Cats rarely develop pancreatitis, but when they do, it can be fatal. In the event that medical attention is required, pet owners should be able to recognize the clinical signs.
The purpose of this article is to provide you with as much information as possible about pancreatitis in cats, including its causes, symptoms, and treatment options.
What is pancreatitis?
The cat’s pancreas is a relatively small but crucial organ. Enzymes that aid digestion and hormones like insulin that control sugar and glucose metabolism are produced there.
Pancreatitis is inflammation of the pancreas, an organ in the digestive system. Inflammation of the intestine or liver, both of which are close to the pancreas, is a common complication in affected cats.
As a result of the inflammation, digestive enzymes leak from the pancreatic tissue into the abdominal cavity, triggering an inflammatory response affecting multiple organs.
Both an edematous (milder) and a hemorrhagic (worse) form of acute illness are possible. Some cats that make a full recovery from an episode of acute pancreatitis may go on to develop chronic pancreatitis.
Repeated attacks of pancreatitis are to be expected in a case of chronic pancreatitis. Scarring of the pancreatic tissue occurs after each incident and can hinder the organ’s performance over time.
What causes pancreatitis in cats?
When digestive enzymes enter the small intestine of a cat with a functioning pancreas, they begin breaking down food. However, when an animal has pancreatitis, the pancreatic enzymes are activated even before they leave the pancreas.
This causes the organ to be digested alongside the enzymes that are supposed to digest food.
In cats, pancreatitis appears to develop without apparent cause, though several factors are suspected to contribute to the development of pancreatic inflammation.
- Some illnesses, like diabetes,
- Diseases of the metabolism
- Abdominal trauma
- Surgery of the abdomen
Although the exact role of diet in the etiology of feline pancreatitis remains unknown, anecdotal evidence suggests that some cats fed high-fat or low-carbohydrate diets develop chronic pancreatitis.
What are the symptoms of pancreatitis in cats?
Depending on how severely other organs are affected, pancreatitis can cause a wide range of symptoms.
All cats, regardless of age, sex, or breed, are susceptible, though diabetic or older cats may be at a higher risk.
If you notice any of these signs in your cat, it may be suffering from pancreatitis.
- Inability to eat
- a sped-up heartbeat
- Having trouble breathing
- Tenderness, pain, and swelling in the belly
Death, severe bleeding, and acute shock are all possible outcomes of a severe attack.
These clinical manifestations may also result from other factors, such as exposure to poisons or intestinal obstruction.
However, if your cat is exhibiting any symptoms at all, even nonspecific ones like loss of appetite and lethargy, you should take them to the vet immediately. Your pet’s prognosis will improve with prompt treatment.
How to diagnose cats with pancreatitis
As the symptoms of feline pancreatitis are similar to those of other medical conditions, a thorough diagnostic workup is necessary before beginning treatment.
The first thing your vet will do is ask you about the signs your cat is displaying and get some background on the animal’s health.
They will also do a blood test, an ultrasound, and a physical examination. In order to rule out other possible conditions, the vet may also suggest x-rays.
Changes, such as an elevated white blood cell count, are often detected by standard laboratory tests; however, these variations may also result from other diseases.
Elevated pancreatic enzyme levels in the blood are diagnostic, though many affected cats will have normal enzyme levels.
Feline pancreatic lipase immunoreactivity (fPLI) is the gold standard for diagnosing pancreatitis because it detects only the lipase produced by the pancreas.
Only in the presence of pancreatic inflammation will blood values rise, as these lipases can be found only in the pancreas.
This test is very accurate at diagnosing the condition in cats with moderate to severe pancreatitis, and it only requires a blood sample.
A biopsy is another reliable diagnostic tool. However, your vet may decide against a biopsy due to the invasive nature of the procedure, depending on your cat’s age and health.
How to treat pancreatitis in cats
While pancreatitis in cats cannot be cured, it can be treated to alleviate symptoms and under control.
Mild pancreatitis typically only requires supportive care. Withholding all food and oral fluids is meant to “rest” or “turn off” the pancreas. In this way, the organ won’t have to release any enzymes that could potentially exacerbate the damage to it or nearby organs.
Initial stabilizing treatments, such as intravenous fluids to restore electrolyte and fluid balance, may necessitate hospitalization of a feline with pancreatitis.
A feeding tube may also be necessary if the animal is unable to eat on its own. Antibiotics may also be prescribed if an infection is suspected along with the nausea, inflammation, and pain medications.
The average length of time for a cat’s hospital stay is between two and four days. But if the animal has hemorrhagic pancreatitis or is in systemic shock, more forceful measures are needed to combat the shock.
Cats with pancreatitis can run you anywhere from $400 to $1,500 to treat, depending on where you live and the severity of the disease.
Expert advice: having pet insurance can ease the burden of the enormous costs associated with a stay in the intensive care unit. Instead of worrying about how to pay for your cat’s medical care, you can give your full attention to them.
What is the recovery time for cats with pancreatitis?
In cats, the outlook for pancreatitis depends on the severity of the disease and the cat’s general health.
While some felines (typically those who experienced a more severe case of the disease) make full recoveries with no lasting effects, others will require lifelong support, including the administration of chronic medication and a permanent change in diet.
Chronic pancreatitis can recur over the course of years, and the cat’s medications may need to be changed if the condition worsens in response to stress.
Get in touch with your vet immediately if your feline friend is having an outbreak. Never medicate your pet without your vet’s approval, Cats are extremely sensitive to the toxicity of human pain relievers and drugs such as Advil and Aspirin.
What to feed a cat with pancreatitis?
If your cat has an appetite and isn’t vomiting, your vet will likely advise you to feed it as soon as you get home. Your vet will talk with you about alternative methods of reintroducing food if your pet is vomiting frequently.
You should feed your cat something easy to digest while it is healing. Your veterinarian may recommend antiemetic drugs to prevent vomiting and alleviate nausea if your cat is having trouble eating.
Cats with pancreatitis may require a feeding tube if they are unable to eat on their own. If this is the case with your cat, the vet will go over your treatment options and show you how to feed, water, and medicate your cat through the tube.
How to prevent pancreatitis in cats
You can’t stop your cat from ever getting feline pancreatitis, but you can lessen the likelihood of it happening and maybe even keep it from happening again.
Avoiding your cat’s obesity should be your top priority. This highlights the importance of diet in the fight against pancreatitis in felines.
It is suggested that you feed your cat less often and pay closer attention to the quality of the food you give them.
Select a premium cat food that is age-appropriate. Most cats can eat either wet or dry food, or a mixture of the two, but older cats may benefit more from wet food.
Vegetables and fruits that are safe for cats, as well as cooked chicken and turkey pieces or tuna chunks, can be added to your cat’s diet as a supplement.
Despite your cat’s fondness for them, it’s best to limit its access to treats high in sugar and fat, which have been linked to obesity and a host of other health problems, including diabetes and heart disease.
Experts also advise taking precautions with pesticides and keeping cats away from over-the-counter drugs.
The best person to consult about your cat’s health and wellbeing is your veterinarian, so don’t hesitate to give them a call if you have any questions or concerns.