Inflammatory Bowel Disease in Dogs and Cats

Inflammatory bowel disease (aka IBD) is a disorder of dogs and cats where inflammatory cells (types of white blood cells within the blood) abnormally infiltrate the stomach and intestines, causing abnormal digestion of food. In cats, the disease can be part of a serious complex that also affects the liver and pancreas.

IBD is one of the most common causes of chronic vomiting and diarrhea in both dogs and cats. Other signs of IBD can include gradual weight loss, a dull hair coat, lethargy, hiding, and a decreased or increased appetite. Your veterinarian at Encina Veterinary Hospital may pick up on other signs during a physical exam, such as thickened gut loops and enlarged abdominal lymph nodes.

The exact cause or root of IBD is still not known; it is thought to be caused by a variety of triggers. These include intolerance to certain diets, gastrointestinal parasites and bacteria, and an individual’s genetic predisposition. Unfortunately, the exact trigger is usually not found, so the cause is labeled as “idiopathic” or unknown.

Diagnosing IBD is somewhat more complicated than other conditions. IBD cannot be diagnosed by a blood test and the only way to confirm IBD is to collect samples of tissue from inside the stomach, intestines, and colon. Once these samples are collected, they are sent off to the lab for analysis to see if signs of inflammatory infiltration are present. Samples are collected by either endoscopy (where a tiny camera is passed through the mouth and colon using a thin and flexible tube) or via exploratory surgery. Before these advanced tests are performed, your veterinarian will typically recommend a variety of less complex tests to rule out other causes of chronic vomiting and diarrhea first. These tests may include comprehensive blood, urine, and fecal tests and/or an abdominal ultrasound.

As a chronic illness, pets diagnosed with IBD will require regular rechecks with your veterinarian as well as emotional and financial investment in order to manage. Treatments for this condition may be life long, treatments are aimed at making your dog or cat feel better, and treatments are usually performed in a step-wise fashion. Your veterinarian may first recommend starting oral antibiotics and dewormers, as well as starting a strict prescription diet for several weeks to rule out bacterial, parasitic, and dietary triggers. In the rare case, your pet may feel better with these treatments alone. Most cases require additional treatments with anti-inflammatories. Starting these anti-inflammatories can actually hinder the diagnosis of IBD and is usually not recommended until biopsies are collected or your veterinarian has a very strong suspicion that IBD is present. Your veterinarian will work with you to help find the right combination of medications and treatments that will make your pet feel better.

If left untreated, IBD can be a serious disease which can lead to severe weight loss, decreased appetite, depression, and a poor quality of life. In rare cases in cats, IBD can actually lead to intestinal lymphoma, which is a type of cancer.

While IBD is a complicated and chronic disease process affecting many dogs and cats that requires veterinary care in order to diagnose and treat, this is a manageable condition. Your veterinarian is the best person to help formulate a plan that will make your dog or cat feel better and improve the quality of their life.

Erica Chiu DVM

Arthritis in Dogs and Cats

Arthritis not only affects people, but our beloved furry friends too. In fact, arthritis affects one in every five adult dogs in the U.S. and is one of the most common sources of chronic pain that veterinarians treat. Although not as common, arthritis also affects our feline friends.

What exactly is arthritis? Osteoarthritis, a.k.a. degenerative joint disease or osteoarthrosis, is an irreversible, non inflammatory degenerative damage of the bones that make up joints. Osteoarthritis can occur in any joint, but most often affects the hips.

Signs that your dog or cat may have arthritis: Unfortunately dogs and cats are not able to tell us when they hurt. It is important, therefore, to watch for non-verbal cues closely and take even subtle changes seriously. The following are signs that your pet may have arthritis:
         -Favoring a limb
         -Difficulty standing or sitting
         -Sleeping more
         -Seeming to have stiff or sore joints
         -Hesitancy to jump, run or climb stairs
         -Weight gain
         -Decreased activity or less interest in play
         -Attitude or behavior changes

Management of Osteoarthritis: As osteoarthritis is an irreversible disease, the goals of therapy are not to cure the animal, but rather to control pain, increase mobility, slow the destructive process in the joint and encourage cartilage repair. The following are some ways to help minimize the aches and pains:

  Drug Therapy:
Fortunately, there are multiple options when it comes to drug therapy. Often times, drugs are used in combination with one another to provide better comfort. The following are some commonly used medications:
     -Non steroidal anti-inflammatories (NSAIDs), such as Rimadyl and Meloxicam, can be used to help reduce inflammation in the joints.
     -Other pain medications, such as Tramadol and Gabapentin, can be used in conjunction with NSAIDs to alleviate pain and discomfort.
     -Chondroprotective agents, such as Adequan, Cosequin and Glyco-flex, work to protect cartilage as it attempts to repair itself.

Please do not give your dog or cat any pain medications without consultation with a veterinarian first. Many human anti-arthritis drugs can cause serious, even fatal, results in animals.

  Weight Management and Exercise: Drug therapy is most effective when combined with appropriate exercise and weight management. Weight control is probably the most important thing an owner can do to help their arthritic pet. Low impact exercises, such as swimming or walking, are good ways to keep an animal thin and may enhance the nutrition of the cartilage.

  Surgery: If medical management fails to reduce pain and improve function, surgical intervention may be an option. There is a wide variety of surgical corrections, alteration, replacements and salvage procedures that may be helpful in certain situations.

  Other Therapies: Physical therapy, acupuncture and special diets are some more good options for dogs and cats with osteoarthritis.

Should you believe your pet is suffering from arthritis or has been recently diagnosed, keep in mind that although this condition is irreversible there are many things that both you and Encina Veterinary Hospital’s staff of veterinarians can do to control pain/discomfort and slow the course of the disease, giving your pet a full and healthy life!

Nadia Rifat DVM