Feline Pancreatitis

6 Facts About Feline Pancreatitis and What Pet Owners Must Know

Unfortunately, feline pancreatitis is a quite common disease. The pancreas is a small, usually no more than 8 ounces, tissue. This tissue is located between the cat’s stomach and the first opening of its small intestines. As you can tell, the pancreas is quite small.

Don’t let the small size of the pancreas fool you. This is a vital organ for your cat. The pancreas has two jobs that it does. It produces digestive and metabolic enzymes. The digestive enzymes are needed to break down the food your cat ingests. While the metabolic enzymes are needed to regulate blood sugar.

According to the Merck Veterinary Manual, when a cat has pancreatitis these enzymes release before it’s time for them too. As a result, the enzymes begin to literally feed on the pancreas. This, in return, causes the inflammation and irritation of the pancreas. Which can lead your cat down quite a painful road?

If you’re a cat owner, you’ll want to get familiar with feline pancreatitis. Even if your cat has never been diagnosed with the disease, you’ll still want to be educated. Feline pancreatitis can turn into a severe case quickly. It’s important for you, as a cat owner, to know the symptoms to look for.

1. Chronic or Acute Feline Pancreatitis

Cats may either suffer from acute or chronic pancreatitis. As with any disease, the severity is based on a case to case basis.

Veterinarians will normally classify an acute case when the enzymes are leaving the pancreas at a severe level. The symptoms of this diagnosis vary from nausea to anorexia. Studies do show that cats with an acute version of the disease usually do suffer from noticeable symptoms.

Chronic feline pancreatitis is a bit different. A chronic diagnosis may be issued when the symptoms are mild. But, the episode isn’t a one-time thing. Chronic feline pancreatitis patients experience long-term pancreatitis.

A cat who suffers from chronic feline pancreatitis may also encounter some issues down the road. These issues may include pancreas scarring. But, maybe as severe as multi-organ failure. Feline Pancreatitis Causes

2. Feline Pancreatitis Causes

The cause behind a cat with pancreatitis isn’t always known. The Merck Veterinary Manual does state that some studies have shown the disease may be due to predisposed genetics.

At the same time, some infectious diseases were linked with feline pancreatitis. Diseases such as Toxoplasma gondii, feline infectious peritonitis, and Amphimerus psuedofelineus.

Drugs should also be considered when finding a cause for a pancreatitis case. There are quite a few drugs that should not be ruled out when it comes to this disease.

Possible Drug and Feline Pancreatitis Interaction

  • Vinca alkaloids
  • Calcium
  • Potassium bromide
  • Phenobarbital
  • Estrogen
  • Thiazide diuretics
  • Salicylates

Diabetes mellitus has also been directly linked to feline pancreatitis. Although this is a hot topic. Veterinarians debate maybe diabetes causes pancreatitis. While others debate that pancreatitis may cause diabetes.

Hepatitis and inflammatory bowel disease have also been linked to pancreatitis in cats.

3. Symptoms of Feline Pancreatitis

As stated above, symptoms will vary on a case-to-case basis. Some cats may not display any symptoms. While others may exhibit symptoms that range from mild to life-threatening.

A general rule to follow is that not all cats will display every symptom. Some cats may show many different symptoms. Other cats may only show one or two symptoms. In most cases, studies do show that most cases exhibit anorexia and vomiting.

Another thing you should keep in mind is that these symptoms may mock other diseases. As a result, this makes feline pancreatitis symptoms quite vague.

  • Anorexia
  • Vomiting
  • Abdominal pain
  • Weakness
  • Diarrhea
  • Dehydration
  • Lethargy
  • Loss of appetite
  • Weight loss
  • Fever
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Yellowing of the gums (jaundice)

4. Diagnosing Feline Pancreatitis

Diagnosing feline pancreatitis is far from an easy feat. It can also be expensive. But, in order to find the right treatment the severity of pancreatitis needs to be addressed. In order to do this, you will need to visit a veterinarian.

Your veterinarian may perform several tasks in order to treat your cat. Rest assured, this isn’t just to make money out of your pocket. They must perform these tasks in order to find out how severe the case is.

Veterinarian Examination.

Of course, your cat will need an exam by a veterinarian. During this exam, the veterinarian may look your cat over, take a rectal temperature, and/or pull fluid samples (urine, blood, feces).

The veterinarian may also palpate your cat. This is done to check for any masses. As well as check other organs.


Blood work may be done at the veterinary clinic. Usually, you are able to get these results within hours. Sometimes a clinic may have to send the blood off to a different laboratory. The results for this test may take days to receive the results. But, feline pancreatitis is a serious disease. So, in most cases, if pancreatitis is suspected they will find a way to do the blood work faster.

Below you will find the possible blood levels your veterinarian may check for.

Alanine Aminotransferase (ALT).

The ALT test is used to check for the level of alanine aminotransferase in your cat’s blood. In normal cases, the level of ALT in the blood is low.

If the amount is elevated, it can indicate that there is inflammation. Although this level isn’t usually elevated until the case is severe.


As a general rule, even the healthiest cat can have elevated Amylase in their blood. But, a significant increase is a primary indicator for pancreatitis.

White Blood Cells (WBCs).

When the WBC count is elevated it almost always means infection and/or inflammation.

Blood work isn’t always a definite way to diagnose pancreatitis. That’s why most veterinarians go above and beyond the standard blood work protocol.


Veterinarians may require your cat to undergo radiographs and/or ultrasounds. This will allow them to get a better look at the pancreas. As well as spot any possible other issues. Other issues may even be the cause of pancreatitis.

Several factors must be present in the imaging for a more definite diagnosis of feline pancreatitis. You should see a noticeably enlarged pancreas. There should also be evidence of an increase of fluid near the pancreas and/or a mass.


Having cytology done is a preferred way of diagnosing feline pancreatitis. That is unless the case is severe. Then the veterinarian may not recommend this. This is because, in most cases, this must be done under anesthesia. The procedure, as a rule, is safe. But, a cat with a severe case of pancreatitis may not react well to anesthesia.

5. Treatment Options for Feline Pancreatitis

This is the most crucial step when it comes to a cat who has pancreatitis. Some cases can be quite severe. Once diagnosed, treatment should start as soon as possible.

Just like the symptoms and severity, treating this disease is on a case-by-case basis. During pancreatitis treatment, your main goals are to keep your cat comfortable, lessen the pain from any symptoms, reduce any inflammation, and treat other underlying issues.

Supportive Care.

Supportive care seems to be the most preferred treatment route when it comes to feline pancreatitis. With this treatment, you’re pretty much keeping the cat comfortable. Giving them a comfortable place to lay their head. As well as fixing anything that may cause a severe onset of pancreatitis.

Fluid therapy is one of the most common parts of offering supportive care. The fluid therapy helps fight the dehydration. The dehydration is most likely caused by the vomiting and diarrhea.


Antibiotics are normally the go-to when it comes to treating pancreatitis in cats. Instead, veterinarians usually turn to other medications. These medications usually help level out enzymes and decrease nausea. As well as treat other symptoms and/or underlying problems.

For almost all cases, veterinarians will prescribe some sort of anti-nausea medication. This may be true even if the cat isn’t vomiting. In fact, these medications may even help entice a dog, who lacks an appetite, to eat.

Other medications prescribed may be used to help your cat manage their pain. Even a mild case of feline pancreatitis can be painful for a cat. A veterinarian may even administer the pain medication through an injection and/or IV.

Common Pain Relief Medications for Feline Pancreatitis

  • Morphine
  • Fentanyl
  • Methadone
  • Ketamine
  • Buprenorphine
  • Meperidine
  • Butorphanol

As always, it’s important not to use any medications you have at home on your dog. Some of the medications we take the same medications our dogs take. But, the dosage is different. Your veterinarian will need to find the right dose. It’s more of a risk administering the medicine at home than it is to contact a veterinarian.

Cerenia is a popular medication that veterinarians administer in the event of chronic feline pancreatitis. Cerenia is considered a treatment option that is long-term. This medication will need to be administered on a regular basis. In most cases, you’ll have an option of tablets or an injection.

In some unfortunate cases, a cat will not respond to any medication therapy. In that case, a veterinarian may prescribe oral drugs such as cyclosporine or prednisolone. Cyclosporine seems to be the top pick if the cat with pancreatitis also suffers from diabetes mellitus.

6. Prognosis for Cats with Feline Pancreatitis

Some cats may never show one sign of pancreatitis. The prognosis for most of these cases, of course, is very favorable. A good prognosis is even possible with a mild case. As long as treatment is started right away.

Severe cases of feline pancreatitis, on the other hand, aren’t as favorable. These prognoses are considered “guarded”. As there may be complications following a cat being diagnosed. These symptoms range from hypothermia, multi-organ failure, and even death.

Feline pancreatitis can be quite painful for a cat. It can also lead to severe consequences. It’s important to watch for the symptoms that may point to pancreatitis. As always, remember that not every cat will have every symptom. Some cats may only show one symptom.

Once you notice any symptom, you should contact a veterinarian right away. They will be able to examine your cat. As well as perform necessary tests to rule out anything else. Once all diagnostics are done, your veterinarian can start a treatment plan.

This treatment plan will be specific for your cat. Giving your cat the best possible chance at giving over the hump that we call feline pancreatitis.

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