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Inflammatory Bowel Disease - IBD

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Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) describes a group of intestinal disorders that affects both cats and dogs of any breed, age and gender. A common form of IBD is lymphoplasmacytic enteritis.

Food allergies, exposure to toxic substances, genetics, bacteria and parasites, abnormalities of the immune system and stress can trigger IBD. Food allergies may stem from the improper digestion of animal protein or substances in commercial food such as chemical preservatives and colors. Identifying the source of protein is especially important because animals may be allergic horsemeat, beef, turkey or chicken. Animal protein and possibly food chemicals can spawn free radicals that thrive in the gastrointestinal tract. The intestinal lining is affected by the abnormal flourishing of inflammatory cells including lymphocytes, a type of white blood cell, and plasmacytes, a form of antibody-producing B-lyphocytes. The inflammation can result in vomiting and diarrhea.

Symptoms and Diagnosis

Symptoms of IBD include chronic vomiting in cats and persistent diarrhea in dogs. Lymphoplasmacytic enteritis, a common form of IBD, can product loss of appetite, nausea and gurgling in the intestine (borborygmi). Vomit may contain bile. With cats, the vomit may include hairballs. Symptoms of this group of intestinal disorders may include a wide range of severity whether intermittent vomiting only once or twice a month or following a meal. Other signs may include mucus, blood and strained bowel movements in one form of IBD, but not necessarly observed in other forms. Clinical signs appear according to the portion of the gastrointestinal tract affected: the stomach and upper portion of the small intestine indicate vomiting; the colon indicates diarrhea. Pets suffering from severe cases of IBD may show signs of depression, fever, poor appetite and weight loss.

The veterinarian can diagnose bacterial infections and intestinal parasites. If the animal appears thin, the veterinarian can feel the intestines. Diagnosis may be made via a biopsy that indicates the abnormal accumulation of inflammatory cells in the intestinal wall. Categories would be mild, moderate or severe. Other methods include the use of an endoscope or exploratory surgery. If the digestion of animal proteins is at the root of the problem, diet management can help verify the diagnosis.


Intestinal Bowel Disease is not curable, but controllable. Controls may include cortisone, antibiotics and anti-diarrheal medications. Anti-inflammatory medications can help reduce the quantity of inflammatory cells in the gastrointestinal tract.

Diet management involves food trials of hypoallergenic diets. The pet’s dietary history should be carefully considered. For mild or moderate intestinal inflammation, a special diet may be in order in the case of dietary sensitivity or intolerance. Both protein and carbohydrate sources are included. A diet may include lamb and rice for up to several weeks.

Antibiotics can treat a small intestinal bacterial overgrowth. Note that cats do not suffer from intestinal bacterial overgrowth. For moderate to severe infiltrates, unsuccessful dietary trials or the development of hypoproteinemia, a deficiency of protein in the blood, treatment can include immunosuppressives. Oral prednisone for two to three weeks may alleviate symptoms. Successful results include reduced diarrhea and vomiting, weight gain and increased plasma proteins.

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