Complications of Acute Pancreatitis in Cats Acute Pancreatitis In Cats and How to Manage It

Complications of Acute Pancreatitis in Cats Photo by Hiang Kanjinna:

Cats are susceptible to developing acute pancreatitis, which is a dangerous and potentially fatal illness. Learn more about it in this article.

Acute pancreatitis, or inflammation of the pancreas, is a serious and potentially life-threatening condition that can affect a cat’s health. This condition occurs when the pancreas, an organ located behind the stomach, becomes swollen and inflamed, causing damage to the surrounding tissues and organs. 

In this article, we will discuss the causes, symptoms, and treatment options for acute pancreatitis in cats, as well as the steps cat owners can take to prevent this condition from occurring.

What Causes Acute Pancreatitis In Cats?

Numerous factors, such as poor eating habits, high-fat diets, and specific drugs, can lead to acute pancreatitis in cats. In some situations, underlying medical disorders, including hyperlipidemia (high blood fat levels), diabetes, or cancer, may also be the cause of the disease.

The start of acute pancreatitis in cats can also be influenced by obesity. Due to the added stress on the pancreas, obese or overweight cats are more likely to acquire the illness.

Acute pancreatitis in cats can also be brought on by infections, including feline infectious peritonitis (FIP) and the feline leukemia virus (FeLV). Additionally, pancreatitis in cats can be brought on by trauma, stress, or surgery.

It's important to note that idiopathic pancreatitis can also occur in cats. This type of pancreatitis is often seen in older cats and is thought to be related to aging changes in the pancreas.

Symptoms of Acute Pancreatitis In Cats

The symptoms of acute pancreatitis in cats can vary, but common signs include:

  • Abdominal pain: Cats with acute pancreatitis may show signs of abdominal pain, such as crying out or being sensitive when touched in the abdomen.

  • Loss of appetite: Acute pancreatitis in cats can cause appetite loss or food refusal.

  • Vomiting and/or diarrhea: These signs and symptoms may be brought on by pancreatic inflammation.

  • Dehydration: Cats with acute pancreatitis may become dehydrated due to vomiting and/or diarrhea.

  • Lethargy: Cats with acute pancreatitis may appear weak or lethargic.

  • Jaundice: The inflammation in the pancreas can cause jaundice, resulting in the yellowing of the eyes and gums.

  • Rapid breathing: Cats with acute pancreatitis may have rapid breathing.

Clinical Diagnosis

The clinical diagnosis of feline acute pancreatitis typically involves the following steps:

  • Physical examination: The veterinarian will be on the lookout for indications of gastrointestinal discomfort, dehydration, jaundice, and other acute pancreatitis symptoms. Additionally, they could palpate the abdomen to feel for any swelling or irritation.

  • Laboratory tests: Blood tests can detect elevated levels of pancreatic enzymes, such as amylase and lipase, which can indicate inflammation of the pancreas. Other blood tests can check for anemia, electrolyte imbalances, and other abnormalities that may occur as a result of acute pancreatitis.

  • Imaging techniques: Ultrasound can detect signs of inflammation and swelling in the pancreas, as well as detect any complications that may have developed as a result of the condition.

  • Biopsy: To confirm the diagnosis, a pancreatic biopsy may occasionally be required. A small portion of pancreatic tissue is taken during this procedure and inspected under a microscope.

However, the diagnosis of acute pancreatitis in cats can be challenging due to the subtlety of symptoms and the lack of a specific diagnostic test.


The treatment options for feline acute pancreatitis include:

  • Hospitalization: Cats with acute pancreatitis will typically require hospitalization for close monitoring and intensive care. This may include IV fluids to address dehydration and electrolyte imbalances, as well as pain management to alleviate abdominal pain.

  • Nutritional Support: Cats with acute pancreatitis may not have an appetite, so nutritional support may be necessary. This may include force-feeding, tube feeding, or intravenous nutrition.

  • Medications: Your veterinarian may prescribe medications to reduce inflammation and pain, such as corticosteroids and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). Antibiotics may also be prescribed if your cat has an infection.

  • Surgery: To remove necrotic (dead) tissue or abscesses that have developed as a result of acute pancreatitis, surgery may occasionally be required.

  • Long-term management: Once your cat is stabilized, your veterinarian will work with you to develop a long-term management plan to minimize the risk of recurrence. This may include changes to your cat's diet, weight management, and close monitoring of your cat's health.

How to Prevent Feline Acute Pancreatitis

Preventing acute pancreatitis in cats can be challenging, but there are steps that can be taken to minimize the risk:

  • Maintain a healthy weight: As already said, Obese or overweight cats are more likely to get acute pancreatitis. Keeping your cat at a healthy weight through a balanced diet and regular exercise can aid in avoiding the condition.

  • Feed a balanced diet: Feeding your cat a diet that is low in fat and high in protein can help to prevent acute pancreatitis. It's also important to avoid table scraps and other high-fat foods.

  • Monitor medications: Steroids and certain antibiotics, for example, can raise the chance of developing acute pancreatitis. Follow your veterinarian's advice when administering any medications to your cat.

  • Regular check-ups: Regular veterinary check-ups can help to identify and address any underlying medical conditions that may increase the risk of acute pancreatitis.

  • Watch for symptoms: Being aware of the symptoms of acute pancreatitis and seeking prompt veterinary attention if you suspect your cat may be suffering from the condition can help to ensure an early diagnosis and prompt treatment.

  • Avoiding certain risk factors: Some cats, such as those with hyperlipidemia, hyperthyroidism and cats with a history of pancreatitis, are more susceptible to developing pancreatitis. It's crucial to work with your vet to correctly address any of these diseases if your cat has them in order to reduce the chance of developing acute pancreatitis.

By staying vigilant and taking a proactive approach to treatment, pet owners can help ensure the best possible outcome for their feline friends.

Was this article helpful?

You May Also Like

Image for Pancreatitis: Inflated Pancreas In Cats
Pancreatitis: Inflated Pancreas In Cats

Caring and treating for pancreatitis in cats

Read More
Image for Do Pet Prescriptions Have Side Effects?
Do Pet Prescriptions Have Side Effects?

Everything You Should Know About Your Pet's Medications

Read More