Inflammatory bowel disease in cats

Inflammatory bowel disease is the invasion of inflammatory cells into the intestine walls. It has many triggers, including parasites, bacterial infection, dietary intolerance, genetic factors and abnormal immune response to bacterial antigens. 

Inflammatory bowel disease is a “diagnosis of exclusion”, meaning underlying conditions have been ruled out. Signs in cats can be similar to other diseases, such as hyperthyroidism, pancreatitis, or intestinal lymphoma.

What are common inflammatory bowel disease signs in cats?

Early signs include:

  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhoea
  • Increased or decreased appetite

Intermediate or advanced signs include:

  • Weight loss
  • Blood in vomit or stool
  • Abdominal pain
  • Distended abdomen
  • Difficulty breathing

How is inflammatory bowel disease managed in cats? 

Many approaches can be used to treat inflammatory bowel disease. A low-antigenic, highly digestible prescription diet can resolve 50% of cases in cats. Certain probiotics, used alone or in combination with a food trial, have shown promising results.

Antibiotics can decrease intestinal bacteria and the body’s inflammatory response to bacterial antigens. Immunosuppressive medications, such as steroids, are needed if the response to other treatments is poor. 

Protocols for treating low-grade intestinal lymphoma can also be used to treat inflammatory bowel disease.

Adding B vitamins, anti-nausea, or anti-diarrheal medication is often helpful. Discussing a personalised management plan with your veterinarian is important for the best outcome for your cat.

Increased appetite can be a sign of inflammatory bowel disease

What is the prognosis for cats?

Many cats with inflammatory bowel disease can live healthy and comfortable lives. Some may go in and out of remission from the disease, while others require lifelong medical management. 

Cats who are refractory to treatment, have an underlying disease, or develop intestinal lymphoma have a poorer prognosis. 

Management tips for a cat with inflammatory bowel disease

At-home needs include:

  • Easy access to food and water, and a clean litter box
  • Strict adherence to an appropriate prescription diet
  • Consistency with any prescribed medications, which can be compounded for easier administration
  • Monitoring appetite, vomiting, defecation, weight and energy levels

For end-of-life care:

In a crisis:

Immediately seek help from your veterinarian if your cat stops eating, develops uncontrollable diarrhoea or vomiting, a distended abdomen, or difficulty breathing, or vocalises in pain.

It is vital to begin end-of-life care discussions before your cat’s condition becomes unmanageable, or they begin losing their quality of life. 

The team at Goodbye Good Boy offers individualised support to help you and your family navigate this difficult time by providing quality-of-life checks, in-home euthanasia, cremation and aftercare services, and personalised memorialisation options. Our services can even be pre-paid to help ease the financial burden at the time of your pet’s passing. 

To learn more about our pet end-of-life services, give us a call on 1800 953 619 or visit our website

This article was reproduced with permission from Goodbye Good Boy advisor Dr Dani McVety, of Lap Of Love.