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Colitis in cats is an inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) that can be quite hard to manage. A colitis diagnosis can be incredibly worrisome but once the underlying cause is pinpointed, effective treatment can be administered. Here, we cover the symptoms, causes, and types of treatment and options available to manage this disease.
Photo by Zeke Tucker on Unsplash
Colitis in cats, or feline colitis is a bowel disease caused by inflammation in the colon. The colon, or large intestine is located at the lower part of the gastrointestinal (GI) tract. It plays a large role in the end stages of digestion. The colon is responsible for storing and removing water from the cat’s faeces before the bowel movement occurs.
When the colon becomes inflamed and irritated, water cannot be absorbed from the faeces. This causes loose, and watery stools. In severe cases, faeces can present with blood.
Colitis in cats can generally be divided into three types. Acute colitis happens suddenly and lasts only for a few days. Chronic colitis lasts for a minimum two to three weeks. Chronic feline colitis usually occurs in older cats and is often related to a primary medical condition. Episodic colitis comes and goes over time.
It is quite normal for cats to have the occasional bouts of colitis and it usually settles down by itself. However, if symptoms of colitis is frequent and seems to worsen, a visit to the vet is in order.
Knowing the causes of colitis in cats can help to prevent it from occurring. It will also help you to prevent future flare ups if your cat is prone to colitis. Common causes include:
Cats are routine creatures who do not deal well with stressful events. Moving house, getting a new pet, and even changes in their diet can cause stress in cats. If colitis in your cat is caused by stress, establishing a new routine will help tremendously. Also make sure that your cat’s environment is comfortable.
Colitis can result from a dietary intolerance and dietary allergies. For example, some cats may not respond well to preservatives or food coloring. It is not uncommon for cats to be allergic to foods such as beef, wheat and corn. Additionally, colitis can also be triggered by consuming unsuitable foods such as a plant, garbage or spoiled food. A reaction to medications such as antibiotics have also been known to cause colitis in cats.
Colitis can be a symptom of a major medical issue. Your cat may be suffering from primary gastrointestinal disorders such as inflammatory or irritable bowel disease (IBD), acute infectious enteritis or specific inflammatory disorder of the colon. Colonic and bowel cancers, diabetes, kidney disease, hyperthyroidism, pancreatitis and intussusception are also primary diseases that can cause colitis or colitis-like symptoms in cats.
Infectious agents that can cause colitis in cats include:
Sign and symptoms of colitis in cats can range from mild to severe. Here’s what you should look out for if you suspect that your cat has colitis.
Cats with acute, chronic and episodic colitis will present with the following faeces-related symptoms:
Cats with chronic and episodic colitis have the following symptoms:
Colitis is a condition that will require an accurate diagnosis before effective treatment can be prescribed. You vet will likely consider other illnesses with similar symptoms when evaluating your cat.
To help your vet diagnose your cat, you will need to provide your vet with your cat’s history. As there are many causes of colitis, your vet will probably ask you about:
If indeed the signs and symptoms all point to colitis, several tests will be performed to identify the underlying cause in order to prescribe the most effective treatment. Tests include:
You vet may carry out additional tests if the usual tests are inconclusive or if the colitis does not seem to resolve with the treatment prescribed. These include:
Treatment for feline colitis aims to restore normal bowel function as well as to relieve pain and discomfort. Most of the time acute colitis will resolve without treatment in a few days. However, chronic and episodic colitis usually need medical intervention. Feline colitis is usually managed with medication and dietary changes.
Many times, symptoms of colitis resolve within a week of dietary modifications. Your vet might suggest fasting to rest the digestive system. A bland diet, novel protein diet, hydrolysed diet or prebiotic diet can also help manage colitis.
Soluble fibre can make bowel movements easier and fatty acid supplements can help soothe the inflamed colon linings. An elimination diet may also be carried out if the suspected cause of colitis is food allergies and intolerances.
Medication is prescribed based on the underlying cause of colitis. It can be prescribed concurrently with dietary modifications or if the diet changes are not working. Anti-inflammatory medication, anti-parasitic medication, antibiotics, probiotics and immunosuppressive drugs are all among the medications that can help with colitis in cats.
Additionally, hospitalization may also be needed in severe cases of colitis. If your cat has diarrhoea due to colitis, it might need intravenous fluid and electrolyte replacement to ensure that it stays hydrated.
If the colitis is due to stress and anxiety, make sure to provide your cat with a calm and quiet environment. Your cat will also benefit from a routine. For example, feeding it at the same time, same place every day.
As colitis can be caused by your cat ingesting intolerable food, one of the best ways to ensure that your pet stays healthy is to provide it with a healthy and balanced diet such as Petcubes’ raw diets that are carefully crafted with the right amount of proteins for your cat to thrive. Also make sure to keep your cat away from garbage and food that it might be allergic to. Monthly preventives are also important to keep parasites at bay, especially if you allow your cat to roam free.
Cats with colitis can have a great life if the condition is managed properly. In fact, if the underlying cause is eliminated, the long-term prognosis is very good. It is important to resolve feline colitis as soon as possible so that other serious illnesses such as colon cancer do not arise. If you suspect that your cat has colitis, head to the vet immediately.
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