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Pancreatitis in Cats
CatsHealth

Pancreatitis in Cats

Ben, Critter Culture Staff
Updated Oct 27, 2020

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We all love and adore our cats. We feed them food they like and give them our love and affection. But, like many of us, our cats can become ill no matter how well they are treated at home. Pancreatitis is a rare illness that cats may develop. Knowing the early signs of pancreatitis in your cat is the number one way to getting them the proper treatment and on the road to recovery.

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1

What is pancreatitis?

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Your cat's pancreas is located on the right side of their abdomen and secretes enzymes that aid in digestion. These enzymes move in an inactive state from the pancreas to the small intestine, where they're activated to help break down food. Sometimes, however, these enzymes activate too early and start breaking down pancreatic tissue, leading to inflammation of the pancreas and other symptoms. It is not a common illness but can be fatal if left untreated.

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How does pancreatitis happen in cats

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There is no age or breed of cat that is more susceptible than others to developing pancreatitis. It is still relatively unknown what the direct causes of contracting this illness are. However, studies have shown that some cases of pancreatitis may have been caused by the cat ingesting a poison, getting a parasitic infection, or experiencing trauma like a car accident. Cats with inflammatory bowel disease may be more susceptible to developing pancreatitis.

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Known symptoms

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Cats can express odd symptoms of pancreatitis. Watch your cat for the following: lethargy, dehydration, increased thirst, excessive urination, poor appetite, refusal to eat, and weight loss. These symptoms are the same for other cat illnesses, so your vet will want to test them for multiple issues to properly diagnose them.

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How to check for pancreatitis

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Once your cat expresses some symptoms, your vet will need to test them for pancreatitis. The common tests will check your cat's white blood cell count and pancreatic enzyme levels. Not all cats express elevated levels, even if they're sick. A new test has recently come out that detects pancreatitis without the enzyme levels, so even if everything else checks out, your vet will be able to see if your cat is ill.

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Other illnesses that may develop with pancreatitis

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The pancreas produces hormones that assist in digestion, such as insulin and glucagon. Other illnesses that are connected to the digestive system can show many of the same symptoms. Your vet may want to check your cat for pancreatitis but find that they are suffering from something else, such as liver disease, inflammatory bowel disease, or a type of auto-immune disease. Once they determine the actual issue, they can provide the correct treatment.

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Treatment options after diagnosis

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Once it is determined that your cat is suffering from pancreatitis, your vet will decide on the treatment options. The best bet for recovery is to "shut off" the pancreas to prevent it from secreting enzymes. To do this, your cat will be held for 2-4 days, given intravenous fluids, and prescribed anti-inflammatory drugs. Analgesics will also be given to reduce the pain your cat is feeling.

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Recovery time and needs

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After your cat returns from the vet, they should be mostly back to normal. Your vet will want to know what food they normally eat and might suggest one with a higher nutritional value. This is because it may be harder for your cat to digest their food properly for a while. If they had a very bad case of pancreatitis, your vet might also prescribe enzyme powder to add to their food.

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Prognosis for reoccurrence

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There are two ways your cat can have pancreatitis: acute and chronic. Acute pancreatitis is sudden, while chronic pancreatitis is ongoing. Both of these types can be either mild or severe. If your cat had a mild and acute form of pancreatitis, chances are that they will not get another case of it for a long time. If your cat is diagnosed with chronic pancreatitis, then they may suffer several bouts of this disease and need frequent check-ups.

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Preventative care for cats

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Many cases of pancreatitis recover with no long-lasting effects. Other cats need to have more nutritive food and assistance with digesting. If your vet recommends it, you may want to introduce a food that is designed for inflammatory bowel disease. This formulated food is easy to digest and anti-inflammatory. Ensure that your cat is being fed a proper amount of food, and feed them twice a day. This helps your cat digest their food in small amounts and puts less stress on their pancreas.

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Veterinarian visits

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Giving your cat regular check-ups with the vet can do a lot for their long-term health. If your cat is expressing any of the symptoms of pancreatitis, your vet needs to begin testing. Severe cases of pancreatitis can be fatal, so immediate testing is needed. Even if the symptoms lead to another issue, your vet will be able to treat them properly to ensure a happy and healthy life for your cat.

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