Cats with pancreatitis suffer from the result of early activation of particular digestive enzymes and the resulting damage these prematurely activated enzymes cause to the pancreas itself. If signs discussed here are of concern, have a vet examine the cat. In extreme cases, pancreatitis can cause death.
The Pancreas and Pancreatitis
The pancreas gland is located in the abdomen of a cat. Its function is to create and release enzymes to aid in digestion. It also produces certain hormones, such as insulin, a hormone released into the cat's blood. Normally, enzymes created in the pancreas are not in an active state until they leave the pancreas to aid digestion. However, if injury or illness causes the enzymes to activate before leaving the pancreas, they begin to digest the pancreas, and not the ingested food that needs the enzymes for the purpose of food digestion. Severe inflammation results when the pancreas begins to digest itself, and this occurrence is diagnosed as pancreatitis. The diagnosis is classified as either acute (sudden onset), or chronic (a condition that is ongoing). Cats are more likely to suffer from chronic rather than acute pancreatitis.
Several contributing factors could result in a pancreatitis diagnosis. Hyperlypemia is one factor, which is high fat content in the cat's blood. Hyperlypemia is simply an inherent trait of some cats' metabolic systems. Obesity is another contributing factor, occurring through high dietary fat intake. Two types of infectious disease can be contributing factors as well. Bacterial infection generally results from the ingestion of spoiled food. Viral infection can occur through transmittal of the infection from one cat to another. Finally, physical trauma to the abdomen can bring on pancreatitis.
Initial signs of pancreatitis include a lack of interest in food and depression (listlessness). Additionally, the cat may exhibit frequent vomiting and diarrhoea, possibly containing blood. Sometimes, after drinking water, the cat may vomit it back up immediately. Cats with pancreatitis may urinate more frequently. Curiously, pancreatitis occurs more often in male rather than female cats. Sources disagree as to whether cats experience pain with pancreatitis.
A vet may run radiography tests and draw blood samples to rule out a pancreatic condition. If pancreatitis is the likely problem, and the condition is severe enough, your vet will order all food and water discontinued for up to 72 hours. This fast will lower the number of digestive enzymes that the pancreas manufactures, thereby curtailing the enzymes from digesting the pancreas. To prevent dehydration, the cat may be given intravenous fluids (requiring hospitalisation), while special medication will reduce pancreatic secretion that can cause pain and destruction of the pancreas itself.
Supplement your cat's diet with a low fat, high-fibre, chemical-free diet, with antioxidants such as vitamin E and C (calcium ascorbate) added. Hill's pet foods offer a low fat pancreatic diet food product for both dogs and cats. Try mixing some of the new food with the cat's usual food until it becomes more accustomed to the new taste. Encourage your cat to exercise through play. Never feed your cat table scraps of left over human food in order to control cat weight gain. Table scraps to avoid in particular include chicken or turkey skin due to the high fat content in these "treats." Lastly, ensure that your garbage can is inaccessible to your cat, such that it can neither see nor smell the can's discarded contents.