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Pancreatitis in Cats: Signs, Cause, Diagnosis, Treatment and Outcome

by Vetic Editorial

What is Pancreatitis in Cats?

The pancreas is a crucial organ that has two main functions. On one hand, the pancreas produces enzymes that help in digestion and, on the other, it also produces insulin that controls blood glucose

The inflammation of the pancreas is called pancreatitis. When it happens in cats, it’s called pancreatitis in cats. 

Did you know? inflammation of the pancreas can also cause the inflammation of the liver and surrounding intestine. Since it involves multiple organs, it is often called triaditis

What is Chronic Pancreatitis?

infographic titled 'what is pancreatitis in cats?' with the Vetic logo. Pancreatitis is the inflammation of the pancreas that results in the self-digestion of the organ. the image has the outline of a cat in blue and the internal organs visible and lined out that includes the lungs, stomach, liver, gall bladder, small intestine, pancreas, large intestine, kidneys and bladder. The small intestine is high intensity red, since the inflammation of the pancreas causes inflammation of the small intestine as well. The infographic is accompanied by an illustration of the basic anatomy of a cat that shows the location of every major organ and organ system including the liver, pancreas and small intestine.

Cats who recover from pancreatitis often suffer from recurrent bouts of pancreatitis. Hence, they are said to have chronic pancreatitis. 

Chronic refers to the fact that the disease has a long-term effect and it may recur after a few months or years. 

What is the Cause of Pancreatitis?

In the cases of pancreatitis in cats, the pancreatic enzymes become activated in the pancreas itself instead of reaching the small intestine in its inactive state. As a result, the enzymes begin to digest the pancreatic tissues. 

Pancreatitis in cats can be spontaneous. It may not follow an infection or change in diet. However, pancreatitis can be secondary to diabetes mellitus or inflammatory bowel disease.

What Happens During Pancreatitis in Cats?

The digestion of the pancreas primarily leads to a reduction in the levels of the pancreatic enzymes. It can cause digestive problems including vomiting and diarrhoea. 

After a few days, the self-digestion of the pancreas releases a higher level of the pancreatic enzymes into the blood. 

The longer pancreatitis in cats goes undiagnosed and untreated, more the number of pancreatic cells are destroyed. It results in a permanent overall decrease of pancreatic function. 

Signs of Pancreatitis in Cats

Pancreatitis in cats has become very common. Historically, it was considered rare, but thanks to more observant cat parents and improved diagnostics, it has become easier to diagnose pancreatitis in its early stages and treat the same. 

infographic on the signs of pancreatitis in cats with the vetic logo. The signs of pancreatitis in cats Partial or complete loss of appetite Vomiting Diarrhoea Weight loss Shortness of Breath Lethargy Tenderness of the Abdomen More serious signs of chronic pancreatitis in cats Dehydration Low body temperature Jaundice Abdominal Pain

The signs of pancreatitis in cats are –

  • Partial or complete loss of appetite
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhoea
  • Weight loss
  • Shortness of Breath
  • Lethargy
  • Tenderness of the Abdomen

More serious signs that develop with chronic pancreatitis in cats are –

  • Dehydration 
  • Low body temperature
  • Jaundice 
  • Abdominal Pain

Sometimes, cats may also present with fever or hyperthermia instead of a low body temperature or hypothermia when they have pancreatitis.

Diagnosis of Pancreatitis in Cats

Inforgaphic titled the Diagnostic tests for pancreatitis in cats. Complete Blood Count LFT (Liver Function Test) KFT (Kidney Function Test) Lipase Amylase feline Pancreatic Lipase Immunoreactivity (fPLI) Ultrasound (USG) Radiography

The diagnosis of pancreatitis can be challenging and often impossible without a complete metabolic profile of cats. 

The veterinary doctor will recommend complete blood count (CBC), along with Liver Function Test (LFT), Kidney Function Test (KFT), Amylase and Lipase to see your cat’s overall health. 

If the serum amylase and lipase values are high, the veterinarian will recommend ultrasonography (USG) to understand the health of the pancreas. Any inflammation of the pancreas can be directly seen in the USG. 

Another, rather uncommon test (in India) is considered the most specific in determining the functional status of the pancreas – the feline Pancreatic Lipase Immunoreactivity (fPLI).

Biopsy is rarely prescribed as a diagnostic test in suspected pancreatitis in cats. 

What Is the Treatment for Pancreatitis in Cats?

Treatment for pancreatitis in cats - a proprietary Vetic image with the veterinary nurse holding a persian cat with yellow eyes. the cat is a dull orange, has a dull coat and has weight loss. the cat is looking up at the veterinary nurse. No direct treatment for pancreatitis in cats. Treatment includes pain management, reducing dehydration, stopping vomiting and slow introduction of prescription (low-fat) food.

The treatment for pancreatitis in cats is typically long-term since there is no specific medication to treat the disease. 

Current protocols focus on the management of the signs, side effects and the nutrition of the cat while reducing the inflammation of the pancreas.

In cases of both acute and chronic pancreatitis in cats, your veterinarian may recommend long-term fluid therapy and supportive medication to get your cat’s digestive and renal system in sync. 

Smart and timely management plays the most important role in the treatment of pancreatitis in cats. So, along with anti-nausea medication, pancreatic enzymes and liver support medication, your veterinarian will recommend prescription food that’s easy on your cat’s stomach. 

Controlling the vomiting and diarrhoea plays a huge role in maintaining optimal nutrition and hydration of your cat. After your cat begins showing improvement and accepts solid food without throwing up, they may require a low-fat diet for life. 

What is the Prognosis of Pancreatitis in Cats?

The prognosis of pancreatitis in cats, in the cases of early diagnosis and treatment, and mild to moderate pancreatitis, is quite good. 

Only around 9%-40% of all severe cases of pancreatitis do not survive. 

Speak to your veterinarian for the best treatment options for your cat, if they begin showing signs of pancreatitis. 

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