Pancreatitis in Cats

"Pancreatitis in cats refers to inflammation of the pancreas. It is caused by a number of reasons. Feline pancreatitis is either acute or chronic, depending upon the severity and the cause of the condition. Metabolic problems, prolonged medication, trauma, surgery, infectious and non-infectious diseases can cause pancreatitis in cats. Some shorthaired cats and Siamese are more genetically susceptible to pancreatitis. Pancreatitis can be characterized by lethargy, dehydration, anorexia (avoidance of food) and progressive weight loss. General symptoms include difficulty breathing, irregular heartbeat, fever and illness are included among signs of cat pancreatitis. Diagnosis usually requires a clinical history and laboratory testing. Treatment depends upon making a diagnosis which identifies the underlying cause; with supportive therapy an essential part of treatment."

Cause of Pancreatitis in Cats

In cats, pancreatitis is referred to as being “idiopathic”, since there are many potential causes, although the exact trigger mechanism is not known. Researches do understand how the disease progresses once the feline pancreatitis is triggered in the cat.

Prolonged and unnecessary medications are thought to be the most common cause of cat pancreatitis, including antibiotics, anti cancer drugs and some common anti-helmintics (dewormer)

Calcium is an essential mineral for cats, but if larger amounts are consumed, then cats with hypercalcemia are more susceptible to pancreatitis. A therapeutic agent,“calcitrol”, is usually included in commercial cat foods, as it is used to enhance the absorption of calcium in aged cats. If used for a long period, it can cause cat pancreatitis.

Some infectious and non-infectious diseases can also cause pancreatitis in cats, but are less common. It may be less common since infections are treated early in the course of the disease. Examples of infectious diseases include toxoplasmosis and calicivirus infections while bowl disease and bile duct abnormalities, are examples of non-infectious diseases that can act as causative factors for feline pancreatitis.

Domesticated cats are more susceptible to pancreatitis. Some middle-aged shorthaired breeds and Siamese are genetically predisposed to the disease.

Symptoms of Cat Pancreatitis:

General signs of pancreatitis in cats and dogs are usually the same, i.e. initially; anorexia (avoidance of food) is noted followed by dehydration, lethargy, and progressive weight loss. Some signs like abdominal pain and vomiting are less common in cats.

Cats with pancreatitis experience some other symptoms as well. These may include difficulty breathing, severe stress, and irregular heart function. Severe pancreatitis in cats can cause damage to the adjacent organs; a problem which is usually irreversible and is due to the spread of pancreatic juices to those organs.

Diagnosis of Pancreatitis in Cats:

Clinical signs, history and some specific symptoms can help when the existence of pancreatitis is suspected by a veterinarian, but laboratory tests are the only way to confirm the presence of the feline pancreatitis disease. Blood biochemistry, urinalysis and blood examination for any infectious agents, can help in confirming pancreatitis. The level of amylase and lipase in blood should be monitored as confirmation of the condition. Further tests may be required, such as immune activity tests and radiography (x-rays). A biopsy or tissue sample for examination in a laboratory is not a common practice in making a diagnosis, but can help confirm the presence of the disease.

Treatment of Pancreatitis in Cats:

The initial goal of treatment is to restore the body condition of the cat. This is usually done by reducing pancreatic activity. Cats are hard to keep on fasts, but in case of pancreatitis, cats should not be fed any thing orally for at least 12–24 hours.

Fluid therapy through intravenous or subcutaneous routes should be administered; 4–5% Ringer’s lactate solution combined with B complex and additional electrolytes, this has been proven effective.

Nutritional components such as proteins and calories can be administered intravenously, combined with fluids.

Painkillers, anti-pyretic (helps with fever)drugs and other symptomatic treatment plans should only be implemented once a cat’s health is restored to a safe level; which should be determined only by your veterinarian. Any carelessness or mistakes in the application of symptomatic treatment can lead to shock.

Once a cat is able to eat, soft meals, containing low fat content should be administered. B complex and other supportive supplements can be added, but it is recommended that supplementation should be preferably administered intravenously.  One commercial diet that meets these requirements for a cat with pancreatitis is Hill's Prescription Diet i/d.

There is a supportive homoepathic therapy which can be used once a cat's health is restored. Pancreas Booster contains natural ingredients that are associated with helping the pancreas function within a normal range and that support digestive health. As with all supplements, check with your veterinarian about adding this type of product to your cat's regimen.


The Merck/Merial Manual for Pet Health