Treating Pancreatitis In Cats Treatment Options Available to Cats With Pancreatitis

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The pancreas is one of the most important organs in your cat's body. So if your feline has been newly diagnosed with pancreatitis, you probably have many questions. Find out here what treatments are available to cats suffering from this dangerous disease.

The pancreas is a small organ with a big job โ€” 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 catโ€™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 catโ€™s pancreatitis can be tricky โ€” 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
  • Lethargy
  • Dehydration
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Abdominal pain
  • Fever
  • 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 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 catโ€™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 treatments include:

  • Fluid Therapy

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.

  • Food and Nutrition

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 liver).

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 diet long-term.

  • Medications

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 chronic cases.

  • Plasma Transfusion

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.

  • Supplements

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 trauma, parasitic infectionsfeline infectious peritonitisfeline distemper, inflammatory bowel disease, and exposure to certain insecticides or medications.

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 catโ€™s condition, how quickly treatment is sought, and your catโ€™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.

More on Cat Health

All About Cat Examinations -- What to Expect at a Vet Visit
How to Prevent Dental Health Problems in Cats
What Can Affect a Cat's Lifespan?

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.

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