Acute Pancreatitis in Cats – Diagnosis and Treatment


The pancreas, located side by side with the stomach on the right side of the abdomen, is an organ with vital functions. It produces enzymes that help digest the food consumed, as well as hormones such as insulin, which regulates the glucose mechanism and blood sugar. Pancreatitis, with its shortest definition, is the inflammation of the pancreas. When pancreatitis occurs in cats, inflammation of the liver and intestines is usually seen simultaneously. In this article, “What are the symptoms of pancreatitis in cats?” and “how to treat pancreatitis in cats?” You can find answers to important questions such as: However, first of all, we would like to answer a frequently asked question about cat anatomy.

What Is Pancreatitis in Cats?

“Do cats have pancreas?” The question is often asked. Yes, cats have pancreas. Therefore, diseases related to the pancreas are also seen. In cats, the pancreas consists of two separate parts with different functions, the endocrine pancreas and the exocrine pancreas. The hormones glucagon and insulin are produced in the endocrine pancreas, which regulate blood sugar. The most common disorder of the endocrine pancreas is diabetes mellitus. The part of the pancreas, called the exocrine pancreas, is responsible for the production of enzymes that aid in the digestion of proteins, carbohydrates, and fats. If these enzymes, produced by the exocrine pancreas, are activated prematurely, they can damage the pancreas and surrounding organs. This can lead to pancreatic inflammation, also known as pancreatitis.

These enzymes, produced by the pancreas in cats, have an inactive structure under normal conditions and are transmitted from the pancreas to the part of the small intestine called the duodenum. Enzymes reaching the small intestine are activated and digestion begins. In case of pancreatitis, the digestive enzymes secreted by the pancreas are activated before they reach the small intestine. This means that pancreatitis in cats means that the pancreas or parts of the body where the enzymes are activated, not the food, begin to be digested due to pancreatic enzymes.

Pancreatitis in cats is a disease with a low incidence in the past. However, thanks to the testing and diagnostic methods developed in the veterinary field, it has been determined that the incidence of this disease is higher. Pancreatitis in cats can occur in cats of any age, sex, and breed.

Pancreatitis Symptoms in Cats

Symptoms of pancreatitis in cats can differ in type and severity. It is possible to encounter symptoms such as weakness, decreased appetite, dehydration, fever or decrease in body temperature, vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain, difficulty in breathing and loss of coordination if the lungs are affected. Again, it would not be correct to generalize that all these symptoms will be seen in every cat.

What is Acute Pancreatitis?

Pancreatitis is divided into acute (sudden onset) and chronic (long-term) course. It is clinically difficult to distinguish between acute and chronic. Since the symptoms of acute pancreatitis progress more quickly, it can be said that we can reach the diagnosis in a shorter time compared to chronic. The causes of acute and chronic pancreatitis may also differ in some cases.

The reversible (healing) rate of acute pancreatitis is noticeably higher than that of chronic pancreatitis.

This established order is in the case of pancreatic disease, that is, in acute pancreatitis; starting with the fact that these inactive substances somehow reach the surrounding tissues while still in the pancreas or for some reason, become active and digest the pancreatic tissues and a widespread inflammation develops against it; It is a disease table that causes various complications in the organism. This condition begins to break down the tissues. Acute pancreatitis is the name given to the body’s defense and results against this uncontrolled breakdown of tissues.

A significant increase in acute pancreatitis has been observed in humans, especially in recent years, due to hereditary and developmental mutations of the trypsin enzyme. Contrary to popular belief, we can now say that we encounter this situation in our animals as well as in humans.

Unexplained pancreatitis cases are more common in cats and dogs than in humans. We need to underline that we should not ignore the regular controls and every change in behavior and movement in our animals. Especially after liver and gallbladder infections, gallstones, inflammatory bowel diseases, given drugs and some nutrients, and hepatic lipidosis of cats, ie liver fattening, are the most obvious causes of acute pancreatitis.

Symptoms in cats and dogs vary with only minor differences.

The majority of deaths due to acute pancreatitis are due to septic complications.

In the differential diagnosis, acute complications of biliary tract diseases, intestinal obstruction, in other words intestinal obstruction, intestinal nutritional conditions, intestinal intertwining or ischemia (unfeeding), hollow organ perforation and peptic ulcer disease (stomach ulcers) should not be forgotten.

The gold standard for its diagnosis has not been developed and the diagnosis can be very difficult in an emergency. Measurement of pancreatic amylase and lipase is the primary method in diagnosis, but the specificity and sensitivity of these enzymes are low. Hemogram – general blood picture and biochemical values ​​of blood, change criteria of pancreatic enzymes, pancreatic changes under ultrasonography and clinical picture are our priority in our diagnostic criteria.

How do I know if my animal has acute pancreatitis?

Pain complications that develop in acute cases are one of the ways that shed light on our diagnosis. Indifference, the desire to hide, staying in an unresponsive sitting position for a long time by constantly closing their eyes, changes in eating and toilet habits should not be ignored and should definitely be checked regularly. Conditions such as neurological symptoms, progressive weight loss, excessive water consumption and excessive urination, jaundice, decrease in body temperature, and tenderness in the abdomen may also be observed.

In general, conditions affecting the digestive system are observed. eg; Loss of appetite, decreased desire to eat, processes with symptoms of nausea or severe vomiting, weakness, indifference to the environment and especially to the things he likes, persistent or non-obvious diarrhea are seen.

Causes of Acute Pancreatitis in Cats

Instead of the exact causes of pancreatitis in cats, risk factors can be mentioned.

  • Blood pressure drops or small blood clots that cause impaired blood flow to the pancreas
  • Being exposed to falls, accidents or traumas from height,
  • Infections such as feline parvovirus, toxoplasma, herpes virus and feline infectious peritonitis,
  • Some drugs and
  • It is accepted that inflammatory bowel disease can cause pancreatitis in cats.

Diagnosing Acute Pancreatitis in Cats

There is no specific test to be used to diagnose pancreatitis in cats. After learning about the signs of pancreatitis in cats, veterinarians evaluate clinical signs and apply blood tests and imaging techniques. A general screening consisting of a complete blood count and chemistry panel may be necessary. Many cats may have elevated liver enzymes and electrolyte changes due to vomiting; These data are also taken into account during diagnosis. At the same time, an increase in the number of red blood cells and changes in kidney values ​​are also considered within the scope of the diagnosis of pancreatitis. But all these changes cannot be attributed solely to pancreatitis in cats. Therefore, if necessary, it may be possible to take tissue samples from the pancreas to examine acute or chronic changes in the pancreas. Biopsy is not a preferred method in typical cases as it requires general anesthesia and abdominal surgery.

Treatment of acute pancreatitis in cats

The clinical signs (anorexia, lethargy) associated with feline pancreatitis are not very specific. Standard diagnostic procedure will include the animal’s medical history, a thorough physical exam, blood count and ultrasound. In pancreatic abnormalities, x-ray may not be helpful in diagnosis because it is not normally well-selected. However, they are sometimes useful for differentiating other disorders, such as intestinal obstruction, which can have symptoms similar to pancreatitis. A biopsy is the only way to make a definitive diagnosis, but this practice can be difficult due to the patient’s condition.

While no uniformly effective treatment for feline pancreatitis has yet been developed, the affected cat typically may be hospitalized for several days while supportive treatment continues. This treatment will require the patient to be fed through a tube directly into the stomach to ensure adequate nutrition. This should be continued until the animal’s appetite is satisfied.

Pancreatitis has a poor prognosis and may result in death. Also the patient needs good care so it can be very costly for the patient owner.

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