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How to treat pancreatitis in cats?

Pancreatitis blood test advice © Shutterstock

There is no one single option when you need to treat pancreatitis in cats as many different cases are so unique.

By Dawn Parrish

There is no one single option when you need to treat pancreatitis in cats as many different cases are so unique. Pancreatitis is the name given to a health condition relating to pancreas inflammation.

Where is the pancreas?

It’s a “V” shaped organ that sits near to the first part of the small intestine, located tightly behind the stomach. The main job of the pancreas is to produce insulin. This process metabolises sugars, converting it to energy. The pancreas also produces enzymes that benefit the absorption of fats in the digestion process.

The feline anatomy
Where is the pancreas located in a cat?© Shutterstock

What is feline pancreatitis?

If the pancreas becomes inflamed,  the condition is termed pancreatitis. Enzymes that are needed for the digestive process can leak out into the cat’s abdominal area. These enzymes begin to break down proteins and fat. This occurs not only in the pancreas but in the cat’s other organs too. Complications can arise as the liver and kidneys are also located close to the pancreas. In severe situations, shock, bleeding and death will result.

The symptoms of pancreatitis in cats

If your cat has abdominal pain, decreased appetite and is vomiting intermittently, there is a chance she has pancreatitis. Likewise, if your cat has been undiagnosed and appears to be losing weight. This is a common symptom of pancreatitis in cats. Worsening symptoms as the disease develops can cause an increase in the cat’s heart rate and breathing problems. A life-threatening situation can develop when the enzyme that the pancreas produces, begin to attack the pancreas itself.

Diagnosis of pancreatitis in cats

Cat pancreatitis close up
Tests will show any inflammation in the pancreas© Shutterstock

Pancreatitis has symptoms that display the same as many other health issues. Because of this, the Vet examining the cat will first rule out other illnesses. A blood chemistry and blood count test will be taken, together with an analysis of the cat’s urine. Other possible diagnostic tests include a CT scan, ultrasound or a further blood test to check for lipase content.

Treatment of felines with diagnosed pancreatitis

In the first place, the cat will be given supportive treatment by relieving pain, controlling nausea and replacing lost fluids. The main plan is to prevent further organ damage or any complications associated with pancreatitis. Because of the need to “switch off” the pancreas to prevent further damage, all food and oral fluids are usually withheld.

The cat may need a feeding tube to ensure she gets adequate nutrition during treatment. In a more severe case, surgery could be required. This will be necessary if there is a blockage causing the inflammation or if there is a large fluid accumulation.

It is likely that the cat will be kept in at the surgery to monitor her condition especially if she needs IV drugs or fluids. Once over the initial chronic stage, she will usually be allowed to go home with medication. A few cats that recover from an acute episode of pancreatitis may continue to have recurrent bouts of pancreatitis.

A diet change may be necessary

It is likely that your cat will need a change in diet to prevent any further pancreatitis issues. During this time of healing and recuperation, your cat will need ample rest. Suitable medication will be prescribed, to control either pain or vomiting. Due to the risk of infection, she may be given antibiotics. If your cat is diagnosed with acute pancreatitis in the first place, any further, continuous bouts are known as chronic disease.

Cat pancreatitis pain
Inflammation with pancreatitis can cause immense pain © Shutterstock

Follow up examinations

Because pancreatitis is a serious health condition, your cat will need to return to the surgery for follow up checks. The chronic type of pancreatitis can be a frustrating condition to control. It may need fine-tuning of several different medications and approaches to discover which works best for your cat. The SpecfPL lipase blood test may be repeated to confirm if the treatment is working.

Prognosis following pancreatitis diagnosis in cats

If the cat requires hospitalisation during treatment, the prognosis is rather difficult to predict. Even with the best possible care, some cats do die from this disease. If the inflammation of the pancreas is controlled by a change in diet, the prospects for the cat’s recovery are certainly higher. Frequent medical monitoring is usually advised to prevent any further episodes.

Episodes of acute pancreatitis in felines can be a fatal condition. However, spotting the condition early and giving timely treatment will only improve the cat’s chances of a speedy recovery.