Goals of Treating Colitis in Cats
Colitis is a complicated condition that requires an accurate diagnosis before effective treatment can begin. The therapeutic goals of treating this disorder are to relieve the cat’s pain and discomfort, restore normal bowel function, resolve large bowel diarrhea and eliminate any identifiable contributing conditions.
The choice of treatment will depend on why the cat’s colon is inflamed and the frequency and severity of its symptoms. Most cats with acute colitis are treated symptomatically, because the cause of their condition is never determined and they typically get better on their own. However, cats with chronic or episodic colitis almost always need medical attention. In some cases, colitis can actually be cured. Other times, it can only be controlled through medical management and dietary modification. Outpatient treatment is preferred, unless the cat’s diarrhea is so severe that it becomes dangerously dehydrated and requires intravenous fluid and electrolyte replacement, which must be given in the hospital. A number of drugs are available to treat colitis, including antibiotics, anthelmintics (anti-parasitic drugs), and other antimicrobial medications. Anti-inflammatory and immunosuppressive drugs, especially corticosteroids, are often used in severe or refractory cases. Cats given steroids should be checked by their veterinarian regularly and slowly weaned off of the drugs as soon as it is appropriate.
Oral motility modulators can firm the stool and provide relief from diarrhea. Withholding food for 24 hours can help minimize the severity of colitis, although this should only be done under a veterinarian’s supervision. Bland food will be reintroduced in small portions – rice, low-fat cottage cheese, yogurt, tofu, strained meat baby food and boiled or broiled chicken are often recommended. Prescription diets formulated for cats with sensitive digestive tracts are available to control colitis outbreaks. These diets are highly digestible and promote the maintenance of “good” intestinal bacteria. An elimination or hypoallergenic diet may be appropriate if food allergies are the suspected culprit. Foods or supplements containing soluble fiber can relieve the straining and discomfort that plague cats with chronic colitis. Fatty acid supplements can soothe the irritated colon lining. All cats should have free access to fresh water, unless a veterinarian recommends otherwise. Anxiety and stress can contribute to outbreaks of feline colitis. Cats prone to digestive irritation should be kept in a calm, quiet, safe indoor environment.
Until recently, there was no reliable treatment for Tritrichomonas foetus infections in cats. Now, veterinarians have a medication that eliminates these organisms from the cat’s system. All prescriptions should be administered in strict accordance with the veterinarian’s instructions. If these therapies don’t resolve the cat’s colitis, colon cancer or some other disorder may be involved.
The prognosis for cats with colitis ranges from excellent to guarded. Acute colitis usually is very responsive to supportive care. Chronic allergic colitis also has a good prognosis, with appropriate dietary management. The outlook for cats with other types of chronic or episodic colitis is more variable, depending upon the cause of their condition. If infections and parasites can be eliminated, the prognosis is good for these cats, as well.