The cause of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) in cats is unknown. It can be attributed to different factors like genes, infections, and abnormal immune system. Feline IBD is basically a gastrointestinal disorder in which the mucosa of the digestive tract gets inflamed. Colitis, enteritis, and gastritis are various types of inflammations seen in the digestive tract of cats. While there is no specific age at which a cat is vulnerable to this condition, middle-aged and older cats are more likely to be affected by it.
By far, the most prominent symptoms of feline IBD are vomiting and diarrhea. Other indications that may be seen are hyperthyroidism, chronic renal failure, and pancreatitis. Few cats also exhibit aversion to food, which can eventually lead to weight loss. Older cats can be affected by one or more of these conditions. It is better to visit the vet and get them examined at the earliest.
There are different forms of feline bowel diseases; most common being the lymphocytic-plasmacytic enterocolitis. Less common types of inflammation causing cells include eosinophilic, neutrophilic, and granulomatous. While the inflammation of small intestine is referred to as enteritis, that of the large intestine is called colitis.
Feline IBD is diagnosed by blood tests, X-rays, radiographs, ultrasound, urine tests, and stool examination. Blood tests include complete blood count, serum biochemistries, serum thyroxine level, test for feline leukemia virus, and feline immunodeficiency virus. Stool examination is carried out to check the presence of parasites and pathogenic bacteria. Biopsy is the only definitive way to diagnose IBD. Tissue is obtained either by laparotomy or during the endoscopic examination, and regardless of which of these procedures you opt for, general anesthesia is a must.
The treatment of this condition primarily revolves around diet management and medical therapy. Under the diet plan, cats are kept on a specific food trial. They are given food which is different from their daily diet. The vet may suggest a multi-ingredient diet rich in proteins and carbohydrates, which is not consumed by them normally. When the food trial is going on, refrain from feeding the cat with table foods and treats.
Medical therapy includes the use of corticosteroids, which are known for their anti-inflammatory and immunosuppressive actions. They cause very few side effects in cats. They also help promote appetite and increase the sodium and water absorption capability of the intestine. The most common corticosteroid is oral prednisone. It is preferred as it comes in an appropriate tablet size and has a short duration of action. When vomiting and malabsorption is severe, injectable steroids can be used.
If corticosteroids fail to control the ailment, metronidazole, or tylosin are used along with the regular diet. When used in low dosage, metronidazole rarely causes any side effects. However, it can cause loss of appetite and vomiting. There may be excessive salivation in some cats due to its unpleasant taste. Sulfasalazine is used for bowel inflammation. If none of the treatments are successful, then the use of strong immunosuppressive drugs is the only way out.
Inflammatory bowel disease cannot be cured completely. It can be controlled by diet management and medication. Relapses are common, especially when the therapy is not followed religiously. The digestive system of a cat is very delicate, so it is necessary to take proper care of the cat at all times. If you suspect anything unusual about the cat's health or behavior, you should immediately consult a vet.