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Cats With Pancreatitis–The Road To Recovery

Helping cats recover from pancreatitis

The feline pancreatitis roller coaster

If you’ve ever had a cat that developed pancreatitis my heart goes out to you.  It’s one of the most common health issues many of my clients and followers contact me about.  There’s even a Facebook group called Cats With Pancreatitis, so clearly it’s a serious and quite common ailment that leaves many cat parents at a loss–both financially and emotionally.

My own personal experience began many years ago when my own cat, Hershey, developed pancreatitis out of the blue.  It resulted in several more episodes every few weeks, several vet visits, and medication for nausea and antibiotics.  When the vet could do no more to help he recommended I go see a specialist.  In my heart I knew there was a better way than being on medication for the rest of his life–determine and treat the cause not the symptoms.   

The conventional medicine approach

The most common plan of “treatment” by the veterinary community is to prescribe something for pain, Cerenia for nausea, and perhaps an antibiotic for the elevated white blood cell count.  If the case is severe enough fluid therapy with hospitalization is required.  While I truly believe there is a time and place for conventional treatment, recurring bouts of pancreatitis can put your cat on a vicious cycle of repeating these steps over and over again.  Flare ups can get worse and more frequent over time.  Therefore, consider some alternative and holistic ways to address this painful condition.

Cats with pancreatitis need to change their diet

There are several reasons why cats develop pancreatitis, including trauma to the pancreas, pesticides, parasites, and even certain pharmaceutical drugs.

Karen Becker, DVM, finds that most cases of feline pancreatitis can be traced back to diet:  eating food with ingredients that promote GI tract inflammation.  “Most commercial cat foods contain allergenic ingredients that your kitty’s GI tract objects to over time. And if you’re feeding him the same food day after day, year in and year out, he’s probably developed an allergy to the protein source in the food as well.Since one of the jobs of the pancreas is to aid digestion, when your pet’s GI tract becomes inflamed and starts to falter, the pancreas can become stressed from working too hard to produce a sufficient amount of digestive enzymes for use by the intestines.”

Eliminate the kibble

Most cats eat a processed food diet (kibble) which is loaded with carbohydrates (corn, wheat, peas, legumes, lentils, rice, potatoes).  The pancreas doesn’t produce enough enzymes that help break it down during digestion.  Processed food also requires high levels of insulin which is also produced by the pancreas.  The result is chronic inflammation and pancreatic stress which leads to pancreatitis.  

Other causes of feline pancreatitis

According to Lorelei Whitney in Veterinary Homeopathy:  Fast Forward To The Cure, there are other causes to consider.

Bacteria and other infectious agents can cause pancreatitis. Bacteria are common in many commercial dry
pet foods and their numbers can increase after food is moistened. Bacteria can reflux from the intestine through the pancreatic duct and into the pancreas. They can also cross the intestinal wall and into the pancreas lying adjacent.

Animals with acute pancreatitis have bacteremia and bacteria in the pancreas. Regardless of whether this is a primary or secondary phenomenon affected animal must be treated with antibiotics.

Commercial pet foods and foods contaminated by coliform bacteria contain endotoxin. Their consumption can result in endotoxemia.  Endotoxemia is a feature of acute pancreatitis and contributes to the damage, partly because endotoxin disrupts pancreatic microcirculation.

In light of these facts, it’s highly recommended to provide your cat with a biologically appropriate diet.  Offering a wet, meat-based diet, whether it be raw, lightly cooked, or human grade canned food, with little to no grains or carbohydrates, is the best way to avoid pancreatitis to begin with.  

Symptoms to look for

Cats who are experiencing a pancreatitis flare up may exhibit the following symptoms:

  • Very lethargic, sleeping a lot
  • Lack of appetite
  • Fever
  • Tenderness or pain around the abdomen

It’s very easy for a cat to get dehydrated if he’s vomiting a lot, so you need be vigilant.  In acute cases IV fluid therapy is essential; without it mortality rates can be high.  Severe flare ups can also produce elevated liver enzymes (ALT), and going for more than couple of days without food can put a cat at risk for developing fatty liver disease (hepatic lipidosis), which can be deadly.  Don’t wait too long to seek medical attention!  

Cats whose condition is not as severe can be managed at home.  Keep in mind–skipping a meal or two is actually necessary in order to let the pancreas “calm down.”   Feeding actually stimulates the pancreas to secrete, worsening the condition.  This is why a cat knows instinctively not to eat whenever the pancreas is inflamed.  When your cat starts to show an interest in some type of food or treat you’ll know things are calming down.

How to work through pancreatitis without drugs

Getting your cat through a flare up can be extremely tricky.  You have to be extremely patient and persistent because your cat won’t always be ready to cooperate despite your good intentions.  A cat’s normal appetite may not come back right away, and the regular food may not be appealing yet, so what can you do in the meantime?  There are several things you can try in the transition from a flare up back to normal.  Your cat’s body knows exactly which option resonates with it and which will be most effective.  Muscle testing or energy testing is the way to find out.

PancreaForce can help cats with pancreatitisPancreaForce by Energetix. 

Yes, it’s designed for humans, but you can adjust the dosage for your cat.  “PancreaForce is a pure, clean source of bovine pancreas glandular. It is full of enzymes, B vitamins, and minerals including zinc and chromium. This lyophilized pancreatic glandular tissue concentrate complex helps maintain normal blood sugar levels and pancreatic function.”  Give 1/4-1/2 capsule twice a day for 2-3 days at the first sign of symptoms.  If your cat likes baby food (ie:  Gerber Chicken and Gravy) mix it in the food and offer it as a treat.  Or you can mix it with a small amount of water and use a syringe to squirt in the cat’s mouth.  Hershey’s pancreatitis would clear up in a day or two of using this product.  

Baby Food Meat

If your cat isn’t ready to eat his regular food just yet, try offering baby food meat as a treat.  My cats like Gerber.  I use it as a “transition” food once the flare up is subsiding.  Hershey would often just eat a jar of baby food for a day or so and then start eating his regular food again.

Kefir

Raw kefir is loaded with nutrients and probiotics and great for digestion and gut health.  You can find this in most grocery stores these days in the dairy section.  Be sure to get the plain, unsweetened kind.  You can offer a tablespoon on a spoon or in a bowl once or twice a day.

Answers Pet Food Additional Formula, Raw Goat’s Milk Formula

Raw Goat’s Milk

Raw goat’s milk that has been fermented makes it a great superfood for your cat.  It contains an extensive list of naturally-occurring vitamins, minerals, probiotics, enzymes, and fatty acids.  Try offering a tablespoon once or twice a day until you cat shows an interest in regular food.

CliniCare Liquid Diet

CliniCare liquid diets are often available at vet clinics, and are great to use for a couple of days as your cat transitions back to its normal food.  While it does contain a small amount of soybean and canola oils, the total fat content is 5%, which is ideal.  Using it on a very short term basis is safe, and it’s easy to administer via syringe.  

Digestive Enzymes

For cats who have gone through pancreatitis I highly recommend using digestive enzymes mixed into their food.  They help the pancreas break down the food without over-stressing it and aid in digestion.  Once your cat has transitioned on to a meat-based diet without grains and carbs there’s a good chance he won’t need to continue the digestive enzymes.  Hershey used digestive enzymes in all his meals for several months after he developed pancreatitis.  After he successfully transitioned on to a wet diet without carbs he needed the enzymes less and less until finally he didn’t need them at all!

Homeopathy

Using a homeopathic remedy can be quite effective in eliminating the flare up.  Traditionally a remedy is selected by observing symptoms that match up with it.  In Veterinary Homeopathy:  Fast Forward To The Cure there are several remedies that treat pancreatitis in pets.  

  • Iris versicolor 30c–one of the most important remedies when symptoms include severe abdominal pain, vomiting of bile, stools become watery and can be green in color.
  • Atropinum 6c–best used when vomiting relieves symptoms and the umbilical area is extremely sensitive to touch
  • Chionanthus 6c–best used when there is severe abdominal pain accompanied by liver problems
  • Iodum 6c–best used when there is a voracious appetite, the animal is exceedingly thin with enlarged lymphatic glands and craves cold air

Flower Essence Formula

Whenever one of my cats has been sick I always pull out a flower essence formula called Magenta Self Healer by FES Flowers.  This gentle yet powerful flower essence encourages self-healing potential and physical vitality by boosting the combined immune forces of both the body and spirit.  You simply spray some onto your hands and pet your kitty all over, including the face and ears, three to four times per day until a full recovery is made.

Not all the symptoms always align exactly, so muscle testing is the key to know if and which remedy is best suited for your cat.  Be patient and realize it takes time for the cat’s pancreas to heal and return to normal function.  The cycle of flare ups and treating symptoms without a change in diet can often perpetuate itself with episodes growing worse over time.  

Statements in this article have not been evaluated by the FDA and are not intended to diagnose, treat or cure.


18 responses to “Cats With Pancreatitis–The Road To Recovery”

  1. Very useful and interesting blog. Great content with the informative stuff.

  2. Rabecca P. says:

    Thank you for the information. I bought kitten milk replacement and my cat liked it at first but now think it has furthered his pancreatitis. He has lost interest in the baby food too now. Yet all day long tries to tell me he is hungry. Running out of things to feed him.

    • Pam Roussell says:

      Oh Rebecca! Pancreatitis is a very difficult disease, and I’m so sorry your kitty is struggling. He may have a food sensitivity but it’s good that at least he’s hungry. There’s a homeopathic remedy called Arsenicum Album 30C that I have found to be successful with Pancreatitis flare ups. Are you familiar with using homeopathy? Another supplement is called PanceaForce by Energetix. This has worked wonders with my pets and clients even though it’s marketed for people. You would just use a smaller dose, mixed with water or goat’s milk and syringe-fed. If you’d like we can set up a free 20 minute phone consultation to discuss in more detail. I offer a service called an Optimal Cat Health Analysis, too, that would help give you specific answers and a plan for moving forward. It would be a privilege to help you both!

  3. Sarah says:

    Thank you for all the information. We have a Tonk and Burmese. They are our babies! Our Burmese, Bala has been struggling with digestive issues. She will be 2 in June.

    At around 10 months of age, after a bunch of tests she was DDX with Mild chronic gastritis and moderate to severe chronic eosinophilic and lymphoplasmacytic enteritis of small intestine.

    Fast forward to the past week and she stopped eating and blood revealed hig fPLI indicating pancreatitis.

    She has started eating small amounts of food throughout the day but is still lethargic. She has been on RX meds for 3 days now.

    My husband and I want to go do the more natural route moving forward. She already eats a limited ingredient diet and the only thing I can think of is that althought the dry food is premium her body built up an inflammatory response.

    We want to soley transition her to only raw..she already loves freeze dried raw treats by Orijen.

    Any advice or other tips? We purchased some probiotics and will consider the pancreatic enzymes.

    The picture of that you have of Snowbear and the sable look like our two. What loves.

    Thank you for your time.

    • Pam Roussell says:

      Sarah,
      I’m sorry to hear Bala has been struggling with digestive issues! The very first thing I would address is the diet itself. Take her off dry food completely and feed a wet diet only. Even though the dry food is premium, the amount of carbs in the food can exacerbate the pancreas and cause extreme inflammation in the body. Cats simply are not designed to the amount of plant material in dry foods; this can end up being as much as 30-50% carbohydrate when they should be eating less than 7%. This is broken down as sugar which can put cats on a downward spiral in so many ways. All cats with pancreatitis should be using digestive enzymes with every meal in order to ease the burden on the pancreas. She may also have food sensitivities to animal proteins, too. If you’re interested in having my take an energetic “look” at her we can do an Optimal Cat Health Analysis. You can learn more about this under Services. Let me know how she’s doing after you change her diet! Best wishes, Pam

  4. Jennifer says:

    Hi Pam, what kind of dry food and wet food for pancreatitis do you recommend. My vet says science diet? Thank you!

    • Pam Roussell says:

      Honestly, the best diet is only a wet diet. Dry food contains way too many carbs and inappropriate plant based ingredients that create inflammation and stress the pancreas. Hence the pancreatitis. Be sure to make sure your cat’s food is free of corn, wheat, soy, by products, rice, legumes, potatoes, etc. Cats with pancreatitis also need digestive enzymes added to their meals in order to ease the load on the pancreas and help break down the food.

  5. Karyn Elliott says:

    Dr why does my cat want to eat immediately after vomiting bile? The only way I know he is having a flare is when he vomits and it’s just once. He eats right away then I give him a little pulsatilla melted in distilled water and rub it on his gums than a bit of Cbd oil . Fluids only if he needs them.
    How can one know they are doing the right thing? He eats only wet food.

    • Pam Roussell says:

      Hi Karyn! By the way, I’m not a doctor. 😸 My guess is that your cat is hungry, despite the vomiting. I recommend determining the root cause of the pancreatitis. Is it a food sensitivity? Do you use digestive enzymes in his food? I haven’t used Pulsatilla for pancreatitis, but I have found Arsenicum 30C muscle tests best for most cases of this. Try switching proteins and see if this eliminates the pancreatitis flare ups.

  6. Beth W says:

    Hi Pam, my 6 year old Astoria was just diagnosed with low-grade pancreatitis, only fund by an ultrasound. Blood, scans, etc all looked perfect. They’re having me put her on a diet of prescription hill digestive i/d from now on, but she always loved her dry food, which she got intermittently, as an “Add” in between her wet meals. Prescription hill has a dry food i/d option as well, but i notice you say NO dry at all for cats with pancreatitis. Would you say the same to the PH Dry food too? She always loved it so much and with a complete diet change, i wanted to give her something that she might like, also I was always under the impression that dry helped with their teeth care as well. Can you share your thoughts on this? Thanks!

    • Pam Roussell says:

      I’m sorry to hear about Astoria! Dry food is a huge contributor to pancreatitis due to the high % of carbs in the food needed to make the dry pellets stick together. Cats simply don’t make enough amylase to break this down; this creates a strain on the pancreas, inflammation and vomiting. Food sensitivities to proteins can also cause pancreatitis if not identified and avoided. Instead of kibble consider trying freeze dried food as snacks or treats. The Simple Food Project has great freeze dried food that is made with real, whole food ingredients and very low % carbohydrate. It’s also very crunchy. Enzymes in saliva start to break down food in the mouth; the carbs in kibble break down as sugar, which sticks to the teeth creating tartar and plaque, leading to oral health issue like gingivitis and decay. This works the same way in people. Unfortunately the myth that kibble helps teeth is completely the opposite and was likely started and perpetuated by kibble manufacturers themselves.

  7. Momoftwowarriorfelines says:

    Pancreatitis is painful and cats are very good at hiding their pain. Buprenex (Buprenorphine) is commonly prescribed to alleviate the pain. I hope your readers will do more research before following your advice.

    • Mary says:

      Vets these days no longer prescribe buprenex, they prescribe analgesics, which are very bad for cats. This is a holistic site, and people come here for the holistic advice.

  8. Tish says:

    Hello. My 14 year old cat has had pancreatitis for a very long time and I am running out of ideas, as prednisolone isn’t working. I just purchased pacreaforce (which now seems to be discontinued, got the last bottle from ebay) and the flower essence. I used to have him on prescription diet i/d, which i’m sure caused his pancreatitis. After years of trying to switch his food, i finally got him on dr elseys’s clean protien (95% meat), but it is kibble. Now he isn’t eating much and he is drinking a lot of water and vommiting. He does not like wet food. He will take a few licks and then the whole can gets wasted. Do you have any wet food suggestions or how I can transition him successfully? I will try baby food. Any help is appreciated. I just don’t know what else to do. Thank you.

    • Tish says:

      Wanted to note that Dr elsey’s uses gelatin to bind the food together

    • Pam Roussell says:

      Tish, I’m truly sorry–the struggle with chronic pancreatitis is very difficult indeed. I recommend doing an Optimal Cat Health analysis with me so I can determine exactly which foods he is sensitive to, clear sugar addiction to kibble, blocks to wet food, and help you get him eating again! Finding the root cause of the issue is truly the best way I have found to help resolve the issue.

    • Fay van Dunk says:

      Hi Tish, just wondered why you felt Hills i/d caused your cats pancreatitis. My Bella had a nearly fatal attack in November 2018 and ended up in hospital. My vet recommended i/d and she’s been on it ever since, along with wet food. However she’s just had her first flareup and now recovering after antibiotic and rapidexon shots. I’d really appreciate any input. Thanks so much.

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