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Causes & Preventing Colitis in Cats

Source: PetWave, Updated on December 22, 2015

Cause of Colitis in Cats

The colon, also called the large bowel or large intestine, is the last functional part of the gastrointestinal tract. It is responsible for the final stages of digestion before the digestive waste products, in the form of feces, are eliminated. Colitis is a condition that occurs when the lining of the colon becomes irritated and inflamed, disrupting the last part of the digestive process. Inflammation of the colon triggers a cascade of gastrointestinal events on a cellular level and ultimately reduces the colon’s ability to absorb water from dietary waste products. This causes the cat’s stool to become loose, watery, greasy and sometimes tinged with fresh red blood.

A number of things can contribute to feline colitis, which can come on suddenly (acute colitis), wax and wane (episodic colitis) or last for a long time (chronic colitis). The causes of colitis can be characterized several ways:

  1. Primary infiltrative intestinal disorders (inflammatory bowel disease, malignant neoplasia/cancer)
  2. Infectious diseases (acute infectious enteritis, internal parasites, bacterial, fungal or viral infection, infection by other microorganisms)
  3. Other primary medical diseases or disorders that cause secondary large intestinal irritation (administration of antibiotics which upset the normal flora of the bowel, food allergies, sensitivity to or intolerance of certain dietary ingredients, environmental stress, dietary indiscretion, ingestion of toxins or foreign bodies, bacterial overgrowth).

Tritrichomonas foetus has been identified as a gastrointestinal pathogen in domestic cats. This parasite can infect cats of any age, breed or gender, but it tends to show up most commonly in young cats that are housed in crowded or unsanitary conditions. It is important for a veterinarian to figure out what is causing a cat’s irritated colon, so that an appropriate and effective treatment plan can be implemented.

Preventing Colitis in Cats

Preventing feline colitis requires a conscientious owner and consistently good overall cat care. Cats should be de-wormed in accordance with their veterinarian’s anti-parasite protocol. Colitis is much less frequent in indoor cats than it is in cats that are allowed to roam freely outdoors. Dietary modification can help prevent recurrent episodes of colitis if food allergies are the culprit, although any changes in diet should be made gradually. Owners should keep all medications and household cleaning products well out of their cat’s reach. Cats should also be kept away from other animals that are known to be sick, especially those that are showing signs of respiratory, gastrointestinal or other potentially contagious diseases.

Special Notes

Some of the organisms that cause colitis in domestic cats have the potential to infect people, especially people who have weak or suppressed immune systems. These organisms include: 1) bacteria (enterotoxigenic Escherichia coli, certain Salmonella species, Campylobacter and Clostridium); 2) protozoa (Tritrichomonas, Giardia); and 3) helminth (worm) parasites (Trichuris), among others. “Zoonosis” is the medical term for diseases of animals that can be transmitted to humans.

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