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Pancreas Issues?

January 17th, 2011, 06:51 PM
Hi everyone

My 10-year-old cat has been struggling with some health issues since September, and, through process of elimination, the vet's best guess right now is something is off with his pancreas.

Bit of background...

In September, we noticed that he was losing some weight and was grooming his front legs and belly to the point of baldness. There was no broken skin or marks, so it didn't look like the areas were itchy or inflamed. After taking him to the vet, she ran a blood panel and recommended some hypoallergenic food. She also said he was dehydrated and gave him a subcutaneous injection, and prescribed him an appetite stimulant/anti-nausea medication for four days.

He HATED that food! He refused to eat for over 2 days, even eating around the hypoallergenic wet food that I tried to mix in with his regular food. So I started feeding him some holistic grain-free wet food, which he happily ate. The vet got the results for the blood panel, and other than his platelets being high and his protein a bit on the low side, she said it revealed nothing significant, and that it was a food allergy, so keep trying with the hypoallergenic food. I kept trying, but he was eating so little that he dwindled down to 6.5 lbs. I stopped the hypoallergenic food altogether and fed him whatever he would eat - largely the grain-free wet food.

Next vet visit 3 weeks later, he weighed 8.5 lbs :) The vet ran another blood panel, which came back with higher protein levels, platelet count was about the same. One of his liver values was also slightly elevated, but she pronounced him on the mend.

About a month later, we moved to a new house. Kitty was not impressed, and threw up for about four days straight. After this, he refused to eat the food he was on before. After a bit of sampling, he found another food that he liked. Probably being overly cautious, I took him back to the vet. He was down to 7.8 lbs. They ran a different type of blood panel to test his pancreas, and did an x-ray to make sure there were no tumors or other blockages that might be causing the vomiting. There was nothing visible in the x-ray, but the pancreas test showed one of the values was elevated. She prescribed an antibiotic to treat the pancreas issue.

Well, he threw up the antibiotic the first 2 days out of the two weeks he was on it, and once again went off the food he had been eating entirely. Found a new type of food, and he happily ate that for about a week before he had a large hairball. After throwing that up, he vomited every day for about 4 days, and....went off the food he'd been eating.

Back to the vet again! This time, he was down to 7.5 lbs and dehydrated. Another subcutaneous injection and blood panel, which showed that the pancreas value was elevated more. He's been given some critical care food by Hill's, which I'm not crazy about feeding him but he's eating it (for now...).

At this point, the vet is suggesting that we treat him for pancreas problems, as well as begin a round of B12 injections weekly for a month and re-test. She's also suggesting an ultrasound to see if the pancreas is inflamed, or if there's a tumor present. I'd assume that a tumor would also have been visible in the x-ray, and that this is just to make extra-sure. Regardless of whether we choose to do the ultrasound, she wants to move forward with pancreas as the main culprit.

I'm worried at this point that maybe it's a stress problem...that moving house triggered a stress reaction in him, and that not eating/drinking as much as he should is causing things like lower protein and elevated liver and pancreas values...and that if we start giving him medication for the pancreas issues, that's treating the symptom rather than the root cause.

Has anyone experienced a similar process of elimination with their little guy(s)? I'm doing some research on pancreatic issues in cats, and it's a little scary.

January 17th, 2011, 10:42 PM
Oh dear, so sorry to hear of these new results. I haven't had any pancreas problems with my cats, but will follow this thread closely, and I hope you and the vet can help your boy. All the best! :pray:

March 20th, 2011, 07:25 PM
Thanks for the response :)

We went ahead with the ultrasound, and the good/bad news is that it didn't indicate anything clear. There was nothing that looked like cancer, and all of his organs were the normal, healthy size and density. So no liver disease or pancreatic issues. The only thing it did conclusively show was that his small intestine was inflammed. The options from this point forward are putting him on Prednisone to see if that decreases his inflammation, or sending him to a specialist an hour or so away, where they'll repeat all the tests so far and start from scratch.

He's now down to just over 7 lbs, has resumed chewing his fur, and is vomiting and having diarrhea. As much as I'm not loving the idea of putting him on Prednisone (I've read that cats usually should only stay on it for 6 months, so it's a temporary solution at best), I'm even MORE opposed to starting all over again with a new vet, because I'm really worried that he doesn't have another 7 months of fight left in him :(

Today was particularly bad, because he kept wandering around the kitchen area meowing like he wanted something to eat, but I tried giving him three different canned foods and four types of dry and nothing seemed to interest him. It's just killing me that he's suffering and nothing is alleviating it. I'll be calling the vet first thing tomorrow morning.

March 20th, 2011, 07:52 PM
Oh no, HollyH, sorry he's so unwell again!

With vomiting and diarrhea, you need to be careful what you are feeding him. Offering him 4 different foods he may take the cool new one even when not feeling well, but sudden diet change is particularly hard on a cat who is already experiencing digestive upset. Work with your vet to choose one flavour of one food, maybe the hypoallergenic vet diet, maybe the holistic grain-free, maybe another kind or even a raw diet. Something that is unlikely to irritate his system further and consistent day to day.

Good luck with the vet tomorrow, hope you are able to take a new step towards solving Kitty's problem.

March 21st, 2011, 05:58 AM
Thanks! That's a really good point.

I've been offering alternative foods because his weight was such a concern that I didn't think that it'd be doing more harm for him to eat something new than it would for him to go without eating.

So when he refuses a food that he's been liking in the past, should I just leave that food out as the only option until he eats? Or should I only give it, say, 24 hours (I read somewhere that if a cat refuses food for as little as 48 hours, it can impact organ function)? Or should I be blending the old food with the new food to try and coerce him into eating?

March 21st, 2011, 12:12 PM
Hi HollyH,

I've been offering alternative foods because his weight was such a concern that I didn't think that it'd be doing more harm for him to eat something new than it would for him to go without eating.

It's more important that he eat. If you have to offer him a buffet of foods to get something into him, then that's what you have to do. A large proportion of cats actually get bored of eating the same food day after day and in those cases it's necessary to do regular diet changes. Whether that's once a week, once a day, or even for every meal (like I do with all my cats), it depends on Kitty.

Some other suggestions for getting Kitty to eat:

Do you have any plain chicken baby food on hand for when he loses his appetite? Many cats find it irresistible, it's easy on the digestive tract, and you can mix it with some other canned foods to get him eating something more balanced.
Sprinkle the top of Kitty's food with pulverized freeze-dried 100% meat treats like PureBites or Halo Liv-a-Littles.
Drizzle melted butter or tuna/salmon juice (low sodium if possible) on top of the food if he likes those.
Some cats will eat if their food is top-dressed with parmesan cheese or catnip.

Add some slippery elm bark to the food or make a syrup with it and syringe it into him. I had a cat with severe IBD and the only thing that helped firm up his stool was slippery elm. More info on that here:

What does Kitty eat now, and what has he eaten in the past? Has he ever tried a raw diet? Raw might be your best option for dealing with inflamed intestines. An excellent article on raw and how it can help with IBD is found here: Do stay far far away from the prescription vet diets (especially considering he won't eat them! Smart Kitty). They have some of the poorest ingredients and are little more than a marketing scam.

I would also strongly urge you to stop feeding all kibble. Dry food is the biggest culprit in the development of inflammatory bowel disease. If Kitty likes wet but raw isn't in his repertoire yet, there are a few decent novel protein grain-free brands like Nature's Variety Instinct and Innova Evo 95%.

So when he refuses a food that he's been liking in the past, should I just leave that food out as the only option until he eats?

I would leave the canned food (no dry) out for 12 hrs max (top-dressed to be more tempting, if necessary), then offer him something else for the next meal if he doesn't eat that. HE MUST EAT! I would not go 24 hrs without him eating.

You may indeed have to resort to a temporary stint using a corticosteroid to get him over the hump of this. Do try the slippery elm though, along with a raw diet if possible.

Let me know how he does. :fingerscr

March 22nd, 2011, 06:15 PM
Thanks, Sugar!

He's been eating really well since last night, but I'll pick up some of those alternatives if he loses interest in his food again.

Will a natural food store have slippery elm bark? I've also been adding a teaspoon of some canned pumpkin that the local pet food store recommended for digestion, and he's been eating that readily.

He's eating Nature's Balance grain-free wet food, and (unfortunately) the Royal Canin/Hill's Critical Care vet food. He's refused the Innova in the past, but maybe once the Prednisone kicks in, he'll be in less discomfort and more willing to try new foods. I've never tried him on raw foods, but I'd be willing to do whatever brings him a bit of relief, especially since the Prednisone shouldn't be a long-term solution.

June 15th, 2011, 01:04 AM
Hello, has your cat been treated for inflammatory bowel disease? 2.5 years ago I was in the vet many tiimes and finally went to a Specialist. He diagnosed my cat with Inflammatory Bowel Disease, and prescribed Budesonide and Chlorambucil, very small dosages of each. As well, I have fed her a new protein (prescribed cat food). She has never deviated from the special protein diet. My cat was doing great, but now seems to have come down with a pancreatic disease, hence my search for pancreatic issues on this site.