by Amanda L. Maus DVM
Catalina Pet Hospital
Pancreatitis is defined simply as inflammation of the pancreas. The pancreas is an organ near the stomach, which produces enzymes to help digest food and insulin to regulate blood glucose (sugar). The pancreas can become inflamed suddenly (acutely) or can be inflamed over a long period of time (chronic). The symptoms can range from subtle to drastic in nature, with no symptoms that are specific to only pancreatitis. Pancreatitis can occur at the same time as other diseases, which can further complicate its diagnosis and treatment.
Acute pancreatitis usually has more serious symptoms than chronic pancreatitis. Cats may have decreased or no appetite, vomiting, diarrhea, lethargy, fever, weight loss, and/or abdominal pain. With enough inflammation, the bile duct can be affected, causing jaundice (yellow skin/tissue). Sadly, with aggressive types of acute pancreatitis, death is possible.
Any cat that is showing the above symptoms should be taken to their veterinarian to help determine if the cat has pancreatitis, or another disease. Pancreatitis can occur along with inflammatory bowel disease, liver disease, diabetes, and certain types of infections. Pancreatitis can cause enough damage to the pancreas to cause diabetes or digestive enzyme insufficiency.
Blood work and/or ultrasound can be used to diagnose pancreatitis. Like most diseases, early diagnosis and treatment increases the success rate of medical therapy. Depending on the severity of the symptoms, your cat may need hospitalization for intravenous fluids, anti-nausea medication, pain medication, antibiotics, antacids, anti-inflammatories, or a feeding tube. Many cats have B12 deficiencies and malnutrition from not eating due to the disease, therefore it is critical to reestablish the cat's appetite as soon as possible.