Inflammatory Bowel Disease in Dogs and Cats (IBD

Does your dog or cat vomit intermittently, have trouble gaining weight, or have chronic diarrhea?  Well, the cause could be Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD).  IBD is a condition of the intestinal tract that causes it to have difficulty digesting food.  IBD can occur in both dogs and cats of any age. 

IBD is caused by an abnormal response of the immune system to certain agents, which causes an influx of inflammatory cells to the lining of the intestinal tract.  These inflammatory cells are designed to fight infections by releasing substances that are toxic to other cells.  Unfortunately, the abnormal influx of these cells and release of the toxic substances causes damage to the intestinal tract, resulting in disturbances in the digestion and absorption of food.  This in turn leads to weight loss, vomiting and diarrhea.

The causative agents that trigger this response vary between individuals and can include:

  • Foods- meat proteins, wheat, milk, food additives and preservatives
  • Infections- Giardia, Salmonella, etc.

There may also be a genetic component to the cause of IBD.

Diagnosis of canine or feline IBD is only reliably made on the basis of intestinal biopsies.  This involves general anesthesia and surgery for the vet to obtain biopsies.  The biopsies are then sent to a lab to be analyzed.

Some animals with this problem can be only mildly affected, while others can be more severely affected with significant weight loss, dehydration and electrolyte losses.  These cases would first be stabilized with IV fluids and medications.  In the long term, therapy may include dietary trials and medications such as antibiotics and steroids.  Dietary trials can be tedious but it is important to continue each trial for at least eight weeks and adhere to it strictly.  In many cases if the appropriate diet and medical treatment are established, the pet can have a normal quality of life.

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