Pancreatitis in Cats, Causes, Diagnosis, Treatment

Pancreatitis in Cats
Pancreatitis in Cats

Pancreatitis in cats is a common gastrointestinal disorder. It is the inflammation of the pancreas.Acute pancreatitis is the sudden onset of pancreatitis. Here is more on symptoms, diagnosis and Treatment. 

What Is Pancreatitis In Cats?

Same as for humans, cats have a pancreas. It is a pale pink V- shaped cat organ located behind the duodenum. The “first section of the small intestines” and the stomach.

It produces pancreatic enzymes that promote fat absorption and digestion; the pancreas also produces insulin which aids in the metabolism of sugar in the cat’s body; thus when it begins to fail, it causes lots of problems for our cats “health-wise” and can even be fatal.

Also known as inflammation of the pancreas, Pancreatitis is a common gastrointestinal disorder in cats in which the inflammation of the pancreas causes transfer of the digestive enzymes into the abdominal cavity; this may result in the damage to the nearby organs e.g. bile duct, intestines, liver or gall bladder.

With acute pancreatitis, the digestive enzymes activate prematurely while in the pancreas which leads to the pancreas digesting its self. Enzymes are designed or meant to be inactive till they reach the small intestines.

Few cats that recover from this episode of acute pancreatitis continue to have recurrent bouts of pancreatitis which is known as chronic pancreatitis.

Causes of Feline Pancreatitis

The particular cause of feline pancreatitis is unknown, a reason why diagnosing pancreatitis in hard.  Pancreatitis has been confusing many vets.

However, there are identifying features of pancreatitis, such as an increased white blood cell count when your cat has acute pancreatitis or other diseases that might accompany the condition, e.g.  Liver disease, or inflammatory bowel disease (IBD),

Possible causes of feline pancreatitis include:

  • Abdominal Trauma
  • Metabolic disorders i.e. high amounts of calcium in the blood
  • Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD)
  • Liver disease
  • Abdominal surgery
  • Infectious diseases, such as feline infectious peritonitis, herpes virus, and toxoplasmosis.
  • Allergic reaction to drugs, such as anti-cancer drugs, catabolic steroids, or antibiotics.
  • Ascending infection of the small intestines
  • Feline distemper

Symptoms of Pancreatitis in Cats

Both chronic and acute pancreatitis can cause scarring in the pancreas, which could eventually take its toll on the functionality ability of the organs. The scarring also affects the insulin and digestive enzyme production thus leading to diseases like liver disease, (IBD) and diabetes.

Here are the signs that your cat has pancreatitis:

  • Lethargic – This is an episode of acute pancreatitis, where the cat sits erect, with their paws tucked under them, while looking into space and is reluctant to eat.
  • Unwilling to eat and drink-loss of appetite
  • Lose weight
  • Dehydrated
  • Anorexia
  • Less than 50% felines vomit
  • Less than 50% felines have abdominal pain “difficult to notice” as well as Palpable abdominal mass
  • Increases heart rate
  • Change in breathing patterns later leading to difficult breathing in severe cases
  • Jaundice
  • Few have fever
  • The cat can show signs of pain
  • Few have Diarrhea

When you notice the following symptoms, take your cat to the vet for a diagnosis, it will help a lot in keeping your cat out of danger of having severe pancreatitis.

Acute pancreatitis might develop life-threatening conditions like disseminated intravascular coagulation (DIC) as well as heart arrhythmias and difficulty in breathing.

Diagnosis of Pancreatitis in Cats

Because the particular cause of feline pancreatitis is unknown, a reason why many felines go undiagnosed due to lack of specific diagnostic test, as well as the vague, nonspecific clinical signs.

However, recent research tests have improved the ability to achieve diagnosis and help bring understanding pancreatitis better proving that it’s a common disease in felines; much more widespread than previously thought.

So the diagnosis requires multiple combinations of diagnostics tests and high amount of clinical suspicions. The vet will perform these tests hoping to have a final idea or results’ proving what your cat’s condition is.

Here are the tests that are done by the vet:

  • A complete history of your cat’ life is taken which if possible should include parents of your cat.
  • Blood tests; there are only two that can fully conclude your cat of having Pancreatitis. They are:

Feline Pancreatic Lipase Immunoreactivity

It’s primarily used as a screening test and cannot be used to diagnose the cat of having pancreatitis conclusively. This is because other body parts in the cat produce lipase. But still, the test is done because cats with pancreatic scarring will show in the test.

Feline Serum Trypsin-Like Immunoreactivity

The vet will measure Trypsin enzyme which enters in the blood, and if the amount is higher than usual, then the cat might have an inflamed pancreas resulting in leakage of the protein.

When the enzyme is lower than usual in the blood, it might have EPI or Pancreas insufficiencies which both are not attributed to pancreatitis.

Vets have different opinions concerning Feline Serum Trypsin-Like Immunoreactivity, some stating that is inaccurate while others say it’s an accurate way of testing for pancreatitis.

Other Tests Include:

  • Complete blood test-Your veterinarian will look for anemia, increased or decreased white cell count because cats with pancreatitis tend to have increases white blood cells.
  • Radiography- an X-ray of the abdomen which only indicates that there is something special opening on inside the abdomen; it surveys the organ shape, size, and position. And although it’s not that useful in diagnosing feline pancreatitis it can still be used rule out other problems causing abdominal pain and detect foreign materials and masses.
  • Ultrasound- an ultrasound of the abdomen helps show images of the major abdominal organs including the pancreas thus identifying the current problems in the cat’s gastric glands i.e. abnormal gas patterns, problematic foreign masses, liver or intestine issues, etc.
  • If matters persist, a vet surgeon can perform biopsy which is opening up of the cat to see the pancreas directly by use of surgery; it’s a bit more accurate in finding the underlying issue of your cat problems. However, this type of test is rarely performed.

Treatment of Pancreatitis in Cats

Pancreatitis is not curable but can still be managed, enable the cat to leave a healthier life. A question asked by many is “what if the underlying cause is known?”.

Well, around 10% of the time vets can determine what’s bringing about pancreatitis which might include things like inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), Liver disease, abdominal surgery, medication or feline distemper, etc. The vet will treat the underlying cause and eventually subsidies pancreatitis in your cat.

Nearly all cases of Feline pancreatitis hospitalization is recommended, for at list two to four days, depending on the severity of the disease. Treating Feline pancreatitis also includes dealing symptoms brought on by the disease which includes; dehydration, abdominal pain, etc.

Here are ways of dealing with pancreatitis in cats:


Depending on pancreatitis symptoms, drug therapy is introduced in the cat’s life. Those that experience pain are given pain relievers such as butorphanol, meperidine, or analgesics. They are given Anti-inflammatory medication for chronic cases and antibiotics in case of secondary infections.

And although, a majority of cats having pancreatitis don’t vomit or diarrhea, some drug is also given to reduce the vomiting or nausea brought on by the disease it includes antidiuretics, antiemetics or antacids.


Because pancreatitis may destroy cells responsible for digestive enzyme production, it later brings about digestive problems; thus special digestive enzyme supplements are required which are vitamin products.

If suspected of having IBD he/ she will be given Vitamin B-12 injections “best for cats with chronic pancreatitis because they often have low Vitamin B 12”. And also cats with this condition “chronic pancreatitis” often develop diabetes, so they need insulin shots which will be subscribed by the vet.

Fluid Therapy

It is the most important form of acute pancreatitis treatment. When hospitalized fluid therapy is applied to cats with Pancreatitis where their electrolyte levels are also monitored; a catheter is placed in your cat’s vein then fluids are administered in drips slowly.

This liquid known as intravenous fluids help cats with dehydration which is like most felines with pancreatitis and corrects the dehydration; it also corrects potassium abnormalities and blood sugar levels as well as flushing toxins from the cat’s body. Nutritional supplements and medication can also be added to the fluid inside the IV tube i.e. this can be very useful for acute pancreatitis because they need frequent monitoring.

Plasma Transfusion 

This type of transfusion corrects clotting deficiencies which if left untreated can lead to kidney failure, respiratory failure, and disseminated intravascular coagulation and eventually be fatal for the cat.

Oxygen Tank or Oxygen 

In case your cat has been affected by pancreatitis resulting in changing of breathing patens or difficulty in breathing, the vet will help supply him or her with oxygen; this occurs in acute stages and needs frequent monitoring as well as attention.

Nutritional and Food Support

It’s is both essential for acute or chronic pancreatitis because the cats need solid nutritional support. The cats will benefit from right nutrients in their small intestines. Thus, the vet puts in a feeding tube in the cat’s upper intestine or stomach for a day or two, which is possible if your cat is not vomiting and is reasonably stable. Good nutrition in the cat’s diet also helps with the lack of appetite.

If there is a problem, the vet will use IV tubes. In case the cat is vomiting the vet will withhold food at most 48 hours, where water is introduced slowly followed by small amounts of food or just use the IV tubes.


The preventative measures are taken to ensure that your cat in not affected by Pancreatitis.

  • Keep them from non-prescribed medications
  • Avoid giving cats drugs that increase inflammation
  • Cat regular check-ups regularly

As a very critical condition pancreatitis can be fatal to your feline friend if left untreated; the severity of the disease depends on early detection. And even though a cure doesn’t exist, if the illness is detected early it can be aggressively treated giving your cat a chance to live for many years if it has proper management. So to get best results take your cat for regular check-ups.


1 Comment

  1. My Balinese recently had pancreatitis. I could see by his face he was not well. Next day, Tuesday straight to the vet he was dehydrated. On a drip for the day and night. He was still not eating nor had his fever gone.
    Friday still not eating. Back to the vet, back on the drip. I left him but later in the afternoon I knew I had to go back to be with him. He was on my knee shaking and trembling, then he peed down my let. Vet muttered he was losing control. I continued talking gently and caressing him. He started purring then went to sleep on my knee till the vet closed. He hid under my pashmina that night. Sat I picked him up and he started eating. That was the week of 12th March. He is still eating well. I am sure my guardian angels were helping my hands to heal him and he had been on the point of dying.

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