Inflammatory bowel disease, or pet IBD, is a very common problem in cats and some breeds of dogs, notably Shepherds and Arctic breeds like Huskies and Malamutes.   In mild cases, you may see just occasional vomiting or soft stools, but as it worsens the vomiting and diarrhea can become consistent, leading to weight loss and sometimes death if not treated appropriately.  Just the vomiting and diarrhea alone is something we can all sympathize with.  And then there is the clean up…

As your integrative veterinarian in San Luis Obispo, we at Mission Animal Hospital can help you not only with the advanced diagnostics but also the holistic management of pet IBD, with the goal of maximizing quality of life– for both you and your pet!!

Pet IBD, like its cousin Crohn’s disease in humans, typically starts as allergies to one or more components of  a diet.  This allergy can occur whether the food is dry or canned, raw or processed.   While it is most common with lesser-quality foods– especially those with lots of artificial flavors and colorings– it can also occur with even the very best dietary ingredients.

These dietary allergies are the SINGLE most common reason for vomiting in otherwise healthy cats.  If your cat acts normal, is not losing weight, but vomits within an hour after they eat…. that is almost always a sign they are allergic to something they are eating.  Most frequently, it is the meat source or the “gravy” they are allergic to, but it can be any component of the diet.  If you catch it early and change the food, it is only a nuisance– but if you don’t figure things out it can many times develop into IBD.

As the disease progresses and the GI signs become more chronic, on a microscopic level within the gut bad things are happening.   The normal cells which line the stomach and intestine, allowing normal absorption of nutrients and water from the GI tract, are gradually replaced by scar tissue.  Since this scar tissue is incapable of absorbing water, increased amounts of water are retained in the GI tract– causing chronic diarrhea.  And since this scar tissue cannot absorb nutrients, we see weight loss begin.

It is not rocket science to understand that the first rule of treating IBD is to try and find a diet that your pet is not sensitive to.  For many years, virtually all “over the counter” pet diets had lamb or poultry in them, so we can’t use that.  Beef and pork can be very antigenic, so we don’t want them either.   This traditionally meant that you had to come to a veterinary office to purchase “alternative protein” diets based on venison, rabbit, mink, etc– meat sources the average pet has never seen.   Now, however, you can find premium diets by California Natural, Evos, Taste of the Wild, and several other companies which contain salmon, kangaroo, or duck as the meat source.  These diets– especially if grain free- are an excellent choice for you.    Stay away from bison products, as it is just too close to the very common beef.    In tough cases, you may have to use a home-cooked or vegetarian diet for your pet.

While talking about diets, we should meander into the rationale for such hypoallergenic diets as Z/D by Hill’s.  The principle behind these diets is that our immune system can only recognize something as an allergen (and thus trigger an immune response against it) if that molecule is of a certain size, or molecular weight.  So if a diet manufacturer can break down all the potential allergens into a size smaller than that “allergenic threshold”, in theory your pet’s immune system CANNOT react to it.    This is what Hill’s has attempted to do with Z/D– with varying success– and is also the basis for new hypoallergenic diets by Royal Canin.

From a traditional medical perspective, the treatment of IBD has always centered around the use of  IMMUNE SUPPRESSANTS like steroids.  These are very effective, and if used intermittently and at low doses can greatly help an IBD pet.  However, longer treatments and higher doses can create potentially serious side effects like Cushing’s disease and hypertension.

Over the last decade, there has been tremendous interest in Crohn’s disease on the human side, since its frequency and severity appear to be increasing.   From this research we have learned of many holistic approaches to the prevention and treatment of IBD in our pets.



1) FISH OIL, FISH OIL, FISH OIL  The more Omega 3 fatty acids we can get into an IBD patient, the better they do.  It’s that simple.

2) CURCUMIN will both prevent and treat pet IBD.  And cancer.  And allergies.  And joint pain.  Use it now, use it for life.

3) PROBIOTICS  to help normalize GI flora.  Just make sure they are DOG or CAT probiotics, not human.

4) Spirulina, or blue/green algae

5) Psyllium and other fiber products

6) Boswellia