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What is pancreatitis?

Pancreatitis is inflammation of the pancreas which can be fatal.  There are two forms - acute (meaning sudden onset) and chronic (meaning slow onset, occurring over time). Often the cause of pancreatitis is unknown however there are risk factors which include:

  • Eating fatty foods (such as fatty table scraps and human foods)
  • Obesity and underlying disease such as diabetes and Cushings Syndrome 
  • Trauma
  • Certain medications such as anti-epileptic drugs, corticosteroids

Clinical signs

Acute (sudden onset):

  • Vomiting, loss of appetite and lethargy
  • Painful abdomen
  • High temperature

Chronic:

  • Poor appetite and lethargy
  • Vomiting, dehydration, and a painful abdomen (often seen with flares up)
  • Over time persistent inflammation can lead to pancreatic tissue damage, resulting in the development of diabetes.

Diagnostic tests

As clinical signs can be quite broad, a blood test is often performed to rule out any other health problems or diseases that may exhibit the same clinical signs. Another blood test called pancreatic specific lipase, and ultrasound can also be performed to help confirm the diagnosis.

Treatment

Acute: For severe clinical signs, patients are hospitalised for supportive care. This will often include an intravenous drip, pain killers, antibiotics and anti-nausea medication. Initially food and water are withheld to prevent stimulation of the pancreas.

Chronic: Hospitalisation will depend on the severity of the pancreatitis, and the treatment is usually the same as acute pancreatitis. These cases may require further workup to determine the cause of the reoccurrence.

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