Pancreatitis is a rare disease in cats, it is caused by inflammation of the pancreas. They can be acute or chronic. The diagnosis of pancreatitis is difficult because the symptoms are not specific. It also sometimes happens that the cat has no symptoms. Rapid tests that can be performed in the clinic by veterinarians make it easier to diagnose pancreatitis.
The pancreas is an organ that has both a function endocrine (secretion of insulin and glucagon, hormones involved in the regulation of blood sugar) as well as a function exocrine (secretion of digestive enzymes such as pancreatic amylase).
Pancreatitis is an inflammation of the pancreas. These are diseases rare in the cat. Most of the time, the cause of pancreatitis is not identified, we talk about pancreatitis idiopathic.
We distinguish acute pancreatitis from chronic pancreatitis:
Acute pancreatitis appears suddenly. The clinical signs can be severe and lead to the death of the animal.
We distinguish two types of acute pancreatitis : suppurative pancreatitis and necrotic pancreatitis. Their origin would be different (infectious cause versus activation of pancreatic enzymes) and they affect cats of different ages (young cats for suppurative pancreatitis against cats predominantly older than 7 years for necrotic pancreatitis).
Pancreatitis can be associated with liver disease, inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), etc. We speak of a feline triad when combining pancreatitis, cholangitis and IBD in cats.
Symptoms are not very specific that is to say, they are encountered in other diseases and are not characteristic of pancreatitis: anorexia, depression, weight loss, dehydration, vomiting, abdominal pain, etc. They can also be due to associated diseases . Pancreatitis should always be considered when symptoms are not very specific in cats.
Warning : fasting is very poorly tolerated by cats. A consultation with a veterinarian is essential after 24 hours of fasting. Cats may have hepatic lipidosis during prolonged fasting. The combination of hepatic lipidosis and pancreatitis has a very poor prognosis. Do not hesitate to read our fact sheet “My cat no longer eats: anorexia and risks involved” for more information.
Chronic pancreatitis is near 2 times more frequent than acute pancreatitis. They can follow acute pancreatitis.
Chronic inflammation of the pancreas leads to progressive destruction of the organ. Loss of pancreatic functions can lead to diabetes mellitus and exocrine pancreatic insufficiency.
Some animals express symptoms periodically while others are asymptomatic.
The clinical examination generally does not refer the veterinarian to pancreatitis. In fact, the animal presents nonspecific symptoms or even sometimes no symptoms (during chronic pancreatitis).
There are rapid tests performed in the clinic which facilitate diagnosis. These tests measure the specific pancreatic lipase level.
Other additional examinations can be carried out to guide the veterinarian: ultrasound, radiography, biochemical analysis, etc.
Only a histological analysis allows a diagnosis of certainty during pancreatitis but it is difficult to achieve routinely.
As the cause of pancreatitis is rarely known, treatment is often symptomatic (that is, it aims to treat the symptoms presented by the animal).
During acute pancreatitis, animals are generally placed on an infusion and re-fed quickly (to avoid the harmful effects of fasting). Other treatments are often associated: analgesics (if the animal is painful), anti-emetics, etc.
During chronic pancreatitis, a diet low in fat and hyperdigestible (on veterinary prescription) is often put in place. Various food supplements to support the functioning of the pancreas can also be put in place (pancreatic enzymes in particular).
Regular follow-ups are necessary, the frequency of checks is determined by the veterinarian treating the animal.