5 Important Facts About Pancreatitis

What is pancreatitis?


The pancreas is a vital organ that it situated on the right side of the abdomen next to the stomach. The pancreas produces hormones like insulin and enzymes that aid in food digestion. When the pancreas becomes inflamed, the condition is called pancreatitis.

Pancreatitis can either be sudden onset (acute) or chronic. Chronic pancreatitis is associated with permanent changes of the pancreas. Pancreatitis affects both cats and dogs. In dogs, several breeds are over-represented, mainly Miniature Schnauzers and English Cocker Spaniels. A similar breed-predisposition has not been found in cats.

What causes pancreatitis?

The exact cause of acute or chronic pancreatitis remains unknown in most cases. There appears to be an association between high-fat meals and pancreatitis. Elevated blood calcium levels, elevated blood triglyceride levels, and certain medications are also associated with this condition.

What are the signs of pancreatitis?

Clinically, both acute and chronic pancreatitis can range from a subclinical disease (no obvious symptoms) to severe disease. Chronic pancreatitis is more commonly mild than severe, which makes diagnosis a lot more challenging. Clinical signs of acute pancreatitis may include lethargy, abdominal pain, vomiting, diarrhea, and anorexia. Clinical signs of chronic pancreatitis are usually nonspecific and mild, including lethargy, anorexia, and in some cases loose stools. Chronic pancreatitis should be considered as a potential diagnosis in any dog or cat with chronic gastrointestinal signs (i.e., anorexia, loose stools, weight loss, vomiting, or other), where another underlying cause cannot be readily identified.

How is pancreatitis diagnosed?

Pancreatitis is diagnosed by performing a complete physical exam, bloodwork, radiographs, and an abdominal ultrasound.

How is pancreatitis treated?

Treatment depends on clinical signs and physical exam findings. Treatment for mild cases may be on an outpatient basis and include medications and a low fat diet. More severe cases will require hospitalization and intensive medical and supportive care.

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