Feline IBD – overview plus conventional and FMT treatments

Feline IBD treatment could be a raw diet
Am effective feline IBD treatment could be a raw diet. Image: PoC. The background image is from Cornell.
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  1. Introduction
  2. What are the symptoms?
  3. What are the causes?
  4. Treatments?


Feline IBD stands for Cat Irritable Bowel Disease. It is not uncommon, hence this article. In fact, incidences of this disease have increased over the past 30 years1. It is quite a descriptive title for a disease because the bowel is indeed irritated. It is an immune reaction disease (an allergic reaction). The bowel in this instance means the small and large intestines and the stomach (sometimes). There are three bowel diseases in cats. In each type a different “inflammatory cell” builds up in the mucous lining of the intestine.

Biopsies (the removal & examination of a sample of the diseased tissue to be analysed to formulate a diagnosis) determine which type of IBD it is (see treatments, below for more).

RELATED: Home remedies for IBD in cats.

What are the symptoms?

  • Chronic protracted diarrhea
  • Poor absorption of food
  • Weight loss
  • Anaemia
  • Malnutrition
  • Chronic vomiting2 (sometimes) – Lymphocytic-Plasmacytic Enterocolitis (most common feline IBD) – see below

What are the causes?

Uncertain. There are differing opinions. Through an immune system response over the long term, bacteria or food proteins cause the cat to produce antibodies that attack the cells of the cat’s intestine3 Food is the most likely cause (source of the allergic reaction). The surface of the interior of the intestine recognises something in the food as “foreign invaders” to be attacked4. Diarrhea is caused by fluids being secreted into the intestine. Food passes through the intestine too quickly causing malabsorption of nutrients. The intestine can become swollen in time (visible on X rays).


Conventional treatment is often not very successful5 which encourages me to think out of the box a little bit. Take a look at FMT below. IBD is treatable but not often cured6. Conventional treatment includes administering immune system suppressants. Hypoallergenic food is used to find out if the food is the cause. Hypoallergenic food can be used long term too. It is not necessarily very effective. Commercial hypoallergenic cat food (usually dry food) contains unnatural ingredients that restrict the usefulness of the diet7as does non-hypoallergenic cat food. Modern more advanced hypoallergenic cat food is little better because it is essentially unnatural8.

RELATED: Feline IBD and a Raw Diet.

Wet hypoallergenic cat food can be successful (“helpful”) in mild feline IBD. It is argued that some cats are more sensitive to the overprocessed nature of commercial cat food and the dry variety is worse than the wet.

Recommended by Dr. Hodgkins: Raw Food Diet. This is going back to basics. It does not mean simply feeding raw meat. Supplements are essential. This page discusses it in full and provides recipes.

Recommended by Drs Carlson and Giffin9:

  • For IBD that is cause by Eosinophilic Enterocolitis: Hypoallergenic diet (dry food not criticised). Where there is colitis (inflammation disease of the large bowel) fiber may be added.
  • If caused by Lymphocytic-Plasmacytic Enterocolitis (most common feline IBD) – associated with food allergy, bacterial overgrowth and giardiasis (a parasitic infection): Antibiotic (metronidazole – USA) for the bacteria and giardiasis. Immunosuppressant drugs (prednisone).
  • If it is the third type of feline IBD – Granulomatous Enterititis (rare): Corticosteroids and immunosuppressant drugs are used as treatments. Possibly metronidazole – USA.


RELATED: My cat suffers from IBD and will undergo fecal microbiota transportation soon.

Fecal microbiota transportation as a treatment for feline IBD?
Fecal microbiota transportation as a treatment for feline IBD? Please click the image for more on this unusual treatment.

RELATED: My cat suffers from IBD and will undergo fecal microbiota transportation soon.

Most if not all vets will reject the suggestion of fecal transplantation (FMT) as a treatment for feline IBD. That said I think it is worth knowing about it. The vets will reject it because they don’t know enough about it. It is probably unproven at this time. FMT has proved effective in treating IBD in people. Why not in cats?

I would like to briefly discuss faecal transplantation as a means to treat IBD. I think that it is an emerging treatment. The concept is to restore a population of healthy gut microbials which overwhelm pathogens which cause IBD. It is intended to kickstart the intestinal track back to good health.

An important aspect of it is to find the right donor. Of course, they have to have an excellent history of gastrointestinal health. And you have to avoid transplanting into the donee cat a dietary allergy.

The veterinarian does a full faecal evaluation. The transplanted material should be no more than eight hours old and be fresh and appear normal. It is mixed with lactating Ringer’s solution, which is a mixture which replaces fluid and electrolytes. The material is filtered and then inserted into the donee cat is a liquid enema. The cat is sedated. Transplant might take about 30 minutes. A second transplant is really required is said.

The information comes from the Cornell Catwatch Newsletter. They say that faecal transplants are still a relatively new therapy for cats with chronic intestinal problems. This confirms what I have said above. I think that it should at least be discussed with your veterinarian if your cat is suffering from IBD bearing in mind the weakness of conventional treatments.

From Feline IBD to Cat Health Problems


1 Your Cat by Dr Elizabeth Hodgkins – page 177

2 Your Cat by Dr Elizabeth Hodgkins – page 177

3 Cat Owner’s Home Veterinary Handbook by Drs. Carlson and Giffin – page 194

4 Your Cat by Dr Elizabeth Hodgkins – page 178

5 Your Cat by Dr Elizabeth Hodgkins – page 177

6 Cat Owner’s Home Veterinary Handbook by Drs. Carlson and Giffin – page 194

7 Your Cat by Dr Elizabeth Hodgkins – page 178

8 Your Cat by Dr Elizabeth Hodgkins – page 179

9 https://pictures-of-cats.org/PoC-Medical-References-and-Methods.html – book 1

2 thoughts on “Feline IBD – overview plus conventional and FMT treatments”

  1. Have a boy with IBD right now.

    Am treating him with Atarax to reduce peristalsis in the intestinal tract, probiotics, and Flagyl since the most common cause of IBD is Giardia.

    So many people can’t deal with this syndrome, ie. the blasting diarrhea, crying out when expelling, etc.
    And, the cleanup… who can’t deal with that? Someone who doesn’t really care about their cat.

    Unbelievably, some people put their cats down because of this syndrome believing that it is impossible to treat or cure. Vets don’t help at all. They don’t care one way or another, unless you want to spend megabucks.
    The treatment is easy but it’s longterm.


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