Pancreatitis is defined as
“An inflammation of the pancreas, which often primarily affects the exocrine or digestive enzymes. It can be acute or chronic, with the chronic form being more common in cats.”
The pancreas is a small organ located between the stomach and the first part of the small intestine. It is part of the endocrine and digestive system which is necessary for food digestion. The organ produces digestive enzymes and also produces insulin.
But when the pancreas becomes inflamed the flow of the enzymes that go into the digestive tract become disrupted. This forces the enzymes out of the pancreas into the abdominal area, which can cause cats discomfort and in some cases, inordinate pain.
Pancreatitis is often difficult to diagnose and can be resistant to treatment. Veterinarians are usually unsure of its underlying cause. This said drug reactions, trauma, parasites or infection may be some of its causes.
Interestingly over 90 percent of pancreatitis in cats have no identifiable cause. Some veterinarians feel that Siamese cats may carry a genetic predisposition; while the opinion of other veterinarians is that pancreatitis is not breed specific. If the disease this idiopathic (unknown cause) it hints at underlying, ongoing reasons such as diet or environment. These are hidden, ongoing, possible causes. The quality of modern feline nutrition is, it seems, not discussed enough as a possible cause (but see below). For example, the pancreas is not adapted to deal with a high carbohydrate foods (kibble).
Lethargy, below normal temperature, anorexia, poor appetite and dehydration may be some of the initial signs of pancreatitis. Some cats may have a fever and a tender abdomen. Although vomiting in cats is considered rare, it can be symptomatic of pancreatitis.
I am not a veterinarian. I certainly am not an expert in handling this highly complicated condition. What I can tell you in all certainty is that my hair turned a lot greyer when Sir Hubble Pinkerton, our 14 year- old white Oriental Shorthair was first diagnosed with feline pancreatitis.
It’s been nearly a year since that unforgettable Sunday afternoon when Sir Hubble Pinkerton was rushed to the veterinary clinic following a troubling hour of non-stop projectile vomiting. This very unhappy kitty was sitting on the floor all hunched over, looking miserable and obviously in a great deal of pain.
After we arrived at the clinic Sir Hubble was thoroughly examined. X-rays and blood tests were taken. Based on the results, our very smart, feline savvy veterinarian, Dr. Erin Holder, diagnosed Sir Hubble with an acute attack of feline pancreatitis.
He was immediately admitted to the hospital and given medication to alleviate his pain and I.V. fluids to hydrate him along with other supportive critical care. He was hospitalized for several days until he was sufficiently stabilized to come home. Thankfully he recovered without incident, but since pancreatitis can also be chronic, this launched us upon the nerve-wracking journey into the world of feline pancreatitis.
Out of the blue last weekend, Sir Hubble suddenly started showing symptoms of a possible pancreatitis attack. He was vomiting profusely and showing signs of having a painful belly. Following a quick phone call with Dr. Holder, we rushed him back to the hospital where his condition was thoroughly evaluated. Treatment began immediately and fortunately he responded well and was able to come home the following day. We left the clinic armed with medications and a long list of home-care instructions.
What caused this relapse? The jury is still out. Sir Hubble hasn’t eaten dry food in many years. But it is possible that when Sir Hubble “stole” several bites of a new high quality grainless canned food I served to his brother Dr. Hush Puppy, that it may have been too rich. It might have even been caused by just two tiny pieces of a freeze-dried halibut treat. We will probably never know exactly what made him so violently sick; but he will never be fed any treats or novel brands of even the most nutritious cat foods again.
Although there are still veterinarians who continue to prescribe low fat, high carbohydrate diets which are appropriate for canines, according to Jane Robertson, DVM, DACIM, head of Internal Medicine, IDEXX Laboratories,
“High-fat foods are not implicated in causing pancreatitis in cats.”
Additionally, in an article on this disease posted on Know Better Pet Food,
“inflammation of the pancreas in cats is usually the result of poor nutrition in the form of dry cat food. A raw meat-based diet, high in proteins and low in carbs can be the solution.”
Pancreatitis can also be the precursor to diabetes. We are very lucky that Sir Hubble loves his nutritionally complete raw food diet. Since this food in on his menu for the rest of his life, we are crossing our fingers that he will not have another bout of this devastating illness.
Definition by WebMD.