The pancreas, while being a small organ, delivers a significant impact on digestion of food and blood sugar regulation. This key organ of digestion rests next to the small intestine as it exits from the stomach. Functionally, the pancreas is divided into two sections: 1) the larger exocrine pancreas releases digestive enzymes to breakdown fats and proteins in the diet and 2) the smaller endocrine pancreas releases blood sugar regulating hormones. Inflammation of the pancreas causes a disruption in the normal release of digestive enzymes. The digestive organs begin to digest tissues surrounding the pancreas, creating tremendous inflammation. Feline pancreatitis comes in two forms:
- Acute: sudden illness, such as inappetance and fever. Less common in cats.
- Chronic: most common form. Cats may present with a waxing and waning of their appetite, weight loss, and lethargy. Only a third of cats show signs of vomiting and/or abdominal pain, which are key features of canine pancreatitis. Chronic pancreatitis is often associated with concurrent inflammatory bowel disease and liver inflammation (termed, triaditis for inflammation of three organs: pancreas, intestinal tract, and liver).
Diagnosis of feline pancreatitis can be challenging and requires a combination of blood work, specialized blood tests, and imaging via abdominal ultrasound. Treatment of feline pancreatitis involves supportive care with pain relief medications, fluid therapy, and specifically treating underlying causes for the pancreatitis (e.g.: inflammatory bowel disease, intestinal lymphoma, liver disease).