Inflammatory Bowel Disease Due to Lymphocytes and Plasma in Cats

PetMD Editorial
By PetMD Editorial on Feb. 5, 2010

Lymphocytic-Plasmacytic Gastroenteritis in Cats

Lymphocytic-plasmacytic gastroenteritis is an inflammatory bowel disease in which lymphocytes and plasma cells (antibodies) enter the lining of the stomach and intestines. It is thought to be caused by an abnormal immune response to environmental stimuli due to loss of normal immune regulation. Bacteria in the intestine may also be a trigger.

Continued antigen exposure (substances that stimulate the production of antibodies), along with unregulated inflammation, results in disease, although the exact mechanisms and patient factors that cause this remain unknown. Lymphocytic-plasmacytic gastroenteritis is the most common form of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) to affect dogs and cats.

Symptoms and Types

Signs vary dramatically from patient to patient depending on disease severity and organ affected. Symptoms to look for include:

  • Intermittent, chronic vomiting
  • Chronic, small bowel diarrhea
  • Loss of appetite (anorexia)
  • Long-term weight loss (cachexia)
  • Black stool
  • Blood in the stool (red)
  • Coughing up/vomiting up blood


  • Genetic predisposition
  • Bacteria and parasites and normal bacteria of the intestines and stomach are suspected
  • Possibly altered intestinal bacterial populations and immune alterations
  • May be related to meat proteins, food additives, artificial coloring, preservatives, milk proteins and gluten (wheat)


Your veterinarian will do a complete physical exam and take a thorough history from you. A chemical blood profile, urinalysis, and an electrolyte panel will be ordered. Depending on their results, he or she may run intestinal tests or take blood to check the function of your cat’s thyroid and pancreas.

A sample of feces will be taken to check microscopically for any parasites, and an endoscopy -- which uses an endoscope, a minimally invasive tubular tool that is equipped with a camera and tools for taking biopsy samples -- may be performed to examine the interior linings of the stomach and intestines in more detail. This is a very useful method for your veterinarian to better see the condition of the stomach and intestines and to take samples for testing, better enabling your doctor to make a conclusive diagnosis.



Your veterinarian may need to keep your cat in the hospital temporarily if it is severely dehydrated due to chronic vomiting and diarrhea. There, your cat will be given nutrients by intravenous fluids instead of solid food to decrease the injury caused by vomiting.

If your cat is severely underweight as a result of the gastroenteritis, your veterinarian may insert a stomach tube to feed your cat so that the nutrition bypasses the inflamed and sensitive stomach tissues and crosses into the intestines, where it can be turned into energy for the body. Depending on the underlying cause, your veterinarian will also change your cat's diet to something that will not continue to inflame the tissues, and will be easily digested by the body, allowing the body to gain nutritionally.

If the cause of the gastroenteritis is thought to be related to allergy, your veterinarian will switch your cat to an elimination and food trial diet, which will be strictly controlled in home by you. Medicines are also available to treat this disorder, but this will depend on which disease is found to be causing your cat's illness.

Living and Management

Your veterinarian will tell you when to bring your cat back for a follow-up appointment. If the cat is still very ill or if the cat has been prescribed a strong medication, less time will pass between check-ups. As your cat stabilizes, your veterinarian will want to examine your cat less often.

You and your veterinarian must work together to formulate food trials and assess the results on a continual basis until there are no more signs of illness.

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