Problems involving the large intestine of cats are common in veterinary medicine. Colitis refers to the inflammation of the lining of the large intestine, resulting in diarrhea, with the feces often containing an abundance of red blood and mucus.
Tenesmus, or straining to defecate, is another prevalent sign that is often mistaken for constipation. Acute colitis refers to a sudden onset of signs that usually lasts only a short period of time with proper treatment.
Chronic colitis is a long-term, recurring condition that might last for the entire lifetime of the pet. Parasites and bacterial infections are common causes of acute colitis in dogs and cats. Dietary indiscretions and stress-induced situations are two other prevalent sources.
Less commonly, fungal infections, foreign bodies, intussusceptions, polyps, food allergies, immune system disorders, and tumors can all result in signs related to a chronic colitis. Because of the variety of potential causes, colitis can strike a pet of any age.
Diagnosis of colitis is made from a predisposing history (such as dietary indiscretion), existing clinical signs, and physical examination. Stool examinations and other laboratory tests should be performed in an attempt to identify the underlying cause of the colitis.
Radiographs, including barium contrast studies, are indicated in nonresponsive, recurring cases. Biopsies obtained using an endoscope or through exploratory surgery can also prove to be helpful for establishing a definitive diagnosis.
In some cases, an exact cause of the inflammation can never be discerned, even with extensive laboratory tests. Treatment of acute colitis is aimed at eliminating the inciting cause. Parasites should be treated using proper dewormers and antiparasitic medications.
Antibiotics can be used to help remove any disease-causing bacteria within the colon, and steroid anti-inflammatories might prove helpful in diminishing clinical signs. If polyps or tumors are present, surgical removal might be necessary to afford a cure.
However, understand that in many cases of chronic colitis, especially those caused by stress or by immune system disorders, a complete cure cannot be achieved. In these pets, treatment goals are aimed at managing flare-ups as they occur and maintaining a good quality of life for the pet.
Anti-inflammatories, antibiotics, and local protectants such as kaolin and pectin can help provide relief from these intermittent episodes. Dietary management is an important component of colitis treatment.
Acute cases of colitis caused by dietary indiscretion or some infectious process respond well to feeding a bland, easily digestible diet available from a veterinarian. Chronic, recurring bouts with colitis might be managed by increasing the fiber content in the diet to normalize the gut motility.
Finally, for those cases suspected of being caused by food allergies, a hypoallergenic diet can help eliminate the effects of the allergy.