Inflammatory Bowel Disease (Ibd) in Animals

WHAT IS INFLAMMATORY BOWEL DISEASE?

IBD is a chronic disease of the gastro-intestinal tract.  Most affected animals have a history of recurrent or chronic vomiting and/or diarrhoea (vomiting is the most common sign in cats with IBD).  Often, affected animals may be normal in other ways.  Sometimes weight loss may be seen.  Generally, animals with IBD tend to have a normal or over-active appetite.

WHAT CAUSES IBD?

The cause of IBD is poorly understood.  It seems to be due to an sensitivity response of the bowel lining, resulting in the lining of the intestine (and sometimes the stomach) being invaded by inflammatory cells.  These cells interfere with the digestive and absorptive capacity of the intestine, and sometimes result in a physical thickening of the intestinal wall.

In most cases, the precise underlying cause of IBD cannot be identified.  The two most commonly suspected causes are sensitiviy to dietary components, or to bacterial proteins.

HOW IS IBD DIAGNOSED?

IBD can only be definitively diagnosed by biopsy samples of the bowel and stomach.  These biopsies are harvested either by exploratory surgery or by endoscope.

Usually, before biopsies are recommended, other potential causes of chronic vomiting and diarrhoea need to be excluded either by blood and faecal tests.  In addition trial therapies may be recommended, such as antibiotic trials to exclude bacterial or protozoan causes or hypoallergenic or high fibre diets to test for dietary intolerances.

IBD may also be associated with other diseases, such as bacterial overgrowth in the intestine (small intestinal bacterial overgrowth) and liver infections (bacterial cholangiohepatitis).

HOW IS IBD TREATED?

A diet change is usually central to treatment because of the common involvement of dietary sensitivity.  Often, however, a diet change is not enough to control all the symptoms and medications need to be used.  These medications offer control of the condition, not cure.  Medications commonly used may include anti-inflammatory drugs such as Corticosteroids, Immuno-modulating drugs such as Azothiaprin (AZT), and antibiotics to help control secondary bacterial overgrowth problems.

WHAT IS THE PROGNOSIS?

Most pets do well for many years.  Some pets can eventually be weaned off medication, whilst others may need changes in medication to maintain control of the symptoms.  Unfortunately, some pets may be, or may become poorly responsive to therapy.