Feline Inflammatory Bowel Disease (Feline IBD)

Close-Up Portrait Of Cat Wrapped In Blanket Relaxing On Floor
Michael Muth / EyeEm / Getty Images

Feline irritable bowel disease (feline IBD) is the term used to describe a group of gastrointestinal disorders that display as inflammation of the lining (mucosa) of the digestive tract. Feline IBD can occur in the large intestine (colitis), the small intestine (enteritis) or the stomach (gastritis).

What Are the Symptoms of Feline IBD?

The most common symptoms of feline IBD are chronic vomiting and diarrhea, symptoms which can be present in a number of other conditions, such as hyperthyroidism, chronic renal failure or pancreatitis.

In some cases, inappetence, accompanied by weight loss, may also occur. These symptoms are also common in other conditions.

Since older cats may be afflicted with one or more of the above conditions, it is important for you to investigate continuing symptoms, rather than to assume they are caused by the existing disease.

How Is Feline IBD Diagnosed?

  • Ruling out other conditions with blood tests, x-rays, radiographs, ultrasound, and/or stool examination.
  • Palpating the abdomen to check for abnormalities. Although not definitive, sometimes the bowel inflammation can actually be felt as the thickness of the bowel.
  • Consulting abdominal x-rays to confirm a diagnosis.
  • Performing fiberoptic endoscopy, which is a small biopsy sample that is obtained under general anesthesia.

How Is Feline IBD Treated?

Feline IBD is generally treated under the guidance of your veterinarian with medication and diet.

  • Medical Therapy: A combination of drugs may be used, including corticosteroids (such as prednisone) to relieve the bowel inflammation, an antiemetic to control vomiting and in some occasions, antibiotics.
  • Diet: Since Feline IBD reflects some cats' inability to tolerate certain foods, dietary changes play a large part in control of the disease. Veterinarians will often start with a limited ingredient diet containing protein and carbohydrate sources the cat has not eaten before, such as rabbit, venison, or even kangaroo meat. Commercial limited ingredient diet products are available at many veterinary clinics, as well as online. Many caregivers of cats with IBD swear by the benefits of a raw diet in controlling IBD. 

    Resources: