Defining Colitis in Cats
Colitis is the medical term for inflammation of the colon, which is also referred to as the large intestine or large bowel. The colon is the lower part of the digestive tract. It includes and extends from the cecum to the rectum. The cecum is the first part of the colon and forms a dilated pouch at the end of the small intestine. The rectum is the last part of the colon, which ends at and adjoins the anal canal. Many things can cause the colon to become inflamed, including bacterial infection, infestation by internal parasites and a condition known as inflammatory bowel disease. Depending on the underlying cause, colitis in cats can be acute (sudden in onset), episodic (waxing and waning) or chronic (long-term).
Types of Colitis in Cats
Acute colitis is more common in dogs than in cats and typically is self-limiting. The underlying cause is rarely diagnosed, because the condition tends to resolve on its own. The clinical signs (diarrhea with fresh blood and/or mucus, straining to defecate, and possibly constipation) tend to appear suddenly, although many cats seem to feel good and act fairly normally despite the diarrhea. Mild depression may be noticed by owners. In many acute cases, the cat acts fine one minute, and the next appears painful or otherwise “off.” Acute colitis, which usually is caused by stress, ingestion of toxins or foreign bodies, dietary indiscretion or intolerance, internal parasites, drug administration or bacterial overload, generally lasts only a few days.
Episodic and Chronic Colitis
Episodic and chronic feline colitis are characterized by sporadic mild to severe clinical signs. Episodic cases generally last only a few weeks per episode, while chronic colitis persists for months and tends to worsen with time. Purebred cats are prone to feline lymphocytic-plasmacytic (LPC), also called inflammatory bowel disease. The clinical signs are the same as in acute cases; they just last longer and tend not to resolve without treatment. Chronic or episodic colitis typically are caused by an underlying medical disorder such as neoplasia, feline leukemia virus (FeLV), feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV) or some other viral or bacterial systemic or gastrointestinal infection.