Pancreatitis in Cats: All You Need To Know

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Pancreatitis in Cats

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Pancreatitis in Cats: What is it?

The health of your cat depends on the pancreas functioning correctly. The pancreas is a small organ in your cats’ body that has many different responsibilities. It’s main two functions include:

  1. Production and secretion of digestive enzymes to the small intestine (food digestion and absorption)
  2. Production and secretion of insulin and glucagon hormones (blood sugar and metabolism regulation)

When the pancreas is damaged, or malfunctioning, it can cause a serious threat to your cats’ wellbeing. There are three main threats:

  1. The pancreas becomes inflamed, causing digestive enzymes to be prematurely released in the pancreas rather than the small intestine (pancreatitis)
  2. The pancreas produces an insufficient number of digestive enzymes (pancreatic insufficiency)
  3. The pancreas produces and secretes an insufficient number of hormones, particularly insulin (diabetes)

Focusing on threat number 1: the digestive enzymes that should be released in the small intestine, which is where your cats’ food is digested, are instead released in the pancreas itself. These enzymes are powerful, corrosive cells that begin to eat away at the pancreas. As you have already learnt, the correct functioning of the pancreas is vital to your cat’s health. Therefore, if the pancreas becomes inflamed and begins to breakdown, your cat is at risk. This is what causes pancreatitis in cats.

Common Symptoms of Pancreatitis in Cats

Many symptoms can signal to you that your cat is at risk of pancreatitis. You’ll have to keep a close eye though, cats are very good at hiding their discomfort. Think about that the next time you’ve been in bed for five-days over a cold. Anyway, below is a list of the most common clinical signs:

  • Lethargy (lack of energy)
  • Decrease in appetite
  • Dehydration (you can test dehydration by ‘skin tenting’ – pinch the skin and if it stays up in a tent shape that means your cat is dehydrated – but just this alone doesn’t mean they have pancreatitis) – see our cat fountain reviews to increase hydration in your cat
  • Weight loss
  • Low body temperature
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Yellow tinge to skin, gums and eyes (pay close attention)
  • Abdominal pain

Some of these symptoms are more severe than others. Symptoms such as abdominal pain can be tricky for you to gauge. If you are ever unsure, always seek advice from your local veterinary expert. Keeping your beloved kitty at optimal health should always be at the top of your priorities.

Possible Causes of Pancreatitis in Cats:

The commonality of pancreatitis across the cat population is extremely low, with studies suggesting less than 2% are affected. Nonetheless, it is better to be safe than sorry.

There are no definitive causes of pancreatitis in cats, but there are multiple factors linked to the arrival of the disease. These are:

  • Excess fat in diet
  • Physical trauma
  • Parasitic infection
  • Adverse reactions to prescription drugs
  • Ingestion of insecticides
  • Inflammatory bowel disease or liver disease (triaditis: diseases in the pancreas, and those just mentioned, often happen concurrently)
  • Diabetes

Treatment of Pancreatitis in Cats

General:

You should attempt to keep your cats’ health up to scratch on the daily. (link to looking after your cat pages). Make sure you keep an eye out for your kitty cat, the earlier the diagnosis of pancreatitis the more time there is to act appropriately.

Mild Pancreatitis:

It is suggested that for the less severe cases your cats’ pancreas should be allowed to rest and restore itself. This is done by inhibiting your cat from being able to eat or drink since it is these activities that lead to the activation of the pancreas and its digestive enzymes.

Clinical Tests:

Your local vet may suggest that your cat undergoes some clinical testing either once or repeatedly to monitor their wellbeing over time. This might include:

  • fPLI test (feline Pancreatic Lipase Immunoreactivity) – clinical studies correlate highly with successful diagnosis
  • Blood chemistry profile – this test analyses the chemicals found in your cats’ bloodstream, e.g., urea, creatine, phosphates, electrolytes and proteins
  • CBC (complete blood count) – this test analyses the health of your cats’ blood cells and platelets, also looking for structural abnormalities that might indicate malfunctioning of organs

List of Treatments:

The correct treatment depends upon yours and your cats’ personal situation. In other words, there is no one correct treatment for pancreatitis in cats. Some of the potential treatments are found below:

  • Severe cases may result in prolonged hospitalization
  • Intravenous fluids – maintaining normal fluid and electrolyte levels for healthy functioning
  • Nutritional support and supervision
  • Anti-inflammatory medication
  • Antibiotics
  • Pain-relief medication (analgesic)
  • Anti-vomiting medication
  • Additional treatment in the case of triaditis

Long-Term Issues of Pancreatitis

Luckily, it is often the case that your cat will recover smoothly without any relapses. However, there is always a chance for recurring diagnosis or long-term issues from severe cases. Below are two long-term problems and solutions:

  1. If the damage done to the pancreas impacts the subsequent level of hormone production (insulin), then daily injections of insulin will have to be administered
  2. If the damage done to the pancreas impacts the subsequent levels of digestive enzyme production, then daily administration of enzyme tablets or powder put into your cats’ food can relieve this issue.

Since the most severe cases often lead to the onset of other diseases, the aftercare of your cat should be serious, with you taking a proactive approach no matter how mild the symptoms may seem. Having said that, hopefully, you’ll never have to use any of this information on pancreatitis in cats. And if you are, we hope all goes smoothly for you and your cat.

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