Chronic Small Bowel Disease By Dr. Destinee Dummer

Is Vomiting Normal in Cats? No

Common Excuses for Vomiting
“My cat just has a nervous stomach” “My cat usually pukes hairballs, but that is normal”
“My cat just eats too fast and vomits food” “My cat is just a puker”

If you have used these excuses in the past, your cat might have chronic small bowel disease.

What is chronic small bowel disease?

In this condition, the small bowel is inflamed and does not absorb nutrients as readily resulting in weight loss over time depending on if there is continuous inflammation, or if it is sporadic (temporary), there may not be associated weight loss. The inflamed bowels might also move more slowly, causing blockages of hair or food as it moves through the intestines. In effect, your cat will vomit these items instead. Some experts suggest that chronic inflammation can evolve into a type of cancer of the small bowel called lymphoma. With lymphoma, more specifically small cell lymphoma, patchy areas of the intestine become thickened leading to malabsorption, weight loss, vomiting and sometimes diarrhea.

Vomiting 2 or more times per month, but otherwise acting normal
Slowly progressive weight loss – may only be detectable on medical records from annual wellness exam
A short hair cat who always seems to vomit hairballs


What Can Your Veterinarian do to determine if your Cat has Chronic Small Bowel Disease?

  • Rule out other causes of occasional vomiting and weight loss with blood work, such as hyperthyroidism, chronic renal disease and even diabetes.
  • Test for pancreatitis
  • Measure the cobalamin (B12) and folate levels
  • Abdominal radiographs
  • Abdominal ultrasound to measure intestinal thickness
  • Abdominal surgery to visualize the GI tract and collect biopsy samples from the intestines, pancreas and liver.

How is it treated?

Unfortunately this is a condition that requires lifelong treatment. Sometimes it can be controlled with diet and probiotics alone, but in further stages, anti-inflammatories, immune suppressants, anti-emetics and vitamin supplementation will be required.

If a diagnosis of lymphoma has been made through biopsies, 82% live 1-2 years with adequate treatment

What are other causes of chronic intermittent vomiting?

  • Food Allergy – diagnosed with a proper food trial
  • Chronic Parasites – your cat should be dewormed regardless if it has an indoor or outdoor lifestyle
  • Dysbiosis – overgrowth of ‘bad’ bacteria, corrected with the addition of probiotics