Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) is described as the disease of the decade with respect to domestic cats. The description comes from Elizabeth Hodgkins the veterinarian who wrote the excellent book Your Cat.
According to Elizabeth, over the past 10 years in America, the number of new cases of feline IBD has increased more than any other cat health problem. It used to be uncommon, apparently, but now chronic diarrhoea, which is sometimes accompanied by vomiting, is relatively commonplace.
My reading of the situation regarding veterinarians’ approach to dealing with IBD is that they struggle to deal with it effectively. It is more a case of controlling the disease rather than curing it and there appears to be lots of tests etc. before prescribing long-term treatments that simply manage the condition. This is achieved by prescribing drugs which suppress the cat’s immune system. In addition, the cat may be prescribed hypoallergenic cat food. The trouble is that many hypoallergenic cat foods are not particularly hypoallergenic and drugs that suppress the immune system have side-effects. Another problem is that the usual hypoallergenic cat food is dry cat food and we now know that dry cat food is not an ideal form of food because it is high in carbohydrates, low in water and contains grain. This is not a particularly satisfactory situation. Note: modern hypoallergenic cat foods have been broken down to amino acids and are therefore are meant to be improvement on previous versions.
Feline IBD is the inflammation of the gastrointestinal tract. The cause of it is not clearly understood, as far as I’m aware, by veterinarians. Some veterinarians believe that it is caused by long-term immune system stimulation which disrupts the digestive functions. The diarrhoea is caused by fluids being secreted into the intestines. The food being digested passes through the intestinal tract too quickly which also adds to the problem of diarrhoea and decreases the assimilation of nutrients into the bloodstream.
Most experts would seem to believe that it is an immune-reaction disease but it may also be a disease caused by excessive bad bacteria in the gut. On the basis that it is an immune reaction disease than the most likely cause of this unpleasant and unnecessary allergic reaction is the food that is eaten by the cat. The immune system would appear to is react to the presence of certain ingredients in commercially produced cat food as if they were “foreign invaders”. And obvious way to resolve this cat health problem is to change the substances that are being digestive inside the cat’s intestinal tract.
If hypoallergenic dry cat food is ruled out, then for mild cases of IBD hypoallergenic canned foods which don’t contain high-carbohydrate ingredients are a reasonable form of treatment. For a cat that has chronic IBD, one recommendation – and this does make a lot of sense – is to convert to a completely natural feline diet. This is going back to basics and to be frank if veterinarians are struggling with treating chronic IBD it would seem that going back to basics is the right thing to do.
So, a raw meat diet combined with a comprehensive vitamin/mineral/amino acid supplement may well be the answer. This is where we get into difficulty because you will find that most veterinarians have little faith in a cat owner’s ability to prepare a safe raw diet for the cat. There are potential storage problems with raw food and the other problem is ensuring that the diet is balanced. We know about the so-called balanced diets of commercial cat food. However, I believe that veterinarians have too little faith in the ability of many cat caretakers. After all people are able to buy and prepare raw food for themselves so why can’t they do it for their cat? And as mentioned, a single high quality supplement added to raw meat results in a natural and balanced feline diet.
If your veterinarian does argue that commercially prepared cat food is much safer because it has to be prepared according to certain regulations and is controlled by the AAFCO in America, we might remind him or her of the not uncommon cat food recalls and there are many cases of mild food poisoning, the source of which is an assessed. Veterinarians simply diagnose mild food poisoning of some sort and treat that condition. There is often no discussion of the possibility that commercially prepared cat food is the cause of the condition. What I’m saying is that commercial cat food is not necessarily any safer in respect of its preparation and storage than raw cat food is, as prepared by a cat owner.
In conclusion, therefore, for cats suffering from chronic debilitating IBD, a raw food diet is certainly a very good recommendation and you can read about a raw food diet on this page.