Categories: Cat HealthIBS

Feline IBD

Feline IBD – is commercial dry cat food the main cause? See Cat Food Recipe.
  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).

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 thecells 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. 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.

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.

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 – book 1

Michael Broad

Hi, I'm a 71-year-old retired solicitor (attorney in the US). Before qualifying I worked in many jobs including professional photography. I have a girlfriend, Michelle. I love nature, cats and all animals. I am concerned about their welfare.

View Comments

  • 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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