Pancreatitis is an inflammation of the pancreas. The condition is less common than non-inflammatory processes of the pancreas (i.e. diabetes mellitus) and may appear as either an acute or a chronic form.
Symptoms of the acute form of pancreatitis vary between mild and very severe. Mild cases often show self-healing and allow the organ to recover fully. On the other hand, serious inflammation of the organ can quickly become critical and cause permanent damage. Symptoms are varied and sometimes hard to distinguish from other common conditions. Vomiting, lethargy, abdominal pain, dehydration (dry oral mucosa with viscose saliva, weak pulse, possibly collapsing), diarrhea and fever are often seen. Severe cases may cause the failure of multiple organs and the formation of abscesses inside the pancreas.
The chronic form of pancreatitis is shown by the intermittent occurrence of symptoms similar to those of acute pancreatitis. Vomiting and diarrhea are common complaints in combination with one or more of the aforementioned symptoms, which may be present in milder forms.
Causes of both acute and chronic pancreatitis often remain unknown. Infections (i.e. parvovirosis), tumors or swelling of the pancreatic duct, as well as trauma or prolonged medication are thought to be possible causes of the condition. A high calorie diet and little exercise can contribute to its development.
Diagnosis of the condition may be achieved through a blood analysis. High levels of certain pancreas related enzymes in the blood are symptomatic for inflammation of the organ. If no spontaneous self-healing occurs, or if the patient is suffering from a severe case of the condition, a strict limit of the animal's diet has to be maintained. No food or water may be consumed orally. Only when vomiting seizes can small amounts of solid food can be given through a stomach tube. If symptoms persist over a longer period of time, minerals and nutrients have to be supplied intravenously. Apart from an infusion of necessary fluids, a variety of drugs are available that can ease symptoms.