Pancreatitis is a serious disease that consists of inflammation
of the pancreas. It can be acute (sudden) or chronic (prolonged) and
may occur several times during life. Miniature schnauzers, miniature
poodles, cocker spaniels, Yorkshire and Silky Terriers as well as
Siamese cats are prone to the disease. Obesity, high fat diet, drug
reaction and toxins are potential causes. In cats it may be
associated with liver disease, diabetes and inflammatory bowel
The pancreas is an important abdominal organ associated with the
intestines. It has two major functions: (1)
Hormonal- responsible for sugar and fat metabolism through secretion
of Insulin and Glucagon and (2) Digestive- responsible for digestion
by producing digestive enzymes that spill into the intestines.
Inflammation of the pancreas affects both functions, but the spillage of potent digestive enzymes from the damaged pancreatic cells into the surrounding tissues and the abdominal cavity causes severe damage. The enzymes digest the pancreas itself and the tissues they come in contact with, causing perpetual destruction.
Signs may vary in number and intensity and include anorexia,
lethargy, vomiting and sometimes diarrhea. Fever and abdominal pain
may also be present. On occasion dogs will have jaundice,
respiratory distress and shock. Dehydration is common.
In cats, signs include lethargy, anorexia and weight loss.
Vomiting, diarrhea, jaundice, dehydration and respiratory distress
are less common.
Acute pancreatitis is treated with fluid and electrolyte administration, antibiotics and by resting the pancreas (no food). The disease, despite being potentially fatal, is usually self-limiting and most patients recover within 24-48 hours with appropriate supportive care. Severe cases need intensive and prolonged care to prevent shock, control vomiting and pain, prevent secondary infection and other complications.
The outcome is difficult to predict and sometimes the disease will take a turn for the worse despite the good care. In other cases, the disease will be chronic or recurrent, and the pancreas deteriorates and becomes dysfunctional. Complications include diabetes and insufficient digestion. In cats the diagnosis can be difficult as signs are vague and less specific.
Animals prone to pancreatitis should permanently be fed a low fat
diet as well as have their weight controlled.