Fighting Feline IBD with both a Traditional and Holistic Approach

Written by: Aaron I

By Lisa Provost, guest blogger and owner/operator of IBDKitties.Net

When my little girl Alex died, the last thing I wanted to do was mutter the words “feline IBD” ever again. I didn’t want to hear it, talk about it, type it, or think about it. I never could have imagined that two years later I’d be running a website in her memory, spending most of my time researching this insidious disease and trying desperately to find an answer for the poor little ones that still live with it.

The truth is there is no answer because IBD is a trickster, a shape shifter, an ever-changing face like Jeckyll and Hyde. How do you go into battle with something like that? And make no mistake about it; it IS a battle. Strap yourself in for the ride, because like any other inflammatory disease, this is a constant roller coaster of ups and downs. The stress from this disease can take its toll on both you and your pet. Some days you feel like they’re finally turning the corner and you’re able to exhale. Then without warning, things change and you’re trying to figure out what happened and how to fix it. Its frustrating, exhausting and can leave pet parents feeling helpless and hopeless. I know because that’s how I felt. But there is hope and there is indeed help.

In short, Feline Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) is a group of disorders that cause inflammation in the lining of the stomach and/or intestinal tracts, basically changing how these organs perform their normal bodily functions. IBD is an uncontrolled inflammatory response, causing the inflow of inflammatory cells into various parts of the gastrointestinal tract.

In the three years since Alex first got sick I’ve done nothing but research feline IBD and it’s cohorts in bodily trauma and I’ve come to find out a few things about this mysterious enemy. A good starting point is diet. I cannot stress enough how important it is to keep rotating your cat’s diet, whether they’re sick or healthy. The logic of feeding one food day in and day out to your pet is gone. That’s old school thinking and as food allergies, food intolerance, IBD, skin allergies, etc. pick up in cases everywhere, people are finding that out the hard way. If your cat stops eating its regular food, instead of leaving it there and just “waiting to see what happens”, try actually giving them something different. The longer you wait, the more they will resist. They have a strong will and can hold out for a long period of time. Problem is, the longer they hold out for food, the more damage is being done to their organs. It takes less than 48 hours for a cat’s liver to start feeding off its own stored reserves and to begin shutting down. This is called hepatic lipidosis, or fatty liver, and has a high mortality rate. Waiting too long for them to give in simply isn’t an option. I know because this happened to my Alex. She developed Triaditis; which is IBD, hepatic lipidosis and pancreatitis. She didn’t survive.

Switching your cat to a completely grain free diet is most often a helpful first step. The best diet includes high-quality protein, low or no carbohydrates and low fat. If you can switch them to a raw diet and they do well on it, they’ll be all the better. But be aware that any and all diets require proteins to be rotated continuously to work correctly. Any inflammatory disease is in a constant state of change and therefore everything done to treat it must be also. And I do mean everything! Food, alternative and all-natural treatments, probiotics and medications are only going to work for a couple of months before your kitty may begin to backslide. The reason being, the ever-changing intestinal flora, bacteria and micro-organisms with the capability of mutating, all need to be tricked in order to keep fighting the inflammation as they tend to adapt quickly to the new environment and stop working properly.

I am a big believer that both Western and Eastern medicine has a place in recovery from all diseases and health conditions. Feline IBD is not something to play around with and needs to be treated immediately. If your pet’s condition is deteriorating quickly and your vet feels that Western medications are warranted or things will continue to go downhill, I believe it’s necessary to do what you have to do in order to save your pet’s life. I’ve seen benefits from people who’ve brought their cats to two vets – one being a traditional vet and the other a holistic vet that works with their primary vet. This way, you know exactly what’s going into your pet’s body, and if there could be any potential side effects or contraindications in using any kind of medication or natural treatment.

When treating with all-natural remedies, be aware that natural doesn’t always mean it’s safe. Many natural remedies can actually be dangerous and even toxic to your pet. Try not to overload your pet with treatments. Your pet’s liver has to filter everything and too many treatments at once may unintentionally overstress the liver. Please check with your vet on any vitamins or supplements to avoid any excess doses the body would have to deal with.

IBD is manageable; but not yet curable. IBD is a chronic disease; there are no magic pills, no magic diet or food, and no magic alternative treatments. There are however many safe and effective treatments that stabilize your pet’s condition and greatly help in their recovery. Make sure to always discuss alternative and all-natural therapies with your vet. Your pet may have several health conditions where using certain treatments could worsen recovery. Always obtain all-natural products from a reputable source. Many all-natural products that are safe for human consumption may be too strong or not safe at all in high doses for pets. Even if it may be cheaper to buy the human version, they could contain additives that are potentially harmful or damaging to your pet’s recovery. This isn’t the case with every product but that’s why it’s better to discuss these with your vet to be sure.

Here are some natural treatments to consider for feline IBD:

B12 injections – B12 is best given in injection form as it bypasses the stomach and small intestines, which often don’t process or absorb B12 adequately in kitties with IBD. Unfortunately not all pets can be given injections and some will certainly let you know it. Sick or not, they are usually still in fighting form. If this isn’t possible, give a B12 tablet that’s a vegetarian version. It has to be completely clean: meaning no sugar, artificial sweeteners, added coloring or flavoring, none of that. Sweeteners like sorbitol, mannitol, dextrose, xylitol, sucrose, fructose, high fructose corn syrup are hard for them to digest and can lead to diarrhea or stomach irritation. When choosing a dose of B12 it’s best to start with a 1,000 mcg but because it’s not being absorbed as much as the injection, you may have to raise the dose to 5,000 mcgs per day. B12 is non-toxic and water-soluble and in pill form won’t all be absorbed anyway. If doing the injections, ask your vet to write you a prescription for B12, it’s much cheaper and the bottle is larger for pets than it is for humans. You can have your script filled at any pharmacy that does generics for a very small cost. The guidelines for B12 injections are low at .25 ccs per month. Many vets are now agreeing that pets don’t see much improvement on this low dose and some will go as high as 1 full ml or cc per week for severe malabsorption. Ask your vet about raising the dosage, especially when it comes to gastrointestinal diseases. B12 also increases hunger naturally as a bonus side effect.

Probiotics that are made for pets not only help to get some vital healthy bacteria in their intestines but also entices them to eat. Be careful when using probiotics made for humans as pets have much different flora in their intestines and the human version may upsets the applecart way more than it helps.

Colostrum is passed down from the mother’s milk and is the first defense in newborns against foreign pathogens. Colostrum contains antibodies (immunoglobulins) that are necessary for stimulating and strengthening the immune system. It contains high quality protein and growth factors that promote the development and proper function of the gut.

All-natural anti-nausea treatments include things like slippery elm bark and marshmallow root. Be sure and give these 30 minutes away from any other medications like Pepcid to avoid the chance that either one will prevent absorption of the other.

Denosyl and Denamarin both contain S-Adenosylmethionine (SAMe), which may increase liver glutathione levels, a potent antioxidant. SAMe may also help protect against liver cell death and help liver cell repair and regeneration. It must be given on an empty stomach although the pills are very small and can be inserted into a small treat if your pet is too hard to pill.

L-lysine also has very good immune system support and is commonly used in the treatment of Feline Herpes Virus and its associated respiratory and ocular symptoms. It can be used for other inflammatory diseases such as IBD and has been shown to ward off attacks from colds, allergies, asthma, etc. due to a low functioning immune system. For a cat with an already compromised immune response, this may give them a leg up should they develop symptoms of something else.

There is hope for future treatments of IBD and other immune disorders as places like Colorado State University begin research into using stem cells to treat these diseases. It’s been rough going so far as the use of steroids, antibiotics and other immune suppressing drugs are essentially necessary to fight the effects of IBD. But eventually by repressing the immune system enough you leave it open for other diseases to attack and spread, and hardly able to fight them off. Using stem cells could finally be the breakthrough we’ve been looking for to let their own bodies fight these conditions and do the repairs naturally. It’s exciting news and something I hope to learn more about in the near future. It may have come too late for my little girl, but if it saves thousands of pet’s lives, better late than never.

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