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Health & Wellness

Pancreatitis in Cats: What to Know

Learn why their stomach may be hurting

A cat’s pancreas, which is located in the abdomen near their stomach and liver, is responsible for breaking down foods to aid in digestion and produce hormones that regulate blood sugar, Dr. Aliya McCullough, Fetch’s on-staff veterinarian, tells The Dig. And those are some pretty important responsibilities. 

So, when a cat (or dog) develops pancreatitis (when the pancreas becomes inflamed, red or swollen) they can start to experience stomachaches and pain — that’s why it’s essential for them to see a veterinarian to find ways to help them feel better. 

What causes pancreatitis in cats? 

According to Dr. McCullough, most causes of pancreatitis remain unknown. “Some known causes include trauma or accidental injuries, parasite infections, viral infections and some toxins,” she adds. 

Symptoms of pancreatitis in cats

Sometimes cats don’t show signs of pancreatitis, Dr. McCullough says. However, if your cat exhibits these changes, talk to your veterinarian: 

  • Lethargy
  • Decreased appetite
  • Weight loss
  • Abdominal pain
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Increased thirst
  • Urinating more frequently
  • Dehydration

Symptoms of pancreatitis can also mimic other conditions like kidney disease, diabetes, feline infectious peritonitis (FIP), inflammatory bowel disease, digestive tract cancers and stomach ulcers, Dr. McCullough adds. That’s why it’s important to confirm with your veterinarian if pancreatitis is causing your pet’s health changes.

According to Dr. McCullough, veterinarians can use a series of tests, like physical exams, blood work, X-rays and ultrasounds of your cat’s pancreas to determine if your cat has pancreatitis.

Treatment options for cats with pancreatitis

Unfortunately, there’s no specific treatment plan that helps cats recover from pancreatitis. “Therapy is aimed at keeping cats hydrated and to manage their symptoms,” Dr. McCullough says. “Veterinarians will likely prescribe pain and anti-nausea medication and a special diet.”

Veterinarians often recommend that cats with pancreatitis stick to a diet with low to moderate amounts of fat and moderate levels of proteins and carbohydrates, Dr. McCullough explains. Talk to your veterinarian about the best diet plan for your cat. 

In severe pancreatitis cases, cats may need to be hospitalized to receive an IV or nutritional support (like a feeding tube) — surgery is likely not needed. 

Similar to treatment plans, each cat’s recovery process looks different from the next. “Pancreatitis recovery times vary from 2 to 5 days in mild cases to 1 to 2 weeks or more in severe cases,” Dr. McCullough says. “In some cases, pancreatitis is a chronic and ongoing condition.”

While your cat is recovering at home, there are some ways to help them feel more comfortable. Dr. McCullough recommends following the vet’s medication guidance and making sure they’re eating well. If your pet isn’t as hungry as they usually are, she suggests warming wet cat food in the microwave to make the meal smell more enticing.

Unfortunately, pancreatitis in cats isn’t preventable and chronic episodes may result in a lifestyle change for your cat. But, if they experience abdominal pain, weight loss and lethargy — among other signs — you’ll know to ask your veterinarian if pancreatitis is the cause.

The Dig, Fetch Pet Insurance's expert-backed editorial, answers all of the questions you forget to ask your vet or are too embarrassed to ask at the dog park. We help make sure you and your best friend have more good days, but we’re there on bad days, too.

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