Inflammatory bowel disease is a very common problem in cats and some breeds of dogs, notably Shepherds and Arctic breeds like Huskies and Malamutes. In mild cases, you may see just occasional vomiting or soft stools, but as it worsens the vomiting and diarrhea can become consistent, leading to weight loss and sometimes death if not treated appropriately. Just the vomiting and diarrhea alone is something we can all sympathize with. And then there is the clean up…
IBD, like its cousin Crohn’s disease in humans, typically starts as allergies to one or more components of a diet. This allergy can occur whether the food is dry or canned, raw or processed. While it is most common with lesser-quality foods– especially those with lots of artificial flavors and colorings– it can also occur with even the very best dietary ingredients.
These dietary allergies are the SINGLE most common reason for vomiting in otherwise healthy cats. If your cat acts normal, is not losing weight, but vomits within an hour after they eat…. that is almost always a sign they are allergic to something they are eating. Most frequently, it is the meat source or the “gravy” they are allergic to, but it can be any component of the diet. If you catch it early and change the food, it is only a nuisance– but if you don’t figure things out it can many times develop into IBD.
As the disease progresses and the GI signs become more chronic, on a microscopic level within the gut bad things are happening. The normal cells which line the stomach and intestine, allowing normal absorption of nutrients and water from the GI tract, are gradually replaced by scar tissue. Since this scar tissue is incapable of absorbing water, increased amounts of water are retained in the GI tract– causing chronic diarrhea. And since this scar tissue cannot absorb nutrients, we see weight loss begin.
It is not rocket science to understand that the first rule of treating IBD is to try and find a diet that your pet is not sensitive to. For many years, virtually all “over the counter” pet diets had lamb or poultry in them, so we can’t use that. Beef and pork can be very antigenic, so we don’t want them either. Stay away from bison products, as it is just too close to the very common beef. In tough cases, you may have to use a home-cooked or vegetarian diet for your pet.
Luckily, there are currently a wide variety of prescription diets specific for both dogs and cats with IBD. Just as in people, understanding what actually triggers the immune response can be difficult. This means that oftentimes, more than one diet has to be tried before finding one that works for your pet. We will work with you to find a solution. These diets are based on ’novel protein’ or more rare meat sources - such as rabbit, venison, kangaroo, etc - or hydrolyzed protein diets. Hydrolized protein means that the protein is broken down into very small pieces so that the body cannot recognize it as a foreign antigen.
Oftentimes, we need medical therapy and supplements to get the body’s immune response under control. We will tailor these to your pet’s condition to make everyone happier and healthier!