Just picture it! Your guests are enjoying appetizers in your living room before dinner. In walks Fluffy, swishing her tail back and forth. She stops, looks around at everyone. Just as they begin commenting on her beautiful coat or her pretty face, Fluffy begins to heave…and heave…and finally horks up a gigantic load of vomit. There is no end to your embarrassment as you rush for cleaning supplies. We cat owners have all been there. But when does the occasional appearance of a hairball or second appearance of Fluffy’s dinner become a concern? When it becomes a chronic situation. Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) in cats causes chronic vomiting and diarrhea.
IBD is not an actual disease but rather, is a group of disorders caused by the infiltration of inflammatory cells in the mucosa of the gastrointestinal tract.
If the inflammation is restricted to the large intestine, it will be called colitis, but if the small intestine is involved, the term used will be enteritis. If the stomach is the source of the problem, it will be referred to as gastritis.
The cause of IBD is mostly unknown but it is considered the result of certain kinds of bacteria, allergies, genetics, or parasites that causes cats to produce antibodies attacking their own digestive tracts. Symptoms of IBD in felines include diarrhea (not always in the litter box), vomiting, lethargy, loss of appetite, constipation, abdominal pain, and weight loss. In some cats, you may only see weight loss and/or pooping outside the litter box as symptoms.
Because the symptoms of IBD mimic other diseases and conditions, a veterinarian will perform several diagnostic tests. Expect a complete blood count and chemical profile to rule out diabetes, liver disease and renal problems. A urinalysis is necessary. A fecal exam will be performed to rule out parasites. Pancreatitis can run concurrent with IBD and other tests may be necessary to rule that out as the cause of symptoms. The veterinarian will also need a good history of the cat’s symptoms and behavior so be sure to document incidents as they occur.
Once diagnosed, the search will begin to find the cause of the cat’s IBD and eliminate said cause. A change in diet likely to be necessary. In general, a low-fat diet containing a novel protein is best. A novel protein is one that the animal has not eaten previously. If the colon is involved, a high fiber diet may be in order. Antibiotics and Prednisone may be used to treat the symptoms.
Some veterinary professionals believe that IBD is caused by ingredients in commercial cat food. One suggests that wheat gluten is an ingredient to avoid. Wheat gluten is a cheap source of protein used by some manufacturers in place of real meat to save money. Some animals will react to the gluten, causing inflammation in the bowel and all the symptoms of IBD.
Another ingredient is carrageenan. “Chronic ingestion of carrageenan has been shown to be the cause of an immune reaction that triggers inflammation, insulin resistance, and glucose intolerance – precursors of diabetes.” (http://drjudymorgannaturalpetcare.blogspot.com/2016/03/inflammatory-bowel-disease-caused-by.html?m=1)
Carrageenan is found in many canned cat foods (and dog foods), used as a thickening agent. When you shop, read the labels on cat foods. Avoid any containing glutens or carrageenan.