Intestinal Malabsorption Syndrome in Cats

The malabsorption is the general term used to describe a condition in which cats can not fully absorb one or more types of nutrients found in the foods they eat. It occurs mainly in the small intestine of the cat , where most of the absorption should occur, but sometimes it also affects the large intestine.

Between 30 to 40 percent of older cats can suffer from protein, fat, vitamin B12, and vitamin E malabsorption.

So if you have an elderly cat with any of the symptoms mentioned above, or a cat that seems to lose weight for no reason or is suffering from chronic diarrhea , you should take him to the vet. Provide as much information about his stool as possible, as this will help the vet identify whether the problem is within the small or large intestine.

Here is some information on feline malabsorption syndrome.

What is small intestine malabsorption in cats?

A healthy cat normally digests its food in three successive phases. The first is when food is broken down into proteins, carbohydrates, fats, vitamins, minerals, and electrolytes; The second stage is when the nutrients are absorbed and the last stage is when the nutrients are transported to the rest of the cat’s body to give it the strength to develop.

Malabsorption is the faulty absorption of a component of the diet as a result of interference with its digestion or absorption, due to exocrine pancreatic insufficiency or small bowel disease. Malabsorption generally leads to diarrhea, altered appetite, and weight loss.

The main function of the small intestine is the digestion and absorption of nutrients, many chronic diseases of the small intestine cause malabsorption by interfering with one or more of these processes.

Symptoms of malabsorption in cats

Depending on the underlying cause, different races and ages are affected. There is a great variety and different severity of the signs.

  • Loose stools or watery diarrhea.
  • Chronic diarrhea in the cat.
  • Greasy stools
  • Stools that contain undigested food.
  • Greater frequency of defecation and volume of stool.
  • Increased appetite with weight loss.
  • Abdominal discomfort
  • Borborygmus (noise coming from the gastrointestinal tract)
  • Vomiting

Causes of feline malabsorption

Many diseases cause chronic malabsorption by interfering with these processes in cats. Some of these are:

  • Inflammatory bowel disease, a microscopic infiltration of the intestinal wall with inflammatory cells. The cause is unknown, although it is suspected that it has an immune basis.
  • Intestinal neoplasia, such as lymphosarcoma, adenocarcinoma, and leiomyosarcoma.
  • Excessive growth of the normal intestinal flora (bacteria) generally secondary to various gastrointestinal diseases, but occasionally as a primary entity.
  • Infectious enteropathies, such as bacterial, viral, fungal, parasitic.
  • A cat with an overactive thyroidmay develop malabsorption due to an overactive digestive system
  • The syndrome short bowelafter a large part of the intestinal tract is dried for several reasons, which is created. The remaining intestine is unable to function normally and malabsorption often develops.
  • Exocrine pancreatic insufficiencyis the lack of enough digestive enzymes in the digestive tract, which prevents food from being digested correctly.
  • Lymphangiectasia, which is an obstructive (blockage) disorder that affects the lymphatic system of the gastrointestinal tract. This results in the loss of protein through the gastrointestinal tract and causes profound hypoproteinemia or low protein levels.
  • Hairy atrophy(wheat-sensitive enteropathy).

Diagnosis of malabsorption in cats

A thorough understanding of the history and clinical signs is very important and is helpful in the diagnosis of malabsorption.

The following diagnostic tests may also be necessary for your cat:

  • Complete blood count.
  • Biochemical profile.
  • Urine analysis.
  • Fecal examination
  • Fecal bacterial cultures.
  • Abdominal X-rays.
  • A blood test to rule out exocrine pancreatic insufficiency.
  • Folate and cobalamin (vitamin B12) levels, which are blood tests that assess bacterial malabsorption and overgrowth.
  • Endoscopic examination and biopsy.

How to cure intestinal malabsorption in cats

The problem is in knowing which nutrients are not being adequately absorbed by the cat’s body. The key is often to know what causes malabsorption in the body. For example, food allergies or intolerances can cause inflammation in the wall of the intestine. Once the allergy trigger is identified and removed from the diet, the cat generally begins to improve.

Any cure must be directed at the underlying cause, as different disorders require different therapy.  Treatments for your cat may consist of:

  • Diet modification
  • Pancreatic enzyme replacement.
  • Antibiotic therapy.
  • Anti-inflammatory therapy.



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