My cat is just a puker….or is she?
Inflammatory Bowel Disease by Dr. Danielle Sanchez
Today we are going to discuss puking cats. Growing up, we all heard that some cats are just pukers, whether hairballs, food, or bile. However, this is a myth!! Any cat that vomits once a month or more should be checked out by your veterinarian to insure that there are no underlying issues.
“My cat always only throws up hairballs”– In a normal cat, most hair should pass through the stomach and intestines no problem. Chronic vomiting of hairballs may point to a sluggish gut/unable to move things through as normal. “My cat seems to have diarrhea pretty often” Diarrhea means there is an upset of the normal intestines and frequent problems may be secondary to an underlying issue.
Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) is an extremely common disease in cats.
What is it? Parts of the stomach and/or intestines become inflamed, thickened, and irritated, resulting in pain, diarrhea and/or vomiting, leading to weight loss and not absorbing nutrients well. The average age of diagnosis is 7 years, but it can be diagnosed at any age! In the beginning, symptoms of IBD can be mild – the slightly more than occasional vomit or loose stool (once a month or more often). This tends to get worse as they get older. If the inflammation is in or near the stomach, there is typically chronic vomiting. If it is in the lower small intestines or colon, you see more diarrhea with or without blood. IBD can be brought on by food or environmental sensitivities, stress, genetics, a bad gut bacterial balance, internal parasites among other things.
How is it diagnosed? Diagnosis can be tricky- the signs of IBD can be seen in other diseases as well. Your veterinarian may run some of the following tests to help diagnose: a complete blood count, chemistry panel, thyroid test, urinalysis, fecal testing, intestinal absorption enzymes, and/or ultrasound. These tests help narrow IBD down from other diseases that can have similar signs. The only way to 100% diagnose is to surgically biopsy the inflamed area. This is the only way to determine IBD from intestinal cancers, such as lymphoma.
Why is it so important to diagnose and treat early? The earlier you diagnose and treat IBD, the better the potential outcome. The less time the gut is inflamed, the more likely it is to return to back normal. If left untreated, severe IBD may potentially turn into lymphoma. Additionally, the pancreas or liver may also be inflamed and affected.
How is it treated? Typically, treatment is started with a diet change*. The first step in mild cases can be an over the counter sensitive stomach or limited ingredient food. Some cats will respond well to this. Other cats need to be on a hypoallergenic diet, such as Hill’s Z/D or Royal Canin HP or a high fiber, easily digestible diet. Any food changes can take up to 8-12 weeks before improvement is seen. In more severe cases,medications and supplements such as steroids, antibiotics, probiotics, or vitamin B12 may also be used. In very severe cases or with lymphoma, chemotherapy is an option. Every cat is an individual and some respond better to a certain treatment than others- working closely with your veterinarian can lead to the best/quickest outcome.
*Any diet change should be gradual, reducing the “old” food by 25% and increasing the “new” by 25% every 2-3 days unless otherwise directed.
Conference proceedings from lectures by Dr. Gary Norsworthy
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