Crohn's disease is a human condition that causes chronic inflammation of the gastrointestinal tract. The cat version is a rare inflammatory bowel disease called granulomatous regional enteritis. This mouthful essentially means your cat's small bowel thickens and narrows due to inflammation of the surrounding cells.
What Is IBD?
Inflammatory bowel disease refers to a condition that is pretty much what the name sounds like. Your cat's gastrointestinal tract, including his stomach, colon and intestines, basically becomes swollen and irritated, causing discomfort and preventing the proper absorption and processing of his food. Numerous varieties can descend upon your cat, but the rarest—and the most similar to Crohn's disease—is granulomatous regional enteritis. This condition affects the small intestine and occurs when the fat and lymph nodes surrounding it become inflamed.
The symptoms of a condition affecting the bowel are pretty cut-and-dried. Your cat typically suffers from episodes of vomiting and diarrhea, and generally looks pretty miserable and unsatisfied after visiting the litter box. While every cat can suffer from the occasional bout of diarrhea, the key element to linking these symptoms to IBD is their frequency. If these symptoms come and go fairly regularly, or worse are a constant nuisance, chances are you're dealing with some form of IBD.
Although the kitty version of Crohn's disease is one of the least common forms of IBD, its cause isn't as rare. All forms of IBD are caused by a malfunctioning immune system that classifies a certain food, bacteria or parasite as more dangerous than it really is and goes into overdrive in defense. Each version of IBD involves a different inflammatory cell, and granulomatous regional enteritis is caused by a collection of inflamed eosinophils (a type of white blood cells) around your kitty's small intestine.
Diagnosis and Treatment
Because just about every other cat health condition can include some variation of vomiting and diarrhea, diagnosing IBD requires more than just a few blood tests. In most cases your vet will rule out various other conditions, such as parasite invasion and hyperthyroidism, before moving on to a biopsy of the affected organs. Your cat receives a diagnosis once the inflammatory cells are discovered. No form of IBD is curable, but controlling the symptoms is possible through diet change, medications such as corticosteroids and immunosuppressive drugs, and possibly even surgery depending on the extent of the inflammation.
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