Imagine that you are suffering from prolonged gastrointestinal disease, so you head to your doctor. You describe your symptoms. They inform you that the only way to diagnose the illness is by tracking your body’s response to special foods for at least 6 weeks. These diets may, or may not, improve your discomfort. The situation is far from ideal. But this is the scenario facing cats who have ultimately diagnosed with food responsive enteropathy (FRE), a common condition for them. However, there may be hope for a quicker and smarter solution.
This year, the American Academy of Veterinary Nutrition-WALTHAM Research Grant was awarded to Dr Aarti Kathrani at the University of Bristol to explore the use of new technologies in the diagnosis of FRE. Currently, cats with FRE cannot be easily distinguished from those with diseases that need to be treated with medications, such as steroids. Information on the patient history, clinical signs, laboratory test results or the severity of damage to the gut, as viewed with an endoscope or biopsies, are unable to differentiate the disease from similar conditions. Therefore, the recommendation is to feed the cat special diets and monitor for any changes. Therapeutic foods need to be fed as the only diet for at least six weeks before any conclusions on the impact are made, and FRE is potentially ruled out. This process can be frustrating, as well as costly, for the owner, and the strict limitations on giving any other foods or treats can be hard to stick to. Waiting to assess the results can also delay the introduction of other treatments that the pet may respond to.