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J Feline Med Surg. 2014 May;16(5):395-406. doi: 10.1177/1098612X14523186.

Pancreatitis in cats: is it acute, is it chronic, is it significant?

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Willows Veterinary Centre and Referral Service, Shirley, Solihull, West Midlands, B90 4NH, UK.



Pancreatitis is a frequent finding in cats, the chronic form being more common than the acute form. Despite the large number of diseases or conditions that may be associated with feline pancreatitis, in most cases no cause is diagnosed and the pancreatitis is said to be idiopathic. The chronic form can be mild and asymptomatic, and has a high prevalence in apparently healthy cats. This has generated debate concerning the clinical significance of chronic feline pancreatitis. However, several reports have demonstrated the severity of clinical signs in certain forms of acute feline pancreatitis, while other studies have reported a strong association between chronic pancreatitis and the development of comorbidities such as hepatic lipidosis, diabetes mellitus, inflammatory bowel disease or exocrine pancreatic insufficiency. This suggests that feline pancreatitis should not be overlooked.


Diagnosis of feline pancreatitis is complicated by the non-specific clinical signs and poor diagnostic value of basic biochemistry and haematology or imaging techniques. Development of a feline-specific pancreatic lipase immunoassay has improved our diagnostic ability in the past decade, but may have more limited application for mild and chronic forms of pancreatitis. Moreover, histopathology (the 'gold standard' diagnostic test) can be associated with false-negative results due to multifocal distribution of lesions or mild forms of the disease. With respect to treatment, it is important to take into account the idiosyncrasies of the feline species when considering medical therapies.


This article reviews the literature on feline pancreatitis, focusing on the different forms and their relative clinical significance, while explaining difficulties inherent in the diagnosis of this disease. An overview of current recommendations for the management of cats with pancreatitis is also provided.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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