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C2008-36

Dear Christopher Cat

Our cat Whiskers has been vomiting for a year. Her veterinarian thinks she has inflammatory bowel disease and recommends lab work and an intestinal biopsy. Please tell us about this disorder.

Christopher Responds

One of my brothers had inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), a condition marked by chronic vomiting and/or diarrhea.

In IBD, white blood cells invade the lining of the gastrointestinal tract, thickening it and impairing the intestine’s ability to absorb nutrients and move food forward.

If the inflammatory cells invade the stomach or upper small intestine, chronic vomiting results. When the lower small intestine is involved, diarrhea and weight loss occur.

If the cells target the large intestine, the diarrhea contains mucous or blood. Of course, all areas of the gastrointestinal tract may be involved.

Often, the etiology is unclear, as in my brother’s case. However, through a complete work-up, your veterinarian might identify a cause: intestinal parasites, bacterial infection, food allergy or an immune system problem, for example.

Whiskers’ work-up also will rule out other causes of vomiting, such as kidney, liver, pancreatic or thyroid disease. The biopsy will eliminate intestinal lymphosarcoma from the list and confirm the diagnosis of IBD.

Treatment depends on the cause, if one is found. If not, inflammation and the resulting vomiting and diarrhea can be managed through a special diet, probiotics and medications.

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