Cat resting outside the house on the grass.

Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD)

Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) is actually a group of chronic digestive disorders characterized by the infiltration of the walls of the bowels with inflammatory cells, leading to abnormal wall thickening and irregularities.

IBD has been recognized as a significant cause of chronic vomiting and/or diarrhea in both dogs and cats. As far as the etiology of IBD, research to date has failed to uncover an exact cause.

Many veterinarians believe that bacterial and/or dietary proteins may stimulate an autoimmune type of reaction in these pets. This reaction, in turn, manifests as a buildup of immune cells on and within the surfaces coming in contact with these proteins.

The classic clinical sign associated with IBD in cats is chronic vomiting. Often misdiagnosed as hairballs, vomiting induced by IBD usually occurs intermittently over months to years, gradually worsening and increasing in frequency with time.

In addition to vomiting, bloody diarrhea and abdominal pain are also clinical signs seen in both dogs and cats suffering from IBD. In cats, lymphosarcoma is not an uncommon sequela to severe cases of IBD that cannot be controlled through medical means.

Diagnosis of IBD is made through the use of a thorough history, physical exam findings, radiographs of the abdomen, and more specifically, biopsy samples from affected portions of bowel.

Diagnostic techniques such as these will help differentiate this condition from other disorders that may cause similar clinical signs, including foreign bodies, pancreatitis, tumors, and bowel obstruction.

Treatment for inflammatory bowel disease employs the use of drugs designed to reduce the inflammatory response, as well as medications designed to locally suppress the immune system response within the gut.

Administration of these medications may be required on a longterm basis to control this disorder. Since food allergies are thought to be an underlying cause in some instances, most treatment regimens for IBD also employ rations that are hypoallergenic in nature.

Unfortunately, a complete cure for IBD is rarely possible. However, with appropriate treatment, most cases can be managed enough to allow the affected pet to live a relatively normal life otherwise.