If your cat suffers from chronic gastrointestinal problems, you're probably at your wit's end. Not just from trying different foods, monitoring his reactions, and cleaning up after him, but from the frustration of not knowing how to make him well. Ask your vet if Kitty might have a Helicobacter infection.
Helicobacter Pylori Infection
In humans, a Helicobacter infection might result in stomach cancer, ulcers or chronic gastritis, or stomach inflammation. While it's fairly rare in cats, this spiral bacteria does infect them, although not the same exact species as in people. If your cat constantly vomits and your vet can't find the cause, Helicobacter could be the culprit. Whether the bacteria causes stomach cancer in felines is still uncertain. According to the website Veterinary Partner, the presence of the bacteria could be a reason that cats diagnosed with another stomach or bowel disease that appears stable could suddenly get much worse.
Stomach acids are tough, tough, tough. You've become acquainted with their strength whenever you've thrown up. The reason that human and animal stomachs aren't devoured by their own stomach acids is that they have a protective mucous lining that secretes acid neutralizer. There aren't many organisms that survive stomach acidity. Unfortunately, the various Helicobacter species are among them. These bacteria are able to create their own enzymes that allow them to infect that stomach lining. Eventually, the lining can't create the protective mucus. This results in pain and vomiting in the patient, whether feline, canine or human. The Merck Veterinary Manual states that whether presence of the organism predisposes the cat to "food allergy, inflammatory bowel disease, ulceration, or neoplasia [cancer] remains to be seen."
The most accurate way to diagnosis the presence of Helicobacter in your cat's stomach is via biopsy. Your cat will need to undergo general anesthesia, so this might not be an option for elderly or frail felines. Your vet can also take blood samples to test for Helicobacter antibodies, but that's not the most accurate way to go. In certain veterinary facilities your cat might undergo radioisotope testing. He's fed a meal containing radioisotopes and his breath is then tested for Helicobacter.
Getting rid of Helicobacter in your cat can't be done with just one medication. He'll likely receive three different drugs—one antiacid and two antibiotics. The antiacids could have the same active ingredients as the over-the-counter products you use to relieve gastrointestinal distress. Antibiotics your cat may be prescribed include amoxicillin, azithromycin, tetracycline, metronidazole, erythromycin and clarithromycin.
Always check with your veterinarian before changing your pet’s diet, medication, or physical activity routines. This information is not a substitute for a vet’s opinion.
- The Merck Veterinary Manual: Helicobacter Infection
- DVM 360: Helicobacter Gastritis in Dogs and Cats (Proceedings)
- Veterinary Partner: Helicobacter Infection
- National Center for Biological Information: Helicobacter pylori Gastritis in Cats with Long-Term Natural Infection as a Model of Human Disease
Jane Meggitt has been a writer for more than 20 years. In addition to reporting for a major newspaper chain, she has been published in "Horse News," "Suburban Classic," "Hoof Beats," "Equine Journal" and other publications. She has a Bachelor of Arts in English from New York University and an Associate of Arts from the American Academy of Dramatics Arts, New York City.