If you own a cat, you probably already know that cats can have sensitive digestive systems. Some are fussy about what they eat while others require special diets to avoid issues such as diarrhea. However, changes in diet may be insufficient for some cats, who may suffer from chronic inflammation of their digestive tracts. Inflammation of the colon, also known as the large intestine, is commonly referred to as colitis or ulcerative colitis. Precisely what is this condition, how is it managed and what can you do to help your cat deal with it?
Feline Colitis is a chronic bowel disease resulting from inflammation of the intestine. This in turn, causes the superficial mucosal layer of the bowel to thicken. The condition can become severe enough to ulcerate the tissue. The colon is then no longer able to efficiently absorb water, undermining its ability to process food into normal feces. This leads to frequent diarrhea often accompanied by blood and mucous discharge.
Colitis symptoms can be very severe and you should discuss the problem with your cat's veterinarian as soon as you notice them.
Colitis Symptoms include: Frequent diarrhea Regular bowel movements where little is passed Straining to pass a bowel movement Blood or mucus Vomiting Reduced appetite Progressive weight loss
There are a number of issues that can trigger Feline Colitis including: Infection, parasites, fungus, a foreign body or trauma. Other causes run the gamut from multiple organ inflammation such as pancreatitis, to immune disorders or improper diet. In some cases, the problem can be the result of allergies, even to certain food materials. If this is the case, your veterinarian should try to pinpoint the source of the allergy.
If your cat has become severely dehydrated from profuse diarrhea, the first step your vet takes will involve fluid therapy to rehydrate your cat. He may withdraw solid food for 24-48 hours, then gradually reintroduce highly digestible, bland food. This allows the cat's digestive tract an opportunity to rest while placing minimal strain on the colon. If there is an infection or parasite present, your vet will prescribe the appropriate antiparasitic medication or antibotic.
Should your cat experience severe inflammation and ulceration with the colon, it may be necessary to surgically remove the damaged tissue. This approach, while often successful, may not provide your cat with a long term solution and the colitis may reappear.
There is no guarantee that a cat who is prone to colitis will not relapse. If inflammation is a by-product of an immune disorder, long-term low-dose steroid or immunosuppressants may be prescribed by the veterinarian.
Home treatment will involve ensuring your cat is well hydrated. Always keep freshwater available. To help reduce inflammation, your veterinarian will most likely prescribe a clinical diet. These are formulated to be highly digestible, therefore reducing stress on the digestive system. Their high calorie concentration make them an ideal and easily absorbed energy source. Examples are Hill’s I/D Gastrointestinal Feline or Purina Veterinary Diets EN Gastrointestinal Canned Feline Formula. The addition of fermentable fiber could also benefit your cat as the fatty acids produced in the fermentation process can help normalise the colon's bacteria levels. The addition of pre and probiotics may also prove helpful.
While Feline Colitis can be a messy annoyance, it is not normally life threatening and should be manageable with proper veterinary supervision. Of course, it never hurts to be proactive about your cat's health. We highly recommend scheduling regular check-ups with your veterinarian to help keep your cat as healthy as possible. Your vet may be able to diagnose and treat an issue before it becomes chronic.
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