The pancreas is an organ located next to the stomach and the first part of the small intestine, the duodenum. It has two main functions – the first is to produce insulin to help control the level of glucose in the bloodstream, and the second is to produce pancreatic enzymes, which aid the digestion and absorption of food.
Pancreatitis (inflammation of the pancreas) can occur in two main forms – acute and chronic.
Acute pancreatitis is often sudden in onset and associated with severe clinical signs, such as high temperature, vomiting, increased heart rate and abdominal pain. The chronic form is more slow in onset and often associated with less severe and non-specific signs, such as decrease in appetite, lethargy and subtle abdominal pain.
The cause of pancreatitis in cats is generally unknown. There have been some associations with infections and sometimes trauma such as a road traffic accident can cause inflammation of the pancreas.
There is a link between pancreatitis, inflammatory bowel disease and bile duct inflammation – this is because anatomically the cat bile duct and pancreatic duct both join together before opening up into the intestine.
Diet is not thought to trigger pancreatitis in cats, unlike dogs, where a high fat diet can cause a flare up.
Treatment of pancreatitis in cats is largely symptomatic. In most cases, cats need to be placed onto intravenous fluids for a few days to correct the dehydration and electrolyte imbalances.
Anti-sickness medications are also administered, even if the cat is not vomiting, as sometimes the nausea alone will put them off their food. It is also a painful disease, so pain relief injections are given. Occasionally, milder chronic cases can be treated at home – your vet will decide on the best course of action for your pet.
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