You suspected something was wrong with your beloved cat, so you brought him to the vet. One of several reliable tests that indicate pancreatic health were run like the fPLI and/or ELISA, combined with historical, physical exam, lab data, and imaging information.
Now you have a diagnosis of pancreatitis, what’s next? That’s what this blog is going to address.
About half of all the medical conditions we are asked to holistically manage in cats, either through diet and/or herbalism, is pancreatitis. If your cat is suffering from this disease, I’m sorry. Pancreatitis grows progressively worse and can be fatal if not *promptly* controlled. It can also trigger, or is a symptom of other underlying conditions like IBD, diabetes, and chronic kidney disease.
Typically cats with pancreatitis are middle-age or older and overweight. Your cat can have been suffering with pancreatitis for some time in low-grade form until the body just couldn’t endure the disease any longer. That’s when more obvious symptoms started to present themselves.
Pancreatitis can be difficult to treat in cats because there is a lack of science around what’s effective. If you compound that with what you’ve found while Googling*: there are too many opinions, ‘experts’, and ‘information’ that are sometimes at odds with each-other. All that makes it tough to plot an effective course of action.
As a certified nutritionist and trained herbalist, I’m going to speak generally, at a high-level, to spare you from an even longer, excruciatingly detailed blog.
Lets start with what the pancreas is: it’s an organ used to help the stomach digest foods. It excretes enzymes into the stomach. It can get ‘overworked’, or suffer from inflammation. Sometimes it’s a temporary thing (acute), and other times it kind of breaks (chronic). Usually cats suffer from the chronic form, which means you will have to treat pancreatitis for the rest of the cat’s life. You’ll need to always be mindful of what your cat’s eating and her pancreatic load.
Diet is the considered to be primary cause for pancreatitis and the best way to treat it. With older cats, her organs just aren’t as strong or as resilient as they once were. That means it’s critical to make digestion as easy as possible.
Once the signs of pancreatitis appear, or you have a diagnosis, diet changes need to happen immediately. In case you weren’t aware pancreatitis usually presents with poor or absent appetite, lethargy, weight loss, dehydration, and diarrhea. Vomiting and abdominal pain are variable in clinical findings with cats affected with pancreatitis. Frequent attacks of pancreatitis can finally result in a lack of insulin, which is made in the pancreas, leading to diabetes.
To get the greatest effect of diet on health, you need to have the best diet. This is going to be a change for you since diet is likely the reason your kitty is in this situation. I’ve seen diet make a significant difference in health over and over again. It’s a little more expensive, maybe a bit more work, but not prohibitively so. Managing this condition through a proper diet is certainly cheaper than the vet bills you’re going to rack up and the time you’ll invest in the long run. It’ll be emotionally easier for you too, and easier on your kitty.
Now that you’re prepared for what I’m going to say: I suggest a raw diet. That’s probably no surprise. You can either buy it or make it. Which means you’ll also have to transition your kitty to raw, sometimes that can be a challenge (see TIPS here).
Whatever the diet, it needs to be high quality making it highly digestible, meaning raw, and a little lower in fat than the usual feline formula. High water/moisture is critical in this diet (NO dry food). Low fiber and carbs are also critical, both of which are found in high amounts in kibble/dry food and even in quality in canned foods. Remember the goal is to minimize pancreatic stimulation so rich fatty foods and foods with high oil content are forbidden. Cats don’t naturally eat much fiber or carbs (aka starches) so avoid those biologically inappropriate foods.
There is a long list of foods to avoid or reduce. Examples are salmon, sardines, cheese, yogurt, tofu, peanut butter. Get rid of all sodium/salt. Cut out table scraps and all processed human food (you wouldn’t believe the number of cats that eat Cheetos on the regular). Literally, without a new diet it could mean the premature death of your cat. He’s depending on your actions and your discipline to have health and life.
Here are some foods you’ll want to look for: trout, shrimp, chicken/turkey breast with no skin (limited skinless turkey/chicken thigh), fatty oils. Be aware, if your food just says “chicken” or “turkey”, not a named cut e.g., turkey breast, you’re getting the stuff they sweep off the slaughterhouse floor, or worse. It’ll be a mix of scraps, some thigh, breast, and other miscellaneous pieces and parts — usually nothing you’d eat yourself.
None of this matters if you can’t get your cat to eat. Weight loss is one of the most concerning symptoms, causing many other problems when the weight loss is severe. You need to put weight on without delay and maintain it. Here are some WAYS to get your cat to move onto a new food (same at the TIPS above) and a blog on the basics of making raw meals for your cat here.
You’ll want to get your cat to the correct weight also. Chances are if your cat is suffering from pancreatitis he or she is overweight. This means watching calories and reducing them in a gradual way until a more appropriate weight is achieved. Combine calorie restriction with 15-20mins of exercise each day. This is important to help with weight loss. Exercise also stimulates overall health.
Using chase toys are one of the best ways. Something that fits nicely with your lifestyle. If you watch TV in the evenings, a 10′ piece of 550 paracord (a thick string/skinny rope) can be tossed and pulled while you’re sitting. I’ll sometimes tie the paracord around my waist while I’m walking around the house doing chores. There are ‘lures’ attached to strings that can be used also that cats enjoy. Some people prefer a laser pointer, which works with most cats. I don’t like them, with why being another topic.
Diet and exercise are important. But what you feed is plays a role also. This short video shows why feeding the best ingredients is so important, especially for pancreatic cats. You need to make digestion as easy for her while giving her the maximum nutrition. https://youtu.be/Sjv6FilTaNE
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To summarize: a special diet will probably be in order for the remainder of your cat’s life. Reduce the pancreatic load (lower fat diet, carbs, and fiber) by using foods that are easy to digest. Raw is the easiest to digest. Make it yourself or buy it but make sure it’s a specific pancreatic formula that avoids foods that are bad for your cat, limiting the meals to the ‘good’ foods only. To be sure that you’re kitty’s getting the best diet, buy Fetching Foods 🙂
Contact us for a diet consultation and comprehensive plan on how to address to your cat’s health along with having us build fully customized meals formulated just for your cat’s specific needs.
*Google searches generate the most popular content, not the most accurate or factual information, adding to the confusion. You are led to believe you’re getting the best answer, not the most popular, which it my not be at all.