Pets with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) vs. lymphoma

Inflammatory bowel disease is one of the most common causes of chronic diarrhea, vomiting and weight loss.

Inflammatory bowel disease is one of the most common causes of chronic diarrhea, vomiting, weight loss, and appetite changes in adult and senior pets. And while many pets can experience occasional digestive upset, it is the chronic digestive issues that are so important to diagnose correctly so that appropriate and early treatment is achieved. As general practitioners, we are often able to resolve greater than 80 percent of acute digestive tract problems with symptomatic and/or dietary therapy without a lot of diagnostic testing.

However, when these issues become chronic, a definitive diagnosis is critical to a successful treatment outcome. In such cases full medical workups including physical exams, CBC/chemistry blood work, urine analyses, x-rays and often abdominal ultrasounds are required. Depending upon the results of these initial baseline tests, further testing is done such as thyroid or adrenal gland testing, 6-8 week strict dietary trials in case food allergies are involved and even an endoscopic exam with stomach or intestinal biopsies, as done in people. Biopsies become especially important to distinguish inflammatory bowel disease from cancer of the digestive tract such as lymphoma, if the initial workups and/or dietary trials fail to resolve the symptoms.

I’ve seen too often many chronically ill pets treated symptomatically with Prednisone for stomach or bowel disorders, often initially helping the situation tremendously, only to have the conditions later relapse with much more intense symptoms. Often these pets have had cancerous lymphoma from the outset, and animal guardians should at least be given the option of a definitive diagnosis and treatment early on with their chronically ill pet. This is even more critically important for pets with digestive symptoms, as those pets with gastrointestinal lymphoma (which can mimic symptoms of inflammatory bowel disease) that are first treated with Prednisone only are much more difficult to treat with effective chemotherapy protocols if diagnosis is delayed at a later date.

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  1. My 10 year old long-haired chihuahua has inflammatory bowel disease. He was diagnosed three years ago with protein losing enteropathy but now his proteins are normal. He has been on prednisolone but our vet changed to budesonide. Everytime we taper off the budesonide he has a relapse, most recently 3 months ago when he had diarhea and refused all food and medicine. Once we reached a dose of 0.35mg three times daily and changed his diet to Hills W/D for weight management he began to eat normally again with normal stools.
    However the budesonide is causing excessive thirst and urine outflow which is causing a lot of accidents in the house. Is it time to try to lower the dose of the budesonide and is there something else you would recommend? He is on probiotics as well.

  2. I would work with your local vet in your area on adjusting the budesonide dose and/or considering other immunosuppressive drugs that could be considered as alternatives such as atopica(i..e cyclosporine) or azathioprine to name two others that could be considered. I would also ask for referral to vet internal medicine specialist in your area for input. Also could consider hydrolyzed protein diet i.e Hills Z/D etc but need to coordinate that with your local vet. Also could consider consulting with a holistic vet on this as well. See my website to learn more

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