Feline Pancreatitis – Treatment

The main goal of treatment in pancreatitis is simple: to quiet down inflammation in the pancreas.  This involves removing the cause (if known), treating the side effects caused by the release of pancreatic enzymes and providing supportive care.  Since most cats with pancreatitis have severe nausea and vomiting, I place them on intravenous fluids to maintain their hydration.  I also give them anti-nausea medication.  My favorite is a drug called maropitant  (Cerenia is the tradename) that is injected once per day.  

Pancreatitis is an extremely painful disease.  Therefore, medications to control pain are a cornerstone of therapy.  Cats often sit with their legs tucked up under them in what my friend calls a “meatloaf” position with their heads hung low in front.  When the pain gets really bad, they close their eyes and drool.  After a dose of a pain relieving medication such as buprenorphine, they slowing relax and stretch out.   
While a high fat diet is a predisposing factor for developing pancreatitis in dogs, this does not seem to be the same for cats.  In my experience, cats with inflammatory bowel disease seem to be at much greater risk for pancreatitis.  If a cat has a history of IBD, I sometimes add steroids to their treatment as well as antacids and B-12. 
Once they can eat again, I switch them to a low antigenic diet because of the association of pancreatitis with IBD.  I usually start with a novel protein i.e., a protein source they have not eaten before, with moderate levels of fiber then monitor the response.  The most important thing to remember is that each cat responds in its own way.  In my experience, there is no diet that is perfect for every cat with pancreatitis or IBD.  Watch your cat closely for signs of recurrence.          

Published by kristennelsondvm

Dr. Kristen Nelson grew up on a farm in Watertown, Minn., where she developed a deep love for animals of all kinds. She received a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degree from the University of Minnesota, College of Veterinary Medicine. Kris then completed a small-animal internship at the prestigious Animal Medical Center in New York City. In addition to writing and speaking, she cares for small and exotic animals in Scottsdale, Az. Dr. Nelson is widely quoted in the media. Her credits include Ladies’ Home Journal, USA TODAY, the Los Angeles Times and numerous radio and television interviews. Dr. Nelson has written two books, Coated With Fur: A Vet’s Life and Coated With Fur: A Blind Cat’s Love. Kris and her husband Steve share their home with rescued cats, birds and a dog.