Published by: Ingrid King. Last Updated on: June 26, 2023 by Crystal Uys

red cat is being examined by a veterinarian

Far too many cat parents rationalize occasional, or even chronic, vomiting with explanations such as “he just eats too fast,” “she has a sensitive stomach,” or “it’s just a hairball.” Chronic vomiting is never normal, and can be an indicator of serious diseases of the small intestine, including inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) and intestinal lymphoma.

What causes IBD in cats?

Chronic inflammation of the gastrointestinal tract can be the result of a specific disease, such as a parasitic or bacterial infection. It can also be caused by a food intolerance or food allergy. However, in many cases, it’s impossible to determine the cause of IBD. According to the Cornell Health Center, “current evidence suggests that it arises from a complex abnormal interaction between the immune system, diet, bacterial populations in the intestines, and other environmental factors.”

Signs of IBD in cats

Symptoms most typically include chronic vomiting and diarrhea, but sometimes, constipation can also be a problem. Some cats present with weight loss as the only clinical sign.

Sick and skinny cat sitting on the pavement
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Diagnosis of IBD in cats

To rule out other causes of gastrointestinal problems, your veterinarian will perform diagnostic tests that may include complete blood cell counts, blood chemistry, thyroid function tests, urinalysis, fecal analysis, abdominal x-rays, and ultrasound. The only definitive way to diagnose IBD is through biopsies of small samples of the intestinal lining. Many veterinarians will use endoscopy to obtain these biopsies. Unfortunately, while less invasive than surgical biopsy, endoscopy will not always reach the abnormal sections of the intestine.

Treatment of IBD in cats

Treatment of IBD can include changing the diet, adding supplements, acupuncture, herbal therapies, fecal transplants, and drug therapy. In a recent article in Animal Wellness Magazine, Angie Krause, DVM, a veterinarian and owner of Boulder Holistic Vet, provided a comprehensive look at dietary and natural therapies to treat IBD.

domestic tabby cat looks at a bowl of food that the owner is holding in his hand
Image Credit: Valeri Vatel, Shutterstock

Click here to read IBD in Cats: An Integrative Approach to Treatment.

Featured Image Credit: YULIYA Shustik, Shutterstock

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