What are Inflammation of the Pancreas?
Acute or chronic pancreatitis can range from mild to severe and should be managed only under the supervision of a licensed veterinary professional. Pancreatitis can be fatal in cats, so it is important to contact your veterinarian immediately if your cat is exhibiting symptoms of pancreatitis.
Enzymes produced by your cat's pancreas are responsible for the digestion of nutrients. When the pancreas becomes inflamed, maldigestion can cause a host of problems for your cat if pancreatic or other tissue is damaged. Inflammation of the pancreas in cats, or pancreatitis, can be an acute or chronic condition that often arises spontaneously, or without a definite cause.
Symptoms of Inflammation of the Pancreas in Cats
Cats with pancreatitis will exhibit signs and symptoms similar to those of other digestive diseases. Your cat may have pancreatitis if she presents with one or more of the following symptoms:
- Loss of appetite
- Lethargy and weakness
- Abdominal pain
- Jaundice, or yellowing of the skin and eyes
Milder forms of pancreatitis may manifest as fleeting, mild digestive upset, such as vomiting, fever and diarrhea. For this reason, it is important to schedule an appointment with your veterinarian as soon as these symptoms present to facilitate early intervention for this possibly fatal condition.
Causes of Inflammation of the Pancreas in Cats
Often, inflammation of the pancreas arises spontaneously in cats. While the cause of pancreatitis in cats is usually undetermined, several risk factors for inflammation of the pancreas in cats have been identified and explored. Certain infections, such as feline infectious peritonitis and Toxoplasma gondii have been implicated as possible risk factors of pancreatitis in cats. High-rise syndrome, or a traumatic fall, is another possible cause.
Surgical history is also loosely associated with pancreatitis in cats, as are several chemicals and medications, such as:
- Anticonvulsants (potassium bromide, phenobarbital)
- Chemotherapy drugs
- Blood pressure medication (thiazide diuretics)
Diagnosis of Inflammation of the Pancreas in Cats
Your veterinarian will begin the diagnostic process with a thorough physical examination of your cat, including the collection of a full medical history. You veterinarian may inquire into whether your cat was accidentally poisoned by one of the aforementioned toxic substances. He may also ask whether your cat has undergone surgery, suffered a traumatic injury such as a fall, or an infection.
Your veterinarian will also order the collection of urine and blood samples to perform a differential diagnosis and to confirm a diagnosis of pancreatitis in your cat. A complete blood count and chemistry profile will show whether your cat is suffering from liver dysfunction or other complications of pancreatitis. Your vet will likely supplement any blood work with diagnostic imaging to confirm your cat's diagnosis.
Imaging is another useful tool in the diagnosis of pancreatitis. Your veterinarian may use x-rays to visualize the pancreas or to eliminate other possible causes of your cat's symptoms. Ultrasounds may also reflect inflammation of the pancreas. In more complicated or difficult cases, your veterinarian may recommend exploratory surgery to discover your cat's diagnosis. Surgery will only be recommended for your cat if your veterinarian believes the benefits of diagnosis outweigh the risks of surgery.
Treatment of Inflammation of the Pancreas in Cats
If the cause of your cat's pancreatitis is known, your veterinarian's intervention will target that cause. For example, in the case of infection, your veterinarian may prescribe antibiotics. Otherwise, treatment for pancreatitis is generally supportive and watchful. Your cat will likely receive fluids to combat dehydration. If she is vomiting, pancreatic rest, or withholding feeds, will be prescribed to allow the inflammation to subside. Medications to reduce nausea are also typically administered for inflammation of the pancreas in cats.
For more severe cases of pancreatitis in cats, hospitalization will be required. Tube feeding may be administered to support ongoing digestion and facilitate your cat's recovery. Pain medications to target abdominal pain are another mainstay of treatment. The prognosis for mild cases of pancreatitis in cats is good, with little chance of relapse. Unfortunately, roughly half of serious cases of pancreatitis are fatal.
Recovery of Inflammation of the Pancreas in Cats
When your cat returns home, her hydration status must be monitored closely. Your veterinarian may recommend your cat be fed a low-fat diet, including low-fat treats, especially if she suffers from chronic pancreatitis. It is also recommended that cats with a history of pancreatitis maintain a healthy body weight and a healthy level of physical activity. In fact, for mild cases of chronic or acute pancreatitis, these lifestyle interventions are the regular course of treatment.
Follow-up appointments are extremely important for cats suffering or recovering from pancreatitis. Only a veterinarian is able to monitor pancreatic and digestive health to ensure complete recovery.