Pancreatitis is a serious and potentially painful condition in cats that can be acute or chronic and requires immediate medical attention. There is no known age, breed or gender predisposition for feline pancreatitis. Cats with chronic pancreatitis often have concurrent inflammatory bowel disease and/or cholangiohepatitis (inflammation of the liver and bile duct tissues).
Treating Feline Pancreatitis
The treatment for pancreatitis focuses first on treating the underlying cause of the cat’s clinical signs, if that cause can be identified. Next, treatment is focused at relieving pain, balancing electrolytes, resting the pancreas and providing nutritional support. Pancreatitis can cause severe abdominal pain, and affected cats are assumed to be painful whether or not they show clinical signs of abdominal distress. Administration of injectable and other forms of pain medication are normally a part of the treatment protocol. Intravenous fluids are important to keep the cat well-hydrated, to prevent or reverse shock and to balance circulating electrolytes. To calm the pancreas and stop further inflammation and irritation, some veterinarians will recommend nothing per os (“NPO”), which is medical jargon for no food or water taken orally, for at least 24 hours. However, the current recommendation is to only restrict food and water intake in cats that are actively vomiting. If the cat will eat, it should be fed a low-fat, highly digestible and palatable diet offered in small amounts multiple times daily. Good nutritional support is especially important in cats; if they are anorexic for prolonged periods, they are at a heightened risk for developing a serious condition called secondary hepatic lipidosis.
Another key component of treating pancreatitis is the administration of antiemetic drugs, which are designed to calm the vomiting and other gastrointestinal symptoms associated with this disease. The mainstay of pancreatitis therapy is hospitalization with intensive supportive care. A hospital stay for at least 24 hours, and in some cases up to 5 days or more, is typically necessary to maintain intravenous fluid and medication treatments. Blood tests should be periodically taken to assess electrolyte balance and to monitor the progress of pancreatic recovery. Once an owner takes its cat home, a special diet and strict feeding instructions should be followed. The cat should not be given any extra treats or food outside of the restricted diet and probably will need to be fed small meals multiple times a day for the rest of its life.