Pancreatitis in Cats

Pancreatitis in Cats

Inflammation of the pancreas is known as pancreatitis, and it can either be chronic or acute. The chronic form is most common among cats. It most often affects the digestive or exocrine enzymes. There are a variety of different causes of pancreatitis in cats, but most often it is a direct result of a reaction to medications, infection, parasites or trauma. The problem is, most of the time when a cat has pancreatitis the cause is not identifiable; however Siamese cats are genetically prone to this condition. Other causes may include:

  • metabolic disorders
  • small intestine disease
  • previous pancreatitis
  • genetics

Signs and Symptoms of Pancreatitis in Cats

When a dog has pancreatitis, the signs are typically easy to see. They have abdominal pain and vomiting, and often times their abdomen is distended. This isn’t the case for cats.

In over half of the cats that are affected with pancreatitis, the main signs and symptoms include lethargy, lack of appetite, dehydration, lower body temperature or increase in respiratory rate. Some cats may also have inflammatory bowel disease along with the pancreatitis; however, only about 35% of all cats with this condition will experience nausea or vomiting.

Diagnosing Pancreatitis

Diagnosing pancreatitis is not always easy. Typically, your veterinarian will do an ultrasound of your cat’s abdomen. There are also new laboratory tests that have been used more recently to detect inflammation of the pancreas. There are a few other tests, including pancreatic biopsy, but this is not really suitable for cats that are very ill because it requires anesthesia and cats that are too sick may be risky when it comes to anesthesia. Let your veterinarian determine the best way to diagnose this condition depending on your cat’s particular condition.

Treating Pancreatitis in Cats

Treating pancreatitis in cats can be pretty complicated. It definitely isn’t something that you can do on your own. There are a few different goals when it comes to the treatment plan. They include:

  • correcting dehydration issues
  • offering relief from pain and discomfort
  • controlling nausea and vomiting
  • offering nutrition support
  • preventing further complications

Your veterinarian will likely recommend extensive IV fluid treatments and careful monitoring to ensure that electrolytes are where they need to be. If your cat has been vomiting, then they will probably recommend withholding food for up to 48 hours to ensure that their digestive system has time to recover. Just don’t withhold food for more than 48 hours, because it can lead to hepatic lipidosis.

Your vet may also recommend a feeding tube to be inserted into your cat’s small intestine to give them their basic nutrients. This may be necessary for a week or more, depending on the condition of your cat. They will also give pain control, because the condition tends to be pretty painful.

Typically, they will also administer dopamine to help stimulate blood flow to the organ. This can really be beneficial. Other medications may also be given to help control nausea, vomiting and upset stomach that comes along with the condition. In chronic cases, metronidazole or corticosteroids may be necessary. In rare but serious cases, you also have to worry about the following conditions:

  • rapid kidney failure
  • pulmonary edema
  • respiratory failure
  • intravascular coagulation
  • death

In acute cases, plasma may be required to help save your cat’s life. Your veterinarian may also refer you out for peritoneal dialysis in extreme situations. Just remember, whatever your vet recommends is a good idea. This condition can be fatal, and you want to get control of it as quickly as possible.


Typically, pancreatitis is very unpredictable. Most of the time, in mild cases, the prognosis is optimistic. Sometimes, however, those mild cases can progress and it can turn into something severe. If there are other conditions that go along with the pancreatitis, such as diabetes, liver disease, small intestine disease, or others, then the prognosis may not be as bright.

Pancreatitis in cats can be a fatal condition, and you definitely don’t want to take it lightly. Early diagnosis and treatment really helps to increase the chances of a full recovery. If you have any concerns about your cat’s health or wellness, call your veterinarian. They may want you to bring them in to have them checked out, because catching it early is really important when it comes to making a full recovery without any further complications. You can never be too careful when it comes to your cat’s health and wellness, so don’t ever overlook what may seem like a slight difference in their behavior because it may be something more serious.

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