Pancreatitis in Dogs and Cats


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     Pancreatitis - Dogs versus Cats 

Pancreatitis is inflammation and/or infection of the pancreas. The pancreas is a vital organ in that it makes digestive enzymes and also insulin (the hormone which pushes sugar into the cells from the blood and keeps you from being diabetic).

Dogs and cats get this disease and show it in very different ways.

The most common way dogs get it is by eating high fat or rotten food. We jokingly call this "garbage gut" as it often occurs after "Fido" gets into the garbage can. The increased demand on the pancreas and often the bad bacteria that go along with such mis-adventures cause the dog's pancreas to get inflamed.

In cats this is not the case. Cats eat a very high fat diet normally and ingesting excess fat doesn't tend to bring on this particular disease. Due to the cat's anatomy it tends to be related to inflammation in other organs such as the liver and/or gut itself. Often all three are inflamed and possibly infected and we veterinarians have a "pet name" for that as well, which is "tri-itis" (three inflamed).

Dogs show this disease by vaious things but most often with vomiting and not wanting to eat. They can have diarrhea, a fever and often pain in the abdomen.

Cats, being the more subtle animals rarely have vomiting as a main issue. They just "ain't doin' right", which means they are lethargic, not eating well, lose weight and just in general are doing poorly. Certainly they can show diarrhea and vomiting and fever, but that is much rarer in cats.

If you notice these symptoms in your pets, get them to a veterinarian right away. Blood tests can diagnose it though in cats it is harder as the usual tests used in people and dogs don't show it as well. There are specific tests for cats that can diagnose it and some labs even have in clinic testing on this point.

Treatment is generally just supportive. Such things as fluids, antibiotics (if an infectious cause is found), painkillers and nutritional support are the main treatments. It used to be thought that keeping the pet off all food for 1 to 3 days was best to rest the pancreas. This has been found to cause increased gut issues and infections, and in cats can lead to liver failure. If the animal won't eat there are ways to give liquid diets sometimes through surgically placed tubes to support the pet while they are getting well.

The classes I took didn't go over use of adding digestive enzymes to the diet, but I have found that it helps a lot as that does take work off the pancreas and the food, if mixed with them before fed, is pre-digested and is absorbed much easier.

One note, if the pancreatitis is too severe or chronic or recurrent, the cells that make insulin can be damaged. A temporary or permanent diabetes can result and then that disease has to be monitored and treated as well. Cats are more prone to this as they tend to have chronic/recurrent pancreatitis if they get it whereas dogs have more isolated incidents of it.

So, keep your garbage locked up from your dogs and if you notice slow weight loss and poor doing type behavior in your cats, get them looked over by your veterinarian.

I hope this gives you some valuable data. I am still a very low tech type person so don't have fancy newsletters, but I try to give you valuable data in a way it can be understood.

We do carry digestive enzymes RX Zyme and a general digestive support formula Nutrigest.

Suggested entertainment: I recently watched "How to Train Your Dragon" It was very entertaining and I loved how like cats the dragons were portrayed.

Until next time,

Dr. Jan


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