The pancreas is a very important organ located below the stomach. The pancreas plays many roles in the process of digestion producing and releasing over 5 enzymes.
It also produces hormones that play a key role in the metabolism of nutrients particularly glucose after it is absorbed in the bloodstream. It would therefore be very detrimental to a cat’s health if its functioning were to be disrupted. Unfortunately, in cats with pancreatitis, this is exactly what happens.
What is Pancreatitis?
Pancreatitis is a health condition in which the pancreas gets inflamed. Pancreatitis is a very serious disease as it can quickly disrupt the functioning of the pancreas.
The pancreas serves two main purposes; the production of hormones and the production of enzymes. The enzymes produced by the pancreas include lipases, nucleases, esterases, proteases, and amylases. Pancreatic enzymes play a role in the digestion of different nutrients such as proteins, carbohydrates, and lipids.
The pancreas also produces two hormones; insulin and glucagon. Insulin is responsible for lowering blood glucose levels while glucagon increases blood glucose when it is too low. In the event of damage to the pancreas such as in pancreatitis, the process of blood sugar control is negatively affected.
There are two types of pancreatitis in cats; acute pancreatitis and chronic pancreatitis. Acute pancreatitis develops in a short period of time ranging from days to weeks.
This type of pancreatitis is usually onset by a sudden event such as a car accident or poisoning. Acute pancreatitis can easily be treated if caught early but can also result in a quick death if ignored.
Chronic pancreatitis, on the other hand, takes much longer to develop. Chronic pancreatitis in cats may take months, years, or even life to develop. The origin of chronic pancreatitis is very hard to determine but common causes include poor diet and genetics.
Signs and Symptoms of Pancreatitis in Cats
- Lethargy. Your cat may become less active and lose interest in playing or spending time outdoors.
- Oversleeping. This may be mistaken for normal feline behavior since cats sleep for long hours. However, if your cat is sleeping more than usual, it is best to watch her closely to determine if she is alright.
- Vomiting. Since the pancreas is a part of the digestive system, pancreatitis may affect digestive function resulting in vomiting.
- Diarrhea. If pancreatitis gets to later stages, the production of enzymes by the pancreas may get interrupted. This would result in an increased proportion of undigested food reaching the colon resulting in diarrhea.
- Abdominal pain. One of the key symptoms of inflammation of the pancreas is pain. Pancreatitis may cause your cat severe abdominal pain especially on slight compression of the abdomen.
- Poor appetite. Your cat may have a reduced interest in foods due to the digestive discomfort caused by pancreatitis.
- Weight loss. If poor appetite and vomiting persist, they may result in a reduction in weight.
Causes of Pancreatitis in Cats
The definite cause of pancreatitis in a cat is usually hard to determine. The progression of the disease tends to be different in different cats. Some of the common causes and risk factors for feline pancreatitis include:
- Diabetes mellitus. When the production of insulin is compromised, the pancreas is forced to overwork itself in order to compensate for the reduction in insulin. This results in burnout which can cause inflammation of the pancreas.
- Physical trauma. Certain types of injury such as being hit by a car may cause the pancreas of the cat to get damaged.
- Chronic infections. Inflammation is one of the body’s natural responses to infection. If an infection persists in the body, it can cause chronic inflammation of organs such as the pancreas.
- Other diseases of the gut. Other gut illnesses for example colitis and inflammatory bowel disease may induce inflammation in surrounding organs such as the stomach and pancreas. In fact, the majority of cats found with pancreatitis also have a secondary gut disease.
- Enzymatic damage. When the pancreas releases enzymes, they are in their inactive form and are meant to be activated after they reach the food in the small intestine. However, these enzymes may sometimes get activated too soon and start digesting the pancreas causing it to get inflamed. The cause of this condition remains unknown.
- Poisoning. Pancreatitis may be activated when a cat ingests a certain poison. There is no known particular poison that induces pancreatitis. Different cats react differently to different poisons or toxins.
- Medication. Some pet medication may induce inflammation of the pancreas or the whole gut. Such medications include phenobarbital, a drug for convulsions.
- Diet. There may be a relationship between diet and chronic pancreatitis in cats. Cats who are obese may have a higher risk of getting pancreatitis than those at normal weights. The relationship between cat obesity and feline pancreatitis is still not clearly understood. You do not have to worry if your cat is obese, there are many ways to prevent obesity in cats.
- Genetics. Certain pet breeds such as Siamese cats have a higher risk of pancreatitis.
Natural Remedies for Pancreatitis
Like with any health condition, it is crucial for the treatment of pancreatitis to start as early as possible. Cats whose treatment begins in the early stages of the condition are more likely to recover or live a longer life even if the disease persists. Medication for pancreatitis is available but as a cat owner, you may need to supplement it with other remedies.
Even though the relationship between diet and pancreatitis is not fully understood, it is still a very important aspect of treating feline pancreatitis. Pancreatitis does not call for any diet restrictions.
A cat with pancreatitis should be fed just as adequately as a normal cat. The exception is only made if the cat is vomiting. In this case, small frequent meals are recommended. If the vomiting gets too severe, tube feeding should be considered.
A high-protein moderate-fat diet is best for cats with pancreatitis to minimize the risk of severe weight loss.
One should also closely watch the state of hydration and electrolyte balance in the cat. Cats that have diarrhea and are vomiting should be given crystalloids to replace the lost electrolytes.
Your cat’s diet may need to be supported by a pancreatic enzyme supplement. Do not make diet changes for your cat without consulting your veterinarian.
Ensure your cat gets regular physical exercise every day to get its heart rate going. Physical exercise improves the general well-being of a cat. It also improves digestive function which is key to the treatment of pancreatitis.
Your cat should only get as much physical exercise as she can handle. If they get fatigued, let them rest. Rest is just as important for recovery as physical exercise. If your cat is overweight, physical exercise may also help in causing a weight reduction.
Probiotics are a key element to digestive health. In the case of pancreatitis, your cat’s gut microbiome may get thrown off balance. This may further worsen the disease. To avoid this, a probiotic supplement can be given. The benefits of probiotic supplementation in pancreatitis include:
- Good bacteria produce anti-inflammatory substances which may help reduce the level of inflammation in the pancreas and the gut in general. Reducing inflammation levels may also help with pain relief.
- Due to increased inflammation in the gut, the number of probiotics in the gut may reduce. A probiotic supplement can help replenish the probiotic numbers.
- If your cat is on antibiotics, their probiotic numbers will go down. This is because antibiotics do not only kill bad bacteria but good bacteria as well. It is always recommended to take a probiotic supplement after antibiotic medication.
- Increasing probiotic numbers may help reduce the risk of infection in the pancreas. Good bacteria help prevent the colonization of the gut by bad bacteria. This is through providing competition to bad bacteria for resources such as nutrients.
Probiotics do not come from only supplements. Many pet foods such as fermented dairy products like yogurt contain large amounts of probiotics in them. Yogurt is particularly rich in a probiotic known as lactobacillus acidophilus which is very important for digestive health.
It is important to note that natural remedies for pancreatitis cannot, on their own be used as a treatment for your cat. Unless recommended by your vet, do not stop medication in favor of natural remedies.
Medication may be needed to help with other symptoms of pancreatitis such as pain management. Natural remedies are intended to work together with drug therapy, not replace it.
When to Talk to Your Vet about Feline Pancreatitis
You should talk to your vet the moment you suspect pancreatitis in your cat. The first thing your vet will do is confirm if your cat indeed has pancreatitis.
To diagnose pancreatitis, your vet will perform a number of blood tests to eliminate other diseases with similar signs and symptoms such as ulcers. Some of the tests your vet will perform include a complete blood count, x rays, hematology tests, and organ function tests.
A confirmatory test known as the Feline Pancreatic Lipase Immunoreactivity (FPLI) test may need to be performed. Treatment is started immediately after the cat is diagnosed with pancreatitis.
If treatment is started early, it increases your cat’s chances of survival. In the case of acute pancreatitis, your cat may need to be hospitalized until she is well enough to go home. Hospitalization may also be done in chronic pancreatitis if the cat has life-threatening signs such as anorexia (rapid weight loss) and extreme pain.
Your vet may also request follow-up visits to determine if the therapy is working.
How to Prevent Pancreatitis in Cats
Since the cause of pancreatitis is not clearly understood, it is difficult to tell how best to prevent the condition. The best way to prevent pancreatitis is to ensure your cat is kept healthy and safe at all times. Some of the ways you can ensure this include:
- Giving your cat food rich in all required nutrients. Ensure to feed your cat on a good diet filled with high-quality pet foods from a brand you trust
- Encouraging your cat to partake in physical exercise. Try to push your cat to get some minutes on their feet every day.
- Keep potential poisons and toxins away from your cat at all times.
- Take your cat for regular health checkups at the vet’s especially if they exhibit potential signs and symptoms of pancreatitis.
- Pay close attention to your cat to see if it is maintaining its normal behavior.
Complications of Pancreatitis
If not treated, pancreatitis in cats can develop into more serious conditions. Some of these conditions include;
- Diabetes mellitus
- Pancreatic cancer
- Organ damage
- Exocrine pancreatic insufficiency (EPI). This is a condition the cat cannot produce adequate amounts of pancreatic enzymes for digestion. You may have to administer enzyme supplements at this stage.
- Death. Unfortunately, among diseases for cats, feline pancreatitis is among the ones with a high mortality rate.
In conclusion, pancreatitis is a very complex disease. With the cause of the disease nearly impossible to determine, it can be difficult to choose the best treatment plan.
However, with proper care and management, pancreatitis in cats can be treated and maybe even reversed. Many pet owners have seen their pets get back to full health after suffering from pancreatitis.
Frequently Asked Questions
Are probiotics good for cats with pancreatitis?
Yes, probiotics for cats with pancreatitis are an effective form of treatment. Probiotics may provide relief from signs and symptoms like pain and inflammation.
What supplements are good for pancreatitis?
For cats with pancreatitis, you can give enzyme supplements, probiotics, and other nutrients as recommended by your veterinarian.
Can a cat recover from feline pancreatitis?
Yes, a cat can recover from pancreatitis. However, in many cases, pancreatitis tends to return after a while.
What causes feline pancreatitis?
The definite cause of feline pancreatitis is difficult to determine because the disease can start spontaneously without any discernible reason. It can also be triggered by external events such as physical trauma, poisoning, poor diet, diabetes, and infections.
What should you feed a cat with pancreatitis?
You should not limit your cat’s food if she has pancreatitis except in the case of severe vomiting. If the cat is vomiting, give small frequent meals. If the vomiting is excessive, tube feeding may be recommended. An enzyme supplement may also be necessary to improve the digestion of food.