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Pancreatitis in Cats

Pancreatitis in Cats

A well-known disease in dogs, pancreatitis also affects our feline friends. 

What is Pancreatitis?

The term pancreatitis refers to inflammation of the pancreas, an organ that aids with digestion and the control of blood sugar levels. Although diet and obesity are two major causes of pancreatitis in dogs, some of the proposed causes of feline pancreatitis include including trauma, infection, toxicity, and inflammatory bowel disease. Often, cats with pancreatitis have other diseases at the same time, including liver disease, diabetes, diseases of the biliary system or triaditis which is a combination of inflammatory diseases including cholangitis, pancreatitis, and inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). 

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Which pets are most affected?

Pancreatitis in the cat can occur at any age and can affect any sex or breed. According to PetSure data (across 2020 calendar year), Pancreatitis was most prevalent in the following cat breeds:

Breed 

Prevalence

Birman 

1.44%

Devon Rex

0.90%

Tonkinese 

0.80%

Burmese

0.41%

Bengal

0.39%

Persian

0.33%

Russian Blue

0.30%

Siamese

0.30%

Pixie-Bob

0.20%

Domestic shorthair

0.19%

Prevalence = Total number of unique claiming pets / total number of insured pets across 12-month period. Excludes breeds with less than 500 active pet insurance policies.

Signs of Pancreatitis

Pancreatitis in cats can be difficult to pinpoint as the signs are less obvious than in dogs. Sometimes pancreatitis may manifest in cats as reluctance to eat and lethargy. Some cats may have a noticeable mass in the abdomen. In very acute cases, there may be vomiting but this is less common than in dogs. Occasionally cats may have diarrhoea, and pain in the abdomen. Very sick cats may even go into a state of shock which needs emergency treatment. 

Diagnosing Pancreatitis

Diagnosing pancreatitis in cats typically involves the Veterinarian taking a thorough history of the patient’s behaviour, diet, and other signs like vomiting. A physical exam may reveal pain, dehydration or other signs like fever or an elevated heart rate. Further tests may be recommended including blood and urine analyses, an fPLI or Feline Pancreatic Lipase Immunoreactivity test, X-rays, or ultrasound of the abdomen and in some cases biopsies of the pancreas. These or other tests may also be indicated to help discover any other underlying diseases that may present. 

Management of Pancreatitis 

Management of pancreatitis depends on the severity of the illness. There is no specific treatment for pancreatitis, so management is largely supportive in nature, meaning that the signs are managed with medications to help alleviate any pain, nausea, dehydration, and other symptoms. This can mean hospitalisation with intravenous fluid therapy, pain relief, anti-nausea, and anti-inflammatory medications. Dependent on the cause of the pancreatitis, additional therapies may be recommended, such as dietary changes and treatment for concurrent or underlying diseases. If you are concerned that your cat might have pancreatitis, get in touch with your vet for advice.

How much does it cost to treat?

According to PetSure claims data from 2020 (calendar year), the average, single treatment cost relating to feline pancreatitis was $439, and the highest, single treatment cost was $3,749. The overall treatment cost of managing pancreatitis will vary depending on the treatments that have been recommended and your pet’s response to those treatments.

Disclaimer: Reimbursement for these claims would be subject to limits, such as annual benefit limits or sub-limits, benefit percentage, applicable waiting periods and any applicable excess. Cover is subject to the policy terms and conditions. You should consider the relevant Product Disclosure Statement or policy wording available from the relevant provider.

References 

  1. Cornell Feline Health Centre, Feline Pancreatitis: Serious, Accessed on 13/04/2021
  2. Nelson, R & Couto, 2003, Small animal internal medicine, 3rd edition, Mosby, USA. 
  3. Shell, L, 2020, Vincyclopedia of Diseases, Pancreatitis, Accessed on 13 April 2021

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Kylie Mitchell is a veterinarian with over 17 years experience in animal health and welfare, including in the veterinary and pet insurance industries

She has three rescue cats (Noah, Bei Bei and Meeka), four very old cockatiels and a pond-full of fish.

Kylie's pets

Noah
Noah
Bei Bei
Bei Bei
Meeka
Meeka