Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) is a group of disorders characterized by varying types and severities of intestinal inflammation.  IBD can cause vomiting, diarrhea, or both in cats and dogs.  It can affect the small intestine, large intestine, or both in either species.

IBD is usually classified according to the type of inflammatory cells present and the area of the intestinal tract affected in the biopsy specimen.  Examples include lymphocytic-plasmacytic enteritis, eosinophilic gastroenteritis, histiocytic colitis, etc.

The cause of IBD in animal remains unknown.  Possible mechanisms include defective immunoregulation; genetic, biochemical or psychosomatic disorders; infections; parasites; dietary  allergies; and adverse drug reactions.  Whatever the cause, it is generally thought that IBD is ultimately related to a hypersensitivity (allergic) response in the intestine.

The diagnosis of IBD requires an intestinal biopsy.  Most of the time this is obtained using and endoscope.  In some cases, a surgical (full-thickness) biopsy is necessary.

The treatment of IBD will vary widely between animals and has to be tailored to each individuals needs.  For this reason, it is not uncommon for medications and treatments to change throughout the course of therapy, and failure to respond to the initial treatment plan does not mean the problem can not come under control.  The general approach to therapy is two-fold.  The first step is dietary management.  Adequate protein and nutrients must be supplied in a form that is easily digested and used, but is non-irritating and non-antigenic.  Hypoallergenic diets contain a protein and a carbohydrate source that is new to your pet.  You may be given specific food for this purpose, or instructed on how to prepare a home cooked diet.  Some pets can be controlled on dietary changes alone, but most require additional treatment.

Pharmacological (drug) therapy is used as adjunctive treatment in all but the mildest cases of IBD.  Corticosteroids are often the first medication used in IBD.  These are used because of their potent antiinflammatory and immunosuppressive properties and low cost.  Common side effects of these drugs include increased thirst and urination, panting, and increased appetite.  Your pet should have unlimited access to fresh water.  Occasional side effects include liver disease, urinary tract infections, behavior changes, Cushings disease, insulin resistance, pancreatitis and stomach ulcers.  If corticosteroids are prescribed for your animal, do not use other anti-inflammatory like aspirin/rimadyl/deramaxx/meticam/etogesic concurrently, and inform us if he/she has recieved these in the past.  Various other antiinflammatories, immunosuppressives, and motility modifiers are also used in IBD in some patients.  These will be discussed with you on an individual basis as they are prescribed.

For most animals with IBD, the prognosis is good and the disease can be adequately controlled.  The disease is chronic in most cases, however, and a cure is not usually likely.  Animals with severe distortion and scarring in the intestine have a relatively poorer prognosis for long term control.  Even with animals that respond very well to treatment, occasional relapses are expected.