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 pancreatitis
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 following:
- 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 coagulation
- Digestive enzyme supplements are beneficial in some cases
If a cat survives an episode of acute pancreatitis, chances are high that they 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.
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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.