Cat pancreatitis was once thought to be rare, but with the development and use of more sophisticated diagnostic tools, it’s a disease that veterinarians are seeing more often according to the Australian Veterinary Association.

Feline medicine specialist, Dr Marcus Gunew, explains the signs of cat pancreatitis signs and treatment, which will help cat owners identify the disease sooner rather than later.

“For most cases, the cause of pancreatitis is unknown. Studies to date point to various causes but in reality, they are all quite rare.

“For cats with early-stage pancreatitis, they may develop little or no signs of the disease. Alternatively, they may display obvious signs of infection such as vomiting or diarrhoea; it really depends on the severity of the disease,” Dr Gunew said.

Signs of cat pancreatitis

Typically, cats will display any or all of the following:

·    anorexia
·    lethargy
·    vomiting
·   diarrhoea
·    abdominal pain
·    collapse
·    weight loss.

“As we continue to see confirmed cases of pancreatic inflammation in older cats, it’s critical that owners are increasingly aware of the symptoms and seek veterinary advice as soon as they notice changes in their cat’s behaviour.

“The longer it’s left untreated, the more likely it is to develop into severe pancreatitis which can be immediately life-threatening,” Dr Gunew said.

According to Dr Gunew, diagnosis can be challenging, especially in the early stages of the disease when the symptoms are less severe and at times quite vague. Blood tests are useful, and a biopsy is the gold standard for diagnosis but it’s not often performed due to the invasiveness of the procedure and the cost.

There is no specific therapy to address pancreatitis. Treatment comprises fluid therapy, pain relief, antibiotics and nutritional support because cats with pancreatic inflammation that stop eating are likely to develop a severe liver disease as a result.

“Sometimes cats will have intermittent clinical signs. The key is for owners to act quickly when they notice their cat behaving differently instead of dismissing anything unusual as simply a ‘one-off’.

“Odd behaviour that you notice just once or twice such as vomiting or diarrhoea may be a simple problem or it could be the sign of something much more serious going on. Either way, it’s best to speak to your veterinarian,” he said.