Irritable Bowel Syndrome In Cats If Your Cat Has Diarrhea, Stress May Be to Blame

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Irritable bowel syndrome in cats is usually due to stress. Cats can become stressed from moving from one home to another or even from changing the food they are used to. The important thing is recognizing the signs of irritable bowel syndrome and doing the things necessary to help your cat feel less stressed.

Many people confuse irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). The two conditions do have similar symptoms, but the causes are very different. IBS is a psychosomatic disease, which means that activity in the mind -- usually stress -- is responsible for causing lower intestinal sensitivity. IBD, on the other hand, is a physical disease that occurs when the intestinal lining is invaded by inflammatory cells. IBD is a serious diagnosis, whereas IBS is usually very manageable.

Read on to learn all about irritable bowel syndrome in cats.

Causes of Irritable Bowel Syndrome in Cats

It is not always easy to pinpoint the exact cause of IBS, but in many cases the condition seems to be related to stress. A cat who is placed into a new situation, experiences a change in their routine, lacks stimulation, or suffers a trauma may develop anxiety, and the result may be chronic diarrhea -- the hallmark symptom of IBS.  

IBS may also show up after switching your cat to a new food.

Symptoms of Irritable Bowel Syndrome in Cats

The primary symptom of IBS is chronic diarrhea. The stool is usually soft and contains mucus. In some cases, a cat will have frequent bowel movements wherein they pass only small amounts of diarrhea. In other cases, the bowel movements may be larger than normal.

Other symptoms of IBS may include:

  • Straining to pass stools
  • Sudden urgency to defecate
  • Bloating
  • Cramping
  • Abdominal pain (may be sensitive to the touch)
  • Gas
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting

Diagnosing Irritable Bowel Syndrome in Cats

The symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome can also be symptoms of other digestive disorders, including inflammatory bowel disease, food allergies, dietary intolerance, intestinal parasite infection, and bacterial infection. Your veterinarian will have to rule out these and other conditions before diagnosing your cat with IBS.

Diagnosis is usually achieved through a physical examination, a discussion of symptoms, and testing. Tests may include blood work, urinalysis, fecal testing, imaging of the digestive tract, and an intestinal biopsy. If the intestinal biopsy comes back normal, this can indicate IBS because with IBS there is nothing physically wrong with the intestine.

Treating Irritable Bowel Syndrome in Cats

The best way to treat IBS is by removing the stressors that are causing the cat to have anxiety-induced diarrhea. Cats are easily stressed by changes in their routine, new situations (including new people or animals), household moves, travel, lack of stimulation, and loud noises. Try to avoid exposing your cat to these stressors when possible.

In some cases, it may be difficult to identify the source of your cat’s stress, and thus you may not be able to remove or avoid it. In these cases, a veterinarian may recommend an anti-anxiety medication such as Amitriptyline. Calming diffusers and sprays such as Feliway can also help to soothe an anxious cat by mimicking pheromones that cats recognize as familiar and safe.

Your veterinarian may also recommend making changes to your cat’s diet. High-fiber diets can sometimes help to improve gastrointestinal function and digestion, as can probiotic supplements. Just be sure to work closely with your veterinarian when making any dietary changes, as switching foods too quickly or selecting the wrong supplement can exasperate IBS.

Anti-diarrheal medications may also be prescribed to treat symptoms as they appear.

Many cats improve with treatment, but recurrence is possible. Keep an eye on your cat’s stool and contact your veterinarian if you notice symptoms returning.

More on Cat Health

What Causes Gastritis In Dogs And Cats?
The Causes Of Diarrhea In Dogs And Cats
When To Take A Cat To A Vet

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