Inflammation of the Pancreas in Cats

It is in the pancreas that digestive enzymes are produced, stored, and released. However, these digestive enzymes can also attack the organ itself. Severe inflammation of the pancreas (pancreatitis) in the cat is the result. Read everything you need to know about this disease in the following article.

How Dangerous is Pancreatitis in Cats?

Inflammation of the pancreas (pancreatitis) in cats is either sudden (acute) or long-term (chronic). Both forms of development can have fatal consequences for the cat. This makes a quick diagnosis and intensive therapy all the more important.

Symptoms: What Are the Main Signs of the Disease?

Pancreatitis in cats usually shows up as very unspecific symptoms. In addition, cats are real masters at hiding pain.

However, the following symptoms may indicate inflammation of the pancreas:

  • Refusal to feed
  • Lethargy and weakness
  • Diarrhea and dehydration
  • Movement disorders (ataxia)
  • Difficulty breathing (dyspnoea)
  • stomach pain
  • Vomit

Diagnosis: How Can Pancreatitis be Detected in Cats?

Due to the unspecific symptoms, pancreatitis in cats can be difficult to diagnose. After a thorough general examination, the vet will carry out further examinations:

As part of a blood test, the concentration of the so-called feline pancreas-specific lipase (fPLI) can be measured. Rapid tests are now even available for this. The vet carries out this directly in his practice. If the result of the rapid test suggests pancreatitis, the diagnosis should still be confirmed by a laboratory.

In addition, the veterinarian uses ultrasound to get an impression of the condition of the pancreas. Enlargement of the organ and accumulation of fluid are further indications of pancreatitis.

Therapy: What Treatment Options are There?

The bad news first: especially in the case of acute pancreatitis, the cat often has to be hospitalized.

First, the vet tries to identify the cause or risk factors for the disease. For example, if the cat regularly receives medication that could trigger it, it should be discontinued if possible.

Many cats with chronic pancreatitis also suffer from inflammation of other abdominal organs. Diseases of the intestine (for example IBD) or the bile duct system (cholangitis) must also be treated in this case.

For cats with severe disease, the most important measure is symptomatic therapy to reduce the effects of pancreatitis. This consists of:

  • Fluid therapy (infusions)
  • Feeding with suitable diet food (if necessary using a feeding tube)
  • Pain management
  • Medication for nausea and vomiting

Prognosis: What are the Chances of Recovery from Pancreatitis?

The prognosis for a cat with pancreatitis depends entirely on the course and severity of the disease. If mild pancreatitis is recognized and treated quickly, the chances are very good.

However, if the cat develops a severe form and complications and damage to other organs occur, pancreatitis is potentially fatal.

Chronic pancreatitis can also have serious consequences for the cat. In the long run, the inflammation can lead to other diseases such as exocrine pancreatic insufficiency or diabetes mellitus.

Causes: How Does Pancreatitis Occur in Cats?

In 90 percent of the cases, there is no clear cause of pancreatitis in the cat. In this case, one speaks of the so-called idiopathic pancreatitis.

However, there are a number of risk factors:

  • high-fat food
  • high levels of triglycerides and calcium in the blood
  • Circulatory disorders (for example due to accidents or operations)
  • Infectious diseases such as cat aids (FIV) or toxoplasmosis
  • other underlying diseases, e.g. chronic bowel inflammation (IBD) or diabetes mellitus
  • certain drugs

Prevention: How do I Avoid Pancreatitis in Cats?

Since in most cases there is no clear trigger for pancreatitis, prophylactic measures are rather difficult. You should definitely avoid risk factors such as high-fat food and obesity.

Excursus: What is the Function of the Pancreas?


The pancreas is elongated and is located in the cat’s anterior abdominal cavity. It consists of endocrine and an exocrine part, each of which has different functions:

The exocrine part of the pancreas consists of glandular tissue that forms important digestive juices (enzymes) for breaking down proteins, fats, and carbohydrates.

In contrast, the endocrine part makes important hormones that get to the rest of the body via the bloodstream. These include in particular:

  • Insulin: The “sugar hormone” regulates the cat’s blood sugar level and promotes the absorption of blood sugar into the cells.
  • Glucagon: This hormone increases blood sugar levels by helping the liver break down glycogen, which causes sugar to be released.
  • Somatostatin: In the brain, among other things, it inhibits the formation of its antagonist hormone somatotropin, a growth hormone, and also prevents gastric acid from being excreted in the stomach.
Mary Allen

Written by Mary Allen

Hello, I'm Mary! I've cared for many pet species including dogs, cats, guinea pigs, fish, and bearded dragons. I also have ten pets of my own currently. I've written many topics in this space including how-tos, informational articles, care guides, breed guides, and more.

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