and results are subjective and
highly dependent on the skill of
the ultrasonographer. The lack of a
simple, reliable blood test specifically for pancreatitis has caused
the disorder to be under-diag-nosed or misdiagnosed entirely.
Fortunately, the recent development of the feline pancreatic
lipase immunoreactivity (fPLI)
test has greatly increased our
ability to diagnose this frustrating
disorder. Normal cats have low
levels of fPLI circulating in their
bloodstream. Cats with pancreatitis typically show dramatic elevations of their fPLI levels.
Treatment of pancreatitis is
mainly supportive. Intravenous
fluid therapy is necessary to
ensure that the pancreas is
well-perfused with blood. If
nausea or vomiting is present,
the use of anti-nausea drugs is
warranted. Abdominal discomfort is a common component of
pancreatitis, and the use of pain
medication typically is part of
the treatment plan. Cats who
won’t eat might require an appetite stimulant to promote proper
nutrition. The prognosis for cats
with pancreatitis varies, although
most cats do recover.
A less common pancreatic disorder in cats is exocrine pancreatic
insufficiency (EPI). In this disorder,
the pancreas does not produce
enough digestive enzymes. Cats
eat their food, but they can’t
digest it, so they lose weight.
They often compensate by eating
more but to no avail.
Affected cats usually have
greasy, foul-smelling diarrhea.
In dogs, EPI is usually a genetic
condition, with German Shepherd
Dogs being predisposed. In cats,
the genetic form is rare.
Feline EPI is usually a sequel to
chronic pancreatitis. Repeated
bouts of pancreatitis result in
scarring of the pancreas. As scar
tissue accumulates in the pancre-
as, the organ becomes less able
to produce digestive enzymes,
and cats develop EPI.
A blood test, the feline tryp-
sin-like immunoreactivity test (f TLI)
(not to be confused with the fPLI
test) easily diagnoses the disorder.
If the f TLI test comes back low, the
cat almost certainly has EPI.
Treatment, fortunately, is sim-
ple. Pancreatic enzyme powder,
added to the food, corrects the
enzyme deficiency. Cats will gain
weight, and the diarrhea will
resolve. Affected cats require
supplementation for the remain-
der of their lives.
Dr. Arnold Plotnick is the founder
of Manhattan Cat Specialists, a
feline-exclusive veterinary practice on Manhattan’s upper west
side. He is also an author of The
Original Cat Fancy Cat Bible. Dr. Plotnick is
the former Ask the Veterinarian columnist
for Cat Fancy magazine and is a frequent
contributor to feline publications and websites, including his own blog, Cat Man Do. He
lives in New York City with his cat, Mittens.