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 and in cats, the most common symptoms are weight loss, inappetence, lethargy, abdominal pain, vomiting and diarrhea. 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.
Diagnosis can be frustrating in cats and your vet may run a special blood test. However to truly diagnose pancreatitis, a biopsy must be taken, but this is invasive and not always undertaken.
The cornerstone of treatment of pancreatitis in cats is (1) fluid therapy to help hydration and maintain their blood pressure, (2) management of any other disease or injuries to minimise ongoing inflammation and potential underlying causes, (3) pain relief, (4) adequate nutritional support and nausea control and in some cases (5) antibiotics to stop secondary infection (most commonly for the intestines) doing further damage.
Many cats with severe pancreatitis will require a feeding tube to be placed, to allow for adequate nutritional support as they are often very reluctant to eat.
If left untreated, this condition can quickly become life threatening and chronic inflammation can lead to pancreatic cancer. If you are concerned about possible symptoms in your cat, talk to your feline veterinarian.