Inflammation of the pancreas, called pancreatitis in cats, is very common. Since its symptoms are not clear, this disease is not always recognized immediately. However, it requires rapid veterinary treatment, because treating too late is life-threatening.
Role of the cat’s pancreas
The pancreas is a small gland that sits between the stomach and duodenum. It consists of two areas with different tasks. The smaller, endocrine part makes hormones, among other things. Insulin and glucagon that go straight into the blood from there. The larger, exocrine part forms a secretion called pancreatic juice, which contains digestive enzymes and is released directly into the small intestine. As soon as the food leaves the cat’s stomach on its digestive route and reaches the small intestine, the pancreas becomes active and releases its pancreatic juice into the duodenum, the first part of the small intestine directly after the stomach outlet. Here, on the one hand, gastric acid is neutralized, and, on the other hand, the peptidase, lipase, amylase, and nuclease enzymes contained in the pancreatic juice digest the pulp. This means that they break down the nutrients in the food so that they can pass through the intestinal wall and then become available to the cat’s body via the blood. If the cat has inflammation of the pancreas (pancreatitis), parts of the protective mechanism fail, which among other things prevent the enzymes from becoming active too early and causing damage to the pancreas with their digestive work. This leads to very painful pancreatitis in the cat.
Causes of pancreatitis in cats
In most cases, the exact cause of pancreatitis in cats cannot be determined. However, there seem to be risk factors that encourage inflammation of the pancreas.
If a cat is very overweight, is being fed a lot of fat, has a high blood lipid value, or has problems with lipid metabolism, this can lead to inflammation of the pancreas.
Existing infectious diseases are often the main cause of pancreatitis in cats. These include Toxoplasmosis, FIP, FIV, Feline Leukosis, Feline Herpes, and Cat Disease.
Pre-existing conditions that affect hormone metabolisms, such as diabetes, Cushing’s, and thyroid disease, also have a negative effect on the pancreas.
Certain drugs can also damage the pancreas. These include some anti-epileptic drugs, ACE inhibitors, and some pain relievers, anti-inflammatories, and drainage medications, among others.
Bumps in the abdominal area from kicks or accidents can cause lasting damage to the pancreas and cause inflammation. All of this can prevent the pancreatic juice from leaving the pancreas or the digestive enzymes become active before it leaves. The result is self-digestion. The enzymes digest the pancreas. Tissue damage, inflammation, and swelling occur.
Symptoms of pancreatitis in cats
The symptoms of pancreatitis in cats are unfortunately very unspecific and can just as easily apply to other diseases. This is also the reason why pancreatitis in cats is not always recognized immediately.
- apathetic behavior;
- lack of appetite;
- abdominal pain;
- dehydration (lack of fluids);
- yellowing of the mucous membranes (if bile ducts are also affected).
If a cat has one or more symptoms and is suspected of having pancreatitis, an ultrasound and a special blood test will provide certainty.
Pancreatitis: Treatment in Cats
Treatment for a cat with pancreatitis depends on the progression and severity of the disease. The following measures can be part of the treatment.
Infusions make up for a lack of fluids. They also promote blood circulation so that inflammatory cells are removed or broken down more quickly.
Cats are not allowed to go hungry for a long time because the depletion of existing fat reserves threatens hepatic lipidosis. This is acute fatty liver disease, which can be followed by liver failure. If a sick cat does not eat, it must be force-fed.
Inflammatory processes in the pancreas cause severe pain in the affected cat. Treatment with painkillers is, therefore, a good idea.
Treatment of nausea
Cats very often experience nausea when the pancreas is inflamed. If cats are sick, they usually refuse to feed, which must be avoided in the case of pancreatitis. The result would be a lack of energy that stands in the way of healing. There is also a threat of hepatic lipidosis.
The administration of anti-inflammatory drugs is part of the standard treatment for pancreatitis. Glucocorticoids are cortisone preparations that must not be suddenly stopped after treatment has ended but must be tapered off slowly.
Antibiotics are not always part of the treatment for pancreatitis in cats. In some cases, however, it makes sense to work with antibiotics, in addition, to preventing active bacteria from spreading.
Can pancreatitis in cats be cured?
Whether pancreatitis is curable in cats depends very much on the severity of the disease. In many cases of acute pancreatitis, the affected cat can be treated well so that no long-term damage to the pancreas is left behind. However, if the treatment waits too long, it can happen that the inflammation spreads and adjacent tissue is damaged. This in turn can lead to life-threatening blood poisoning. Chronic pancreatitis is spoken of when the inflammation does not heal completely and flares up again and again. In the long term, this recurring inflammation affects the pancreas. This can lead to pancreatic weakness and sometimes to diabetes. It is not uncommon for pancreatitis to occur in combination with other inflammations elsewhere. In the disease complex known as triaditis, not only is the pancreas inflamed, but also the biliary tract with part of the liver (cholangiohepatitis) and the intestine (IBD). There are also chances of a cure here, but these are less than with simple pancreatitis.