A cat's pancreas produces insulin and digestive enzymes. Usually, the latter do not activate until they enter the gastrointestinal tract. If activated while still in the pancreas, pancreatitis -- inflammation of the pancreas -- results. In felines, chronic pancreatitis is more common than the acute form of the disease, and diagnosis isn't necessarily straightforward. If your cat stops eating for more than 24 hours, call your vet. It's probably something relatively minor, but it's possible that chronic pancreatitis is the culprit.
It's not certain why cats develop either form of pancreatitis. Inflammatory bowel disease, parasites and liver issues possibly set off pancreatitis in susceptible felines. In most cases, no actual cause is found, so the disease is considered idiopathic, or cause unknown. While a cat recovering from an acute case of pancreatitis can go on to develop the chronic form, chronic pancreatitis more often occurs independently. Over time, scar tissue develops in the organ with a cat with chronic pancreatitis, leading to other metabolic problems. If your cat is diagnosed with chronic pancreatitis, his prognosis depends a great deal on your supportive care and management.
Chronic Pancreatitis Symptoms
Symptoms of chronic feline pancreatitis resemble those of the acute version, but aren't as severe. An affected cat's issues tend to come and go. He might lose his appetite, throw up and act lethargic, then snap out of it after a few days. After a period of seeming fine, the symptoms and pattern repeat themselves. Many cats -- nearly one-third -- live with a low level of chronic pancreatitis and remain asymptomatic. However, cats with chronic pancreatitis are more likely to develop related diseases, including diabetes mellitus, hepatic lipidosis and inflammatory bowel disease.
Diagnosis and Treatment
To get to the bottom of Kitty's discomfort, your vet performs a physical examination and takes your cat's complete medical history. She'll conduct blood tests and ultrasound your cat's abdomen. Your vet treats the symptoms of chronic pancreatitis, via anti-nausea drugs, antibiotics and analgesics. One of the most common anti-nausea medications prescribed for cats with this disorder is Cerenia, which also has anti-inflammatory properties. Famotidine, marketed under the brand name Pepcid, is another anti-nausea drug used in chronic pancreatitis treatment. Your vet might recommend dietary changes, but high fat diets in cats don't appear to be the pancreatitis trigger that they are in canines. If your cat's pancreas no longer manufactures sufficient amounts of digestive enzymes, your vet will recommend adding synthetic enzymes to Kitty's food.
Since stress can cause a pancreatitis attack in the vulnerable feline, keep known flare-up triggers to a minimum -- if possible. New household members, new pets, a new residence and other changes in routine can all stress Kitty. The latter includes vacations and holidays, especially if your cat must stay in a boarding situation. Keep a careful eye on your cat when any significant changes occur. If your cat exhibits pancreatitis symptoms, your vet can prescribe medication or up the dosage temporarily.
- Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine: Feline Pancreatitis -- Serious
- Cat Hospital of Chicago: Pancreatitis in Cats
- Idexx Laboratories: Treatment Recommendations for Feline Pancreatitis
- All Feline Hospital: Pancreatitis
- Journal of Feline Medicine and Surgery: Pancreatitis in Cats --: is it Acute, is it Chronic, is it Significant?
Jane Meggitt has been a writer for more than 20 years. In addition to reporting for a major newspaper chain, she has been published in "Horse News," "Suburban Classic," "Hoof Beats," "Equine Journal" and other publications. She has a Bachelor of Arts in English from New York University and an Associate of Arts from the American Academy of Dramatics Arts, New York City.