Pancreatitis is a serious condition that can be painful, recurrent and at times life threatening in both cats and dogs. Animals are often suspected of having pancreatitis but the diagnosis is not confirmed without the correct testing.
Animals who are over weight are more likely to get pancreatitis. Some breeds are more susceptible than others. An episode might start after eating fatty food.
Dogs will commonly vomit and have a painful abdomen. Sometimes they are just not happy with no obvious signs.
Cats will be vaguely unwell and are usually not eating.
If your vet is suspicious of pancreatitis, diagnostics will start with a full blood profile and include a separate pancreatic lipase test.
To confirm the diagnosis an abdominal ultrasound may be recommended.
If your pet has pancreatitis, what does this mean?
The pancreas is a small organ located close to the beginning of the small intestine. Among other tasks, the pancreas produces digestive enzymes that are carried down ducts into the small intestine. These ducts are close to the bile duct of the liver so severe inflammation of the pancreas can also cause secondary liver disease.
When the pancreas becomes inflamed, digestive enzymes start to leak into the organ and damage the pancreas. This worsens the problem dramatically. Pancreatitis is very painful for the animal.
Animals with very mild clinical signs that are eating and drinking may be treated with pain relief and a low fat diet.
Most animals however are unwell and need treatment in hospital. The treatment involves
- Intravenous fluid therapy
- Pain relief.
- Possible antibiotic treatment
- Medication to control nausea
- Strict feeding treatment. Animals need to start eating but that food must be low in fat.
Some dogs and cats become severely unwell with pancreatitis. The inflammatory process can cause inflammation throughout the body, clotting problems and acute organ failure. These patients can be difficult to save and need specialist treatment in an intensive care facility.
With proper treatment the inflammation within the pancreas starts to subside. The pain is controlled and appetite will return.
Your pet will be more susceptible to having pancreatitis, but with good management we can avoid recurrent bouts in most animals. Often dogs will need to be on a life-long low-fat diet. Fatty morsels of food can be very dangerous.
Cats can be tricky as their symptoms are vague and often not picked up until they are quiet unwell. However, once we are aware that the pancreas is a problem, proactive treatment can be very helpful.
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