The pancreas is a small organ with a big job — it produces
enzymes and hormones that regulate the digestion and movement
of food in the body. Pancreatitis, which is the inflammation of
this crucial organ, occurs when the digestive enzymes escape
from the place in which they are stored, resulting in the
pancreas digesting itself and all surrounding tissues. This can
result in a whole host of problems for the cat’s body, and if
not treated promptly, the condition can be fatal. Read on to
learn about the causes, symptoms, and treatments of
pancreatitis in cats.
Causes of Pancreatitis in Cats
Figuring out the cause of your cat’s pancreatitis can be
tricky — in 90% of cases, the cause is never identified.
However, there are risk factors that veterinarians believe can
contribute to the development of the condition, including:
Symptoms of Pancreatitis in Cats
- Loss of appetite
- Abdominal pain
- Increased rate of respiration
- Hepatic Lipidosis (fatty liver) is often caused by
Consequences of Pancreatitis in Cats
Pancreatitis is usually confined to the area around the
pancreas. Diabetes might stem
from pancreatitis if the pancreas is no longer able to produce
insulin. Damage to the nearby liver is also common. In severe
cases, pancreatitis can also spin out into one or more of the
- Respiratory failure
- Weber-Christian syndrome (in which body fats are destroyed)
- Disseminated intravascular coagulation (causes abnormal
bleeding and clotting)
- Brain damage
Diagnosing Pancreatitis in Cats
Pancreatitis can be difficult to diagnose. The usual procedure
involves a physical examination, blood work, urinalysis, and an
ultrasound, but these evaluative measures are only
diagnostically definitive in a few cases. An actual biopsy of
the pancreas is the only way to definitively diagnose
pancreatitis, but it is a serious surgical procedure that can
cause further trauma to an already sick cat. In most cases, an
assumption is made based on symptoms and any evidence gathered
in the diagnostic procedures, and then treatment is started.
Treating Pancreatitis in Cats
If the cause of pancreatitis is known, then the cause should be
treated. However, most cats are not that lucky, since the cause
is usually not known. For the majority, their treatment often
involves a lot of supportive care, such as:
- The hospitalization of the cat, so as to receive fluid
therapy to combat dehydration caused by vomiting and diarrhea
- Giving them medicines to treat nausea and pain
- If the cat is not eating, a feeding tube may be implanted
- Food may be withheld if the cat is vomiting
- Plasma transfusions can help to prevent the development of
certain conditions such as disseminated intravascular
- Digestive enzyme supplements are beneficial in some cases
If a cat survives an episode of acute pancreatitis, chances are
high that it will be able to live a normal life. In chronic
cases, however, the condition can come and go, and a diet
change, as well as a lifetime of medication, may be necessary.
Since the cause is often unknown, there is no real way to
prevent pancreatitis. Instead, you should contact your
veterinarian at the first sign that something is wrong.
Feline Pancreatitis Treatments: How To Care For Your Cat
The pancreas plays an important role in your cat’s body -- it
produces enzymes and hormones that aid in digestion and
regulate blood sugar levels. Unfortunately, some cats will
suffer from pancreatitis,
which is an inflammation of this critical organ that occurs
when the digestive enzymes it produces go rogue and the
pancreas begins to digest itself and surrounding tissues.
Pancreatitis can be difficult to treat for one main reason --
in 90% of cases, the cause of the condition is not known. Due
to this fact, most pancreatitis treatments are limited to
supportive care to manage symptoms.
Supportive Care for Feline Pancreatitis
Supportive care for your cat will depend on the severity of
their condition as well as their symptoms. Common supportive
Most cats suffering from pancreatitis also suffer from
dehydration, often due to vomiting and diarrhea. Your cat may need to be
hospitalized in order to receive fluid therapy and have its
electrolyte levels monitored. Intravenous fluids are often
supplemented with dextrose to correct low blood sugar levels and
potassium to reverse abnormalities in potassium concentration.
B-12 may also be added if a deficiency is noted.
Fluid therapy is initially used to treat shock or reverse
dehydration, but it may be continued after stabilization to
regulate fluid levels.
If the cat is vomiting,
your veterinarian may recommend withholding their food.
However, food withholding should not last for more than 48
hours or the cat may develop hepatic lipidosis (fatty
If the cat is not eating,
your veterinarian may implant a feeding tube to ensure that
your cat is receiving adequate nutrition.
Once your cat begins eating again, your veterinarian may
suggest a special diet that is bland, low in fat, and easy to
digest. Cats with acute cases of pancreatitis may be able to
return to their regular diet once they recover. Cats with
severe or chronic cases, however, may need to be on a special
Depending on their symptoms, some cats may require medication.
These can include analgesics to treat pain, antiemetics,
antidiuretics, or antacids to control vomiting and diarrhea,
antibiotics to treat any secondary infections or anti-inflammatory medications for
In severe cases, pancreatitis can lead to serious conditions
such as respiratory failure, kidney failure, disseminated intravascular
coagulation, and death. For
some cats, plasma transfusion that corrects clotting
deficiencies may be the only way to avoid such outcomes.
Pancreatitis often destroys a large number of cells that are
responsible for producing digestive enzymes. When this happens,
it can hinder food digestion. Digestive enzyme supplements may
help to correct this problem.
What if the Cause Is Known?
There are risk factors that can contribute to the development
of pancreatitis, and in some cases (around 10%), your
veterinarian may be able to determine the underlying cause of
the condition. Common risk factors include physical
infectious peritonitis, feline distemper, inflammatory bowel
disease, and exposure to certain insecticides or
In these cases, the specific cause should be treated, and
pancreatitis may subside.
Feline Pancreatitis Prognosis
The prognosis will depend on a number of factors, including the
severity of your cat’s condition, how quickly treatment is
sought, and your cat’s response to treatment.
Cats who recover from an acute case of pancreatitis (one that
occurs suddenly) may go on to live normal, healthy lives. Cats
who are suffering from chronic pancreatitis (in which the
condition is recurring) may require long-term treatment,
including medication and a special diet.
Unfortunately, there is no way to prevent feline pancreatitis,
and the best you can do is seek treatment for your cat at the
first appearance of symptoms.
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This information is for informational
purposes only and is not meant as a substitute for the
professional advice of, or diagnosis, or treatment by, your
veterinarian with respect to your pet. It has, however, been
verified by a licensed veterinarian for accuracy.