What is Pancreatitis?
Pancreatitis is an inflammation of the pancreas, a V-shaped organ that serves two vital roles. The endocrine organ produces hormones necessary to maintain blood sugar levels. The exocrine pancreas produces special enzymes that aid in digestion. This common gastrointestinal condition in cats can be acute or chronic.
How does my cat get Pancreatitis?
What causes pancreatitis in cats remains a mystery. In fact, the majority of cases are viewed as idiopathic (unknown cause). But certain risk factors have been identified: high-fat diets, chronic kidney failure, injury to the pancreas or abdomen, pancreatic duct blockage, hypocalcaemia (high calcium levels in the blood), inflammatory bowel disease and adverse reaction to certain medications or ingestion of poisons. There also appears to be a slight genetic predisposition for pancreatitis in Siamese cats.
How do I know if my cat has Pancreatitis?
The symptoms can be subtle and easily missed at first. They also resemble other common feline diseases and can be misdiagnosed initially. In acute pancreatic cases, signs include vomiting, diarrhea, lack of appetite, lack of energy, dehydration, unexplained weight loss, abdominal pain and depression. In chronic pancreatitis, these same symptoms may be present, but not as severe. To properly identify pancreatitis, your veterinarian must rule out other possibilities by relying on the results of radiographs, blood and urine samples as well as a biochemical panel and a thorough physical exam. In most cases, a specific test for feline pancreatitis called feline pancreatic lipase immunoreactivity (fPLI) as well as an ultrasound is often advised. Unlike dogs, cats are more apt to deal with recurring bouts of chronic pancreatitis.
What can I do about Pancreatitis?
This is a serious medical condition that can escalate to an emergency situation. Do not delay in seeking veterinary care. Your cat can be at risk of dehydration. If your cat experiences pain, certain pain relievers are often prescribed. Attention to the diet is also vital. Cats fare better being fed smaller, mini-meals that are low in fat and easy to digest. If a cat lacks an appetite, supplements or appetite stimulants can help or a feeding tube may be temporarily needed. If the source of pancreatitis can be attributed to an adverse reaction to a medication or exposure to a toxin, specific therapies to benefit the pancreas, liver and intestines are necessary.
Is there anything I can do to prevent my cat from getting pancreatitis? ?
Yes. Select a quality commercial diet that best suits your cat’s age, health and activity level. Also practice portion control to maintain your cat at a healthy weight. Excess weight increases the risk of a cat developing pancreatitis. Finally, resist feeding your cat high-fat table scraps and keep all medications stored in cabinets out of paw’s reach.
Are there certain breeds that get more often?
Any cat can develop pancreatitis, but Siamese cats are at greater risk for this disease. Age also plays a factor, as this disease tends to show up more in middle-aged and older cats.