Pet Immunity with Inflammatory Bowel Disease
While over one million Americans currently have Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD), did you realize that your pets can have IBD too? This strange condition is poorly understood but can be managed reasonably well in most cases.
What Is Inflammatory Bowel Disease?
Inflammatory Bowel Disease causes chronic inflammation of the digestive tract, exhibiting a variety of symptoms. It is usually a life-long disease, alternating through periods of activity and remission.
What Causes Inflammatory Bowel Disease?
No one knows the underlying cause of IBD, though genetics, nutrition, and infection are all thought to contribute. The actually pathology of the disease is the result of a dysfunctional immune system. The digestive tract is lined with protective immune cells which recognize harmful microorganisms. These microorganisms will often grab onto the lining of the intestines and break through to enter the body. Immune cells are waiting just below this lining to destroy invading microorganisms. Normally, these immune cells know when to be active (when a threat is present) and when to lie low (when no threat is present). In animals with inflammatory bowel syndrome, this on-off switch is broken. As a result the immune cells of the digestive tract run rampant, destroying cells which line the digestive tract and interfering with digestive function.
What Are the Symptoms of Inflammatory Bowel Disease?
The most common symptoms of pet Inflammatory Bowel Disease are vomiting and diarrhea. (Note: Cats and dogs tend to vomit more than humans, either from hairballs or eating things they shouldn't like shoes, garbage, bugs, etc.) Pets that vomit from IBD tend to do so much more often than healthy pets. Inflammatory Bowel Disease can also cause such symptoms as weight loss, excessive flatulence, depression, loss of appetite, fever, abdominal pain, and indigestion.
How Will I Know If My Pet Has Inflammatory Bowel Disease?
Veterinarians can diagnose IBD based on physical examination, blood and urine tests, ultrasound, or endoscopy. During a physical examination a vet will often press on the abdomen and gauge the animal's reaction. If the pet is experiencing abdominal pain it will most likely be agitated by added pressure on its abdomen. The vet will also be feeling for thickened intestine, a common sign of Inflammatory Bowel Disease. Blood tests can reveal abnormal liver enzyme and amylase levels, often caused by IBD. Excessive diarrhea and vomiting will cause blood to be low in protein and potassium. Vets will often examine the urine for kidney disease and the feces for parasitic or bacterial infection when diagnosing IBD.
Are There Any Natural Treatments for Pet Inflammatory Bowel Disease?
Many pet IBD cases can be treated with a special diet. Often an animal will be given foods it isn't usually exposed to (especially protein sources like rabbit, venison, or duck). If symptoms subside with the special diet, foods normally in the animal's diet can be resumed one by one until you discover the offensive food. Pets with IBD need less fat and more fiber than normal pets. Fat can contribute to loose stools by upsetting the intestine. Fiber, on the other hand, increases stool bulk and decreases the occurrence of diarrhea. Inflammatory Bowel Disease can also lead to nutrition depletion from vomiting and diarrhea. If your pet exhibits these symptoms, be sure they get the necessary nutrients they need to make up for what is lost.