in the stool.

Treatment of IBD Using Dietary Management

The first step in the dietary method of IBD treatment for cats is a hypoallergenic food trial, with a protein source and a carbohydrate source that the cat has never eaten before. The cat must eat these two foods exclusively for two or three months. If the animal's condition does not improve with the hypoallergenic diet, you should switch to another diet. If the IBD is mainly affecting the colon, high-fiber diets have been known to help. If the small intestine is affected, cats are more likely to benefit from a low-fiber, easily digestible, diet. Make your cat's diet low in fat, and if you give carbohydrates to the animal, make sure it is low in gluten. Diets rich in omega-3 fatty acids have also been shown to decrease intestinal inflammation.

Inflammatory bowel disease is not usually considered a serious health hazard for cats, but it is surely an uncomfortable condition. If you notice any of the symptoms of IBD in your cat, start it on a dietary treatment to relieve the animal of this discomfort.