Pancreatic Insufficiency Cats






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Pancreatic insufficiency cats ... Pancreatic insufficiency, also called maldigestion syndrome, is rare in cats. The pancreas has many glandular functions, where some are well understood and others are not. It’s well known that the pancreas produces insulin and an insufficient amount will lead to diabetes. Diabetes is a problem in obese cats and is easy for most people to understand because they can correlate it to diabetes in humans. Many people have a more difficult time understanding disease that follows the inability of the pancreas to produce the various enzymes required for cats as well as humans and dogs.

Certain cells called acinar cells in the pancreas produce the digestive enzymes, which are utilized by the cat’s body. The main function of the enzymes is to break down food in the intestines into smaller molecules. The major digestive enzymes are proteins namely trypsin, chymotrypsin, amylase and lipase. They’re produced and stored in the pancreas. Trypsin and chymotrypsin break down protein. Amylase breaks down sugar and starch, while lipase breaks down fat.


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It’s important that the food be broken down into molecules so that the cells that line the intestine can absorb the nutrients. The nutrients pass from the cells into the bloodstream. There they can be transported throughout the body to various tissues. When a cat eats a meal it stimulates the release of the various enzymes. They flow from the pancreas into the anterior small intestine by means of a small tube called the pancreatic duct. Their function begins when they reach the lumen or center of the intestine.


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The disease caused by the decrease or absence of these digestive enzymes is called exocrine pancreatic insufficiency or maldigestion syndrome and prevents the cat from breaking down its food into smaller units that can be absorbed by the intestinal wall. The food is passed out into the feces undigested. The cat will literally starve to death although it is constantly eating.

The most common cause of pancreatic insufficiency in cats is chronic inflammation of the pancreas and is most common in older cats. Other causes are infestation with flukes or cancer.

General Causes

  1. Chronic pancreatitis
  2. Pancreatic cancer
  3. Pancreatic acinar atrophy
  4. Congenital abnormality



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No matter the cause, the signs of pancreatic insufficiency usually fit a distinct pattern, making it obvious. The cat will lose weight and seem constantly hungry. Its stools will be loose or semi-formed with a foul odor. It’s anal area and coat will appear greasy due to the high amount of fat in the stool. There will be large amounts of undigested fat present in the stool also. The coat will look poor in quality and have an unkept appearance. Diabetes may also be present.

Signs To Watch For

  1. Chronic diarrhea
  2. Excessive eating
  3. Weight loss
  4. Flatulence (passing gas)
  5. Borborygmus (a rumbling sound caused by gas passing through the intestines)



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A preliminary diagnosis is made by symptoms alone and then will be confirmed by laboratory tests. Not all tests used in humans and dogs are accurate in cats. The most common test is called serum trypsin-like immunoreactivity, which measures digestive enzymes in the blood. Testing should be done, as the symptoms are similar to inflammatory bowel disease and hyperthyroidism. Veterinarians will perform a thorough history and physical exam.


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Treatment is easy to accomplish but is lifelong and expensive. The treatment involves replacing the cat’s enzymes with enzymes from another source. The only source for the enzymes is from freeze-dried and ground-up extracts from hog and cattle pancreases. The glands are harvested in meat packing facilities solely for that purpose. They’re formulated into tablets or powder and are sold under the brand names of Viokase and Pancrezyme. The tablets are given before feeding while the powder is mixed with the cat’s food and allowed to set or 30 minutes before feeding. Powder is the form most recommended for cats.

Cats should also be placed on a low-fiber diet and the cat may need vitamin supplementation, especially vitamin B12. Blood levels of the B12 may need to me monitored.


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The information on enzyme-facts.com is not offered for the diagnosis, cure, mitigation, treatment, or prevention of any disease or disorder nor have any statements herein been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). We strongly encourage you to discuss topics of concern with your health care provider.

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