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For Whom the Bowels Toll (Inflammatory Bowel Disease In Dogs & Cats)

Inflamed intestines

Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD), sometimes called Inflammatory Bowel Syndrome (IBS), is a term that actually refers to several diseases that cause chronic intestinal problems. The lining of the intestines becomes inflamed due to an overactive immune system and overgrowth of intestinal bacteria, which causes the body to no longer properly digest foods and absorb nutrients.

There are still a lot of unknowns with IBD, but we do know that it is an autoimmune disorder and some forms of IBD may be genetic.

Jump to: Symptoms of IBD || Diagnosis of IBD || Causes of IBD || Diet & IBD || Other management & treatment options for IBD || Select sources

What are symptoms of IBD?

The most common symptoms in cats and dogs are chronic vomiting, watery stool, gas, bloating, abdominal pain, weight loss, depression, loss of appetite, blood or mucous in the feces, and difficulty with bowel movements. Some cats start defecating outside their litter boxes, a common response when cats have digestive upsets.

How is IBD diagnosed?

Most veterinarians diagnose IBD after ruling out other causes for a pet’s symptoms. This usually includes an extensive physical exam along with blood, urine, and stool tests. Doctors might also do radiographs, ultrasounds, or biopsies.

What causes IBD?

Scientists don’t know the exact cause of IBD and they suspect there are several factors involved. Some people suspect that IBD isn’t truly a disease, but is just a catchall diagnosis used for a handful of intestinal conditions with similar symptoms. This is why it’s sometimes called Inflammatory Bowel Syndrome (IBS).

The most likely culprits are diet, parasites, bacteria, genetics, and adverse drug reactions.

How does diet affect IBD?

When you’re told that your pet has IBD, trying a different diet is the best way to manage the disease and alleviate symptoms. Clearly management and treatment of IBD are critical so that dogs and cats are able to properly digest foods and absorb nutrients. Following the dietary guidelines below is often all that people need to do to manage IBD in their dog or cat.

Veterinarians usually initially suggest doing “diet trials” with hypoallergenic foods as the first step in addressing IBD. Eliminating foods with common allergens –such as chicken, beef, and lamb – and feeding novel or uncommon food sources is often the only change necessary.

It might also help to feed diets that are free from harmful GMOs and antibiotics.

Foods that are “low residue”, meaning they are easily digestible and nutrients are easily absorbed, are also prescribed.

Raw Advantage cat food

Increasing soluble fiber and reducing insoluble fibers is another useful dietary change. Feeding canned or raw food is the best way to eliminate the majority of insoluble plant fibers. Many grains contribute to IBD symptoms.

Reducing fat intake is also frequently recommended for animals with IBD. Dogs and cats do need some fat in their diets, but too much fat interacts with bacteria in the intestine.

Increasing moisture content in the diet or finding ways to enhance water absorption is also useful. Switching to canned or raw food diets is the best way to increase moisture in your pet’s diet.

Many holistic veterinarians also recommend adding prebiotic or probiotic digestive enzymes to help restore and maintain healthy intestinal flora.

The foods that I’ve seen the best results from are made by Raw Advantage, Addiction Pet Foods, Natural Balance (their Limited Ingredient Diets are safe bets), Royal Canin, Nature’s Variety, and Orijen.

How else is IBD managed and treated?

Diet alone is often all that people need to do to manage IBD in their dog or cat.

Veterinarians sometimes prescribe medication to help reduce inflammation, suppress the immune system, and reduce an overgrowth of unwanted bacteria. Many medications have side effects or secondary conditions, so animal animals taking these drugs need to be closely monitored.

There are many advantages when IBD is managed by making dietary changes alone. It saves lots of money in the long term by not paying for medication and also by not having to treat and manage side effects or secondary conditions of pharmaceutical treatments.

(Note: I do not accept payment for mentions or reviews of products and services that I write about on this site. Nonexclusive use of this article has been granted to other pet industry organizations but Kari Kells retains copyright.)

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