How Long Does Pancreatitis Last in Cats?

Acute pancreatitis causes intense upper abdominal and sometimes backache. Other symptoms may include not eating, loss of appetite, vomiting, dehydration, weight loss and increased drinking and urinating.

Pancreatic digestive enzymes are normally designed to be inactive until reaching the small intestine; however, in acute pancreatitis they become active more quickly and begin digesting pancreatic cells directly.

Symptoms

Your cat’s pancreas, located between their stomach and liver, is responsible for breaking down food to aid digestion as well as producing hormones to regulate their blood sugar. It is crucially important that their pancreas remains healthy; so if they display symptoms of pancreatitis such as vomiting, weight loss or refusal to eat then do not hesitate to visit a vet immediately.

Dependent upon the severity of their symptoms, your pet will require treatment from a veterinarian for as long as necessary. Acute pancreatitis could require them to stay for several days at least due to complications that could include collapse and shock due to disseminated intravascular coagulation, pancreatic necrosis and multi-organ failure if left untreated.

Your cat may receive fluid therapy during their hospital stay to address dehydration and flush toxins out of their system, as well as appetite stimulants to encourage eating and help speed their recovery and avoid serious complications like hepatic lipidosis. The sooner they start eating again, the sooner their recovery and any serious complications such as this will begin.

Your vet will conduct a complete physical exam of your pet and review their medical history to provide a proper diagnosis. A physical exam could include rectal exam or abdominal ultrasound to monitor how their pancreas and nearby organs are faring; depending on its severity, blood tests or diagnostic imaging could also be needed for accurate diagnoses.

Acute pancreatitis is much more prevalent than chronic pancreatitis, but it’s still important to bring your pet in for evaluation if any symptoms present themselves. Many cases of pancreatitis go undetected or misdiagnosed due to symptoms like vomiting and loss of appetite being taken as something other than pancreatitis.

Your veterinarian will likely recommend keeping your cat in their clinic for at least two days for intravenous fluid therapy and medication administration, to restore them back to health and ensure any toxins have been eliminated from their stomach before you attempt to feed them again. If they’re not eating well, appetite stimulants or a feeding tube might be prescribed so they get all of the essential vitamins they require.

Diagnosis

Your veterinarian will begin by learning about your pet and conducting a complete physical exam, including auscultation of the abdomen to detect abdominal pain and blood work to assess dehydration or electrolyte imbalances. An x-ray can often provide information on pancreatitis as well as associated issues (like gallstones or intestinal blockage), while ultrasound studies of abdominal regions will allow your veterinarian to visualize inflammation within the pancreas. All these tests can either be performed outpatient or included as part of hospital stays depending on severity.

An abdominal biopsy can provide a definitive diagnosis, though this approach is rarely practical for cats with acute or severe pancreatitis. Undergoing this procedure typically requires general anesthesia and abdominal surgery – even if its results show positive, there’s no guarantee they reflect pancreatitis.

Due to the high rate of complications from pancreatitis, your veterinarian must take a cautious approach in treating it. Primary goals should include managing pain, nausea, fluid loss and nutrition issues – in most cases your cat will need hospitalization so they can receive intravenous fluids and medication that help control vomiting and diarrhea.

Anti-nausea medication will be given to help relieve nausea, as well as appetite stimulants. Because vomiting is common among cats with pancreatitis, your veterinarian may advise limiting or completely discontinuing oral intake for three or four days.

Other supportive treatments may include medications to control diarrhea and prevent dehydration. Many cats suffering from pancreatitis will eventually develop diabetes, so insulin injections may become necessary if not already receiving them. If pancreatitis becomes chronic, cats may produce insufficient digestive enzymes which require tube feeding as the only form of nutrition.

Pancreatitis can often be managed in cats, with recovery depending on its severity. When symptoms escalate rapidly into multi-organ failure or uncontrolled bleeding from intravascular coagulation, euthanasia will typically be recommended as a course of action.

Treatment

Pancreatitis is an often fatal disease resulting from inflammation of the pancreas. This inflammation may be brought on by many things, including high-fat table scraps or treats, or it could suddenly manifest. If left untreated, pancreatitis can result in severe dehydration and death in cats – therefore, it’s vital that you closely monitor your cat for symptoms of pancreatitis, calling your vet immediately if suspected – which should be monitored as closely as possible to keep their pet safe!

Pancreatitis treatment primarily consists of supportive measures designed to stop the pancreas from secreting digestive enzymes into the GI tract, thus alleviating any further inflammation. Your vet might also administer painkillers or anti-nausea drugs to keep your feline comfortable; in severe cases they might require intravenous fluid support through an IV to maintain normal blood pressure and electrolyte levels; for some severe cases they might even require tube feedings as food cannot be swallowed on its own.

Once your cat has been released from hospital, they’ll likely be sent home. You should closely monitor their diet and encourage them to eat by hand as some pets might associate eating with feeling sick; encouraging this can encourage continued caloric intake; for this reason your veterinarian might suggest providing liquid diet as part of treatment plan.

Chronic pancreatitis in cats usually results in a good quality of life, though this usually requires altering their diet and visiting their veterinarian regularly to monitor for flare-ups. If a cat develops severe pancreatitis leading to liver fatty disease known as hepatic lipidosis or severe blood clotting disorder known as disseminated intravascular coagulation, your vet may advise euthanasia in order to spare their suffering.

Most cats make full recoveries from acute pancreatitis episodes and those living with chronic pancreatitis can continue to lead full lives with their owners with proper management.

Prognosis

Pancreatitis can be an unpredictable illness that is difficult to diagnose and treat, so if you suspect your cat might have pancreatitis it’s essential that they see their vet immediately. Acute pancreatitis tends to be more serious than chronic, often necessitating hospitalization while chronic pancreatitis may only present as less obvious symptoms such as vomiting or reduced appetite – in such instances it’s likely they need regular visits for monitoring signs of pain or complications.

Acute pancreatitis often develops following ingestion of toxic substances or trauma, or eating large quantities of fat (particularly pork fat) at one sitting. Acute pancreatitis carries a high mortality rate and requires immediate medical intervention at a veterinarian’s office.

Cats hospitalized for pancreatitis may receive intravenous fluids to maintain proper hydration levels and balance electrolyte levels, in addition to pain-killers such as antihistamines. If their condition becomes very serious, some cats may develop a pleural effusion and pulmonary edema – this may become life-threatening and should be closely monitored to detect shock and disseminated intravascular coagulation complications that could arise.

Your veterinarian will likely prescribe anti-nausea and appetite stimulant medications to encourage your cat to eat, as well as soft-textured diets ranging from liquid diets to soft textures later. Feeding tubes may also be used as part of their plan – the longer he or she goes without food, the greater his or her risk for dehydration and complications like hepatic lipidosis is.

As it’s unknown what causes most cases of pancreatitis, its prevention can be challenging. However, it’s recommended that your cat see their vet if any symptoms of the condition arise such as lack of energy, weight loss, vomiting or diarrhea or an unexpected change in drinking patterns. You should also maintain a healthy weight for them and limit access to foods rich in fats such as processed meats.

Lisa Thompson
 

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