The largely-unknown organ called the pancreas plays an important role in digestion and the regulation of other hormones such as insulin in the body.
Inflammation of the pancreas is called pancreatitis.
In cats, the underlying origin of pancreatitis is very difficult to identify, but the most common symptoms are weight loss, inappetence, lethargy, abdominal pain, vomiting and diarrhoea. These can last from several days to several weeks depending on the severity of the disease.
Cats with pancreatitis are very susceptible to secondary liver and gut inflammation, further complicating treatment.
This makes early diagnosis and treatment very important to decrease hospitalisation time and improve the chance of complete recovery.
Getting to the bottom of pancreatitis can be frustrating in cats and multiple tests may be needed.
Your vet may run a special blood test, however to truly diagnose pancreatitis, a biopsy must be taken, but as this is an invasive means of reaching a diagnosis, it is not always undertaken.
The cornerstone of treatment of pancreatitis in cats is:
1. Fluid therapy to help hydration and maintain their blood pressure;
2. Managing any other disease or injuries to minimise ongoing inflammation and potential underlying causes;
3. Pain relief to keep the patient comfortable'
4. Adequate nutritional support and nausea control; and in some cases
5. Antibiotics to stop secondary infection (most commonly for the intestines) entering the blood stream and causing further damage around the body.
Many cats with severe pancreatitis will require a feeding tube, to allow for adequate nutritional support as they are often very reluctant to eat.
Intensive management of secondary complications such as liver damage is often needed in severe cases of pancreatitis.
If left untreated, this condition can quickly become life threatening and in chronic cases, the ongoing inflammation of the pancreas can result in pancreatic cancer.
If you are concerned about any of the mentioned signs in your cat, talk to your local feline veterinarian.