If your cat suffers from chronic pancreatitis, or inflammation of the pancreas, he might be fine for long periods of time and then seem sick again. Since most cases of chronic pancreatitis don't have an identifiable cause, there's not much you can do to prevent it, but treatment is available.
Your cat's pancreas produces glucagon and insulin to regulate his blood sugar levels, as well as enzymes to aid digestion. Normally, these enzymes head from the pancreas into your cat's small intestine, where they enable digestion of carbohydrates, proteins and fats. These enzymes must be tough to break down these materials. They should be encased in little drops that don't allow them to come into contact with pancreatic tissue. However, if activated before they should be, enzymes can escape into the pancreas rather than the intestines. It then becomes a matter of the enzymes literally eating the pancreas itself.
Pancreatitis can be either acute or chronic, with the chronic form occurring more commonly in cats. Cats with pancreatitis lose their appetite, becoming lethargic and dehydrated. They also might throw up. Puffy also might breathe heavily and his temperature will be lower than 100 degrees, the normal temperature for most cats. Cats with pancreatitis often suffer from other gastrointestinal issues, including inflammatory bowel syndrome and fatty liver syndrome. While the cause of most cases of pancreatitis remains unknown, recent trauma and exposure to certain drugs and chemicals can trigger it. In kittens, it often results from cases of feline distemper. Take your cat to the vet as soon as possible for diagnosis and treatment. Time is of the essence.
Your vet takes blood samples for testing and performs an ultrasound on your cat to diagnose the condition. While a biopsy reveals whether pancreatitis is present, many cats are too sick and debilitated for the procedure.
After diagnosis, your cat receives intravenous fluids to keep him hydrated. Your vet will prescribe pain medication. Depending on your cat's symptoms, your vet might give him antiemetics to stop vomiting. Once that's under control, kitty might receive an appetite stimulant and he might receive nutrients through an IV tube, or your vet might install a feeding tube directly into the small intestine. For cases of severe inflammation, she'll prescribe anti-inflammatory drugs. Because many cats with pancreatitis lack sufficient B vitamins, kitty might receive vitamin B12 injections. Not all cats diagnosed with pancreatitis recover -- it can be fatal. If your cat pulls through, long-term management helps him through his chronic phase.
Cats with mild chronic pancreatitis might do well if switched to a low-fat diet, along with regular veterinary monitoring. The Merck Veterinary Manual recommends pancreatic enzyme supplements if the cat doesn't eat well, which could mean he's suffering from abdominal pain. Always consult an experienced veterinarian regarding the health and treatment of your pet.
Jane Meggitt has been a writer for more than 20 years. In addition to reporting for a major newspaper chain, she has been published in "Horse News," "Suburban Classic," "Hoof Beats," "Equine Journal" and other publications. She has a Bachelor of Arts in English from New York University and an Associate of Arts from the American Academy of Dramatics Arts, New York City.