Pancreatitis is a fairly rare and very serious medical condition. If your kitty developed it and recovered, but symptoms continue, she may be suffering from a pancreatic pseudocyst -- a cyst-like collection of fluid inside the pancreas. Cats do not develop true pancreatic cysts.
Your cat's pancreas, like yours, releases digestive enzymes. It controls insulin and fat digestion and works together with the stomach, small intestine and liver. Problems with the pancreas cause very sudden and extreme problems with the entire body, as digestion breaks down and your kitty becomes unable to use her food for fuel.
Pancreatitis is inflammation of the pancreas. It's fairly rare in cats, but lots of stuff can cause it: contagious infections like toxoplasmosis and distemper, exposure to poisons including insecticides and certain drugs, bacterial infection in the intestines, even direct damage to the pancreas following physical injury. It can be chronic or acute -- "chronic" means your cat comes down with it over and over again, "acute" means she's developed it for the very first time, without any history of this issue.
Pancreatitis can be pretty hard to diagnose, yet it requires immediate veterinary attention. The main sign in our feline friends is repeated vomiting of yellow or greenish bile. Treatment involves putting your buddy on fluids and may include antibiotic, antiviral, anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving drugs. Untreated, it can cause diabetes or, in the worst-case scenario, escape of digestive enzymes into the body, where they digest your pet's own cells.
Pseudocysts develop when pancreatic fluid pools in between pancreatic tissue during inflammation. Your cat's body builds up a hard, protective wall around it, creating sacs of fluid that can damage the pancreas and other digestive organs by pressing against them, restricting blood flow and hampering their normal activity.
The main symptom of pseudocysts is continued vomiting after your kitty's pancreatic inflammation has gone down. Your vet may be able to feel the lump of fluid-filled tissue when he examines your pet's belly.
Treatment of pseudocysts in cats can be tricky. Your vet will probably give your cat an ultrasound if he suspects a pseudocyst. If he spots one of the troublesome little devils he will, in most cases, draw the fluid out with a needle.
If your precious feline has recurrent pseudocysts with severe symptoms, your vet may recommend surgical removal. The prognosis for recovery from this operation isn't necessarily very good, so consider the matter carefully in collaboration with your vet, taking your particular kitty's needs and condition into account. A cat with chronic pancreatitis and recurring pseudocysts has underlying health issues, so you'll be working as a team to resolve these and give her the highest quality of life possible.
- George Doyle & Ciaran Griffin/Stockbyte/Getty Images