Feline IBD: Irritable Bowel Disease in Cats

Feline IBD, also recognized as irritable bowel disease, is a condition which affects the gastrointestinal tract of your cat. Irritable Bowel Syndrome is similar to an allergic reaction, except that it occurs in the intestines. When your cat eats foods that irritate the gastrointestinal tract, his gastrointestinal system starts to show symptoms of dislike. IBD is a basic term for gastrointestinal upset. Unfortunately, because the symptoms of IBD are somewhat similar to other conditions, it can sometimes be difficult to diagnose.

Causes of Feline IBD

In the majority of cases, feline irritable bowel disease is caused by irritants in the food that your cat eats. If your cat is on a low quality generic diet, there is the chance that the toxins or byproducts in his food will upset his stomach. Food is to blame in one half of all diagnosed cases of irritable bowel disease. 

However, irritable bowel disease can also be caused by inflammatory cells in the intestinal tract. Inflammatory cells rise up in response to parasites, injury or infection. Cancer can likewise cause the immune system to react and allow inflammatory cells in the intestinal tract in response.

Symptoms of Feline IBD

Symptoms of feline irritable bowel disease can be similar to other ailments. However, if you see any of the following changes in your cat, you may begin to suspect IBD as the culprit:

  • Consistent vomiting
  • Consistent diarrhea
  • Loss of weight with an increase appetite
  • Abdominal pain
  • Blood in the stool
  • Vomiting blood

It is suspected that roughly half of all cats diagnosed with irritable bowel disease experience vomiting and diarrhea. If you see those symptoms in your cat on a daily basis, it should be cause for medical evaluation.

Diagnosis of Feline IBD

In order to diagnose feline irritable bowel disease, conditions appearing in similarity by symptoms will need to be ruled out. A fecal sample will be used to check for the presence of parasites and worms. A blood test may be used to check metabolic function, because the ailments of metabolic dysfunction produce similar symptoms. Because both feline leukemia and feline immunodeficiency have been linked to irritable bowel disease, testing for those conditions may be warranted, as well.

Treatment and Prognosis of Feline IBD

Unless the condition appears to be extremely severe, usually the only treatment required is dietary change. Your cat will need a food that is more easily digestible and one that is made specifically for cats with gastrointestinal problems. Because there is no cure for irritable bowel disease, it is likely that your cat will need to remain on a digestion-friendly diet indefinitely. Here are some of the foods you may consider putting your cat on as a form of treatment for IBD:

  • Hill's Prescription Diet z/d
  • Hill's Prescription Diet i/d
  • Iams Response LB/Feline Canned Formula
  • Royal Canin Intestinal

Treatment can also consist of antibiotic usage if the cause of upset is suspected to be due to bacteria. Likewise, if there is an inflammation of the intestines due to IBD, corticosteroids may also be used to help reduce the inflammation and return the intestinal tract to a normal condition.