If your cat or dog is suffering from vomiting and diarrhea, it may be that Fido or Fluffy are spending too much time at the all-you-can-eat buffet. But vomiting and abdominal pain may also indicate pancreatitis, a fairly common condition among cats and dogs that can lead to severe complications and even death.
“Pancreatitis is an inflammation of the exocrine portion of the pancreas, which produces the body’s digestive enzymes”, says Dr. Jörg Steiner, professor at the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences.
“This inflammation actually causes the pancreas to digest itself,” adds Steiner. “The most common signs are vomiting and abdominal pain, but symptoms may also include diarrhea, fever, loss of appetite and behavioral changes.”
Pancreatitis is more difficult to detect in cats because the symptoms are milder.
Steiner says there are two types of pancreatitis: acute and chronic. Acute cases of pancreatitis are more commonly severe and chronic cases are more commonly mild.
Supportive care, including aggressive fluid therapy to treat imbalances, is given to try to stabilize the patient, he adds, and pain medications are used to make the patient as comfortable as possible.
Steiner estimates that about 50 percent of acute cases result in death.
In cases of chronic pancreatitis, your veterinarian will begin to treat the underlying disease process while administering symptomatic treatment, including fluid therapy and pain relief.
While these patients tend to have a better outcome than those with acute pancreatitis, chronic pancreatitis may eventually cause diabetes and/or other diseases that can greatly affect the animal’s quality of life. In some cases, this condition may go undiagnosed and untreated.
“There are some conditions that may be found concurrent with pancreatitis, including hepatic inflammation and intestinal inflammation,” said Steiner. “To give the most accurate diagnosis possible, your veterinarian will also test for diseases that mimic pancreatitis, such as kidney disease and liver disease.”
Steiner recommends giving pets with pancreatitis a low fat diet. This includes restricting animals from treats.
“Pancreatitis is a fairly common disease among cats and dogs,” says Steiner. “There is no way to cure or prevent pancreatitis, and there is no evidence to suggest that pancreatitis is more common among any particular age or breed of pet.”
Since vomiting and abdominal pain are symptoms common to many illnesses in pets, it is crucial that an ailing pet be thoroughly examined by your veterinarian, Steiner adds.
“It may just be an upset tummy, but seeking your veterinarian’s advice early could actually preserve and improve your pet’s life and health,” Steiner says. “New diagnostic tests are now available that can help your veterinarian diagnose pancreatitis early, making successful therapy more likely.”
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