Pancreatitis is an inflammatory disease of the pancreas that can be acute or chronic.1 Both forms can be mild or severe.1 Severe pancreatitis is often associated with pancreatic necrosis, multiple systemic complications, and a poor prognosis.1
Genetic Implications.Heredity plays an important role in pancreatitis in humans, but no genetic predisposition has been described for dogs or cats. Miniature schnauzers have an increased incidence of pancreatitis, suggesting a hereditary component; however, this has not been confirmed.
Incidence/Prevalence.The true incidence and prevalence of pancreatitis in dogs and cats are unknown. Studies of necropsy findings have shown evidence of pancreatitis in 0.6% and 1.0%, respectively, of all examined pancreata. However, recent evidence would suggest that, as in humans, more than 90% of all cases remain undiagnosed.
Signalment. Both dogs and cats are affected. Miniature schnauzers are predisposed but there are no other clinically relevant breed, age, or gender predilections.
Causes and Risk Factors. Most cases are idiopathic. In dogs, a main cause is dietary indiscretion. Blunt trauma (car accidents, falling from great heights, or surgical trauma), hypotension (particularly due to anesthesia), infections (Toxoplasma gondii and Amphimerus pseudofelineus in cats), and pharmaceuticals (e.g., organophosphates, L-asparaginase, vinca-alkaloids, and potassium bromide) are all potential causes of pancreatitis. Corticosteroids have recently been removed from the list of drugs implicated in causing pancreatitis in humans, and there is little evidence to suggest that corticosteroids cause pancreatitis in dogs or cats.
Pathophysiology. Pancreatitis is ultimately caused by autodigestion of the pancreas. The cascade leading to autodigestion involves premature activation of proteolytic and phospholipolytic digestive enzymes within pancreatic acinar cells.2 The digestive enzymes cause both local and distant damage and may elicit an inflammatory
response that can have local and systemic effects.3