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Feline Pancreatitis

The pancreas is an organ near the stomach with two main jobs:

  1. Releases digestive enzymes which help to break down food
  2. Releases hormones such as insulin which regulates blood sugar

Pancreatitis is inflammation of the pancreas.

An acute episode of pancreatitis is when digestive enzymes leak out from the pancreas too early. They will digest the actual organs, including the liver, gall bladder, and intestines. Some cats that recover from an acute pancreatitis episode will always have recurrences of the disease.

Pancreatitis can be life-threatening and cause major health issues, including brain damage, abnormal bleeding, blood clots, and respiratory failure.

CAUSES:

Typically, the cause of pancreatitis is unknown. However, it may be triggered by:

Some other causes may include:

SIGNS:

During a pancreatic attack, your cat may have its rear end up in the air and its front legs and head on the floor. In a severe attack, they may be in shock and even cause death.

DIAGNOSIS:

To diagnose your cat with pancreatitis, your veterinarian may perform the following:

Pancreatitis is hard to diagnose, as some tests will not be completely accurate. Therefore, sometimes your veterinarian will diagnose pancreatitis just based on signs and medical history. In some cases, surgical exploration is needed.

TREATMENT:

Immediate, aggressive treatment is needed to fight pancreatitis. The pancreas has to heal itself. All food and drinks must be restricted right away. The pancreas will then stop secreting its digestive enzymes.

Once food has been re-introduced, a low-fat diet may be prescribed because there is potential for relapses.

PREVENTION:

Avoid giving table scraps and control your cat's weight.

PROGNOSIS:

The prognosis depends on how severe the disease is:

Chronic cases of pancreatitis may come and go for years and require permanent diet change and chronic medication administration.

Most cats who recover will not have any long-term effects. But with severe or chronic pancreatitis, your veterinarian will monitor them for the following:

Cats with a mild case of pancreatitis can quickly recover and, many times will not have a relapse for many years. Usually, pet insurance companies will pay for a condition again if it has been longer than a year between diagnoses. For cats with chronic pancreatitis will need lifelong treatment and reoccurring hospital visits. Most insurance companies will not pay for these visits and will see this as a pre-existing condition. 

 Medically Reviewed by Sara Redding Ochoa, DVM

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