One of the main functions of a cat’s pancreas is to release enzymes to the intestines that aid in the digestion of fats, proteins, and carbohydrates. When the pancreas fails, the enzymes cause a build-up of inflammation in the organ, leading to pancreatitis. The digestive enzymes may even start to digest the pancreas itself, which can be fatal. Fortunately, if detected and managed, many cats recover from pancreatitis.
Symptoms of Pancreatitis in Cats
Symptoms of pancreatitis in cats vary depending on the severity of the condition. Signs of the disease typically become apparent abruptly and without any obvious reason.
Though similar to symptoms of other health problems, here are some common indicators of the disease:
Pancreatitis-related inflammation may also lead to related issues, including peritonitis and diabetes, and may even damage the nearby liver, bile ducts, gall bladder, and intestines.
Diagnosis and Outlook
At the vet, tests may be given to determine the cause of these health issues. If the results from the test come back with a high white blood cell count, it could be an indicator of pancreatitis. High levels of pancreatic enzymes in the blood result from pancreatitis, but a cat may have pancreatitis without having these unusual enzyme levels. X-rays may be taken to eliminate other potential causes. A biopsy will allow the vet to conclusively determine that your cat has pancreatitis. In severe cases, the disease may be fatal at the onset of symptoms.
Causes of Pancreatitis in Cats
Pancreatitis affects cats of all ages, genders, and breeds equally, and less than two percent of cats will develop the disease. There is no single conclusive cause of the disease, but some potential contributing factors may include:
- Consuming a high-fat diet
- Ingesting toxic materials, like insecticides
- Severe injury
- Related diseases, including toxoplasmosis, inflammatory bowel disease, liver disease, inflammation in the bile ducts, and feline infectious peritonitis
- A severe reaction to medication
- Bacteria from the intestines
For some cats, pancreatitis can become chronic, with recurring bouts of the symptoms.
Prevention of Pancreatitis in Cats
Since the cause of pancreatitis is frequently unknown, preventing pancreatitis is not possible. It’s best to be aware of the potential causes (and avoid them where possible) and symptoms, and contact your vet if you see any warning signs. The good news is that if a cat does develop a mild form and receive proper treatment, the animal’s lifespan and quality of life should not be affected.
Treatment of Pancreatitis in Cats
If your vet can assess the reason for the pancreatitis, the source(s) of the problem should be addressed. In most cases, however, the cause is not likely to be known, so treating pancreatitis in cats typically includes symptom management to reduce the pain and discomfort of vomiting, diarrhea, and nausea. Some necessary treatments include:
- Fluid therapy for hydration
- Pain medication
- Anti-vomiting medications
- Appetite stimulants
- Anti-inflammatory medications
- Vitamin B12
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