Common hepatic and pancreatic ailments in senior pets, and how to identify the condition and preventative measure one can take.


The pancreas is an organ that has two distinctive functions, namely, endocrine and exocrine functions. The endocrine pancreas produces the hormones insulin and glucagon, which regulate blood sugar levels. The exocrine pancreas produces enzymes that are essential for the digestion of dietary components such as:

  • proteins
  • triglycerides
  • carbohydrates
  • bicarbonates to buffer stomach acids.

Pancreatitis is the most common exocrine pancreatic disease in both dogs and cats. lt can be short or long-term depending on whether or not the disease has permanently damaged the pancreatic tissue. Both forms could lead to death if left untreated. For this article we will touch on a bit of the diabetic aspect (endocrine function) and mostly concentrate on the exocrine function in older dogs and cats.


Acute diabetes:

Owing to the destruction of pancreatic cells, a case of hyperglycaemia may arise, this condition coupled with acute or chronic diarrhoea results in the loss of certain intrinsic factors responsible for the absorption of vitamin 12 and vitamin D. So, careful monitoring by your vet is of importance. Recovery is usually determined by how early the symptoms are picked up and attended to by your vet and client compliance.

Pancreatitis can manifest itself as follows:

  • Loss of appetite
  • Vomiting
  • Weakness
  • Abdominal pains
  • Dehydration
  • Diarrhoea
  • Weight loss
  • Gastric torsions
  • Pancreatic adenocarcinomas.


  • Scavenging from bins or in parks
  • Table scraps
  • Food that we may think is healthy for people may not be the case for animals
  • Use of certain types of drugs.


Hepatic disorders in dogs and cats:

The liver performs a number of important functions throughout the body. It has the capacity to regenerate and is also a storage organ. Below are the conditions that can cause liver damage:

  • Acute hepatic failure
  • Portosystemic shunts
  • Poisoning
  • Chronic hepatitis cholangiohepatitis
  • Endocrine disorders such as pancreatitis
  • Nodular hyperplasia
  • Fatty liver syndrome
  • Vascular hepatopathy
  • Hepatocutaneous syndrome
  • Disease of the gall bladder and bile ducts.

Other causes include:

  • Improper nutritional requirements
  • Long term medical treatments
  • Obstruction of the bile ducts
  • Genetic factors or acquired factors.


Preventative care:

Consult your vet if your pet displays the following symptoms:

  • Vomiting
  • Abdominal pains
  • Bloated abdomen
  • Smelly faecal matter usually clay-coloured
  • Change of diet
  • Alternative drug therapies
  • Ultra-sound and full blood work ups is a necessity
  • Anaemia



There are many considerations to make when dealing with hepatic disorders and pancreatic disorders. For the best outcome:

  • Follow the correct feeding habits for your pet.
  • Make routine vet care visits, so problems can be picked up sooner when they are still treatable.
  • Supportive hospital care.
  • Required medications.
  • Withholding nutrients and water orally for at least 4-5 days while the patient is on a drip treatment.
  • Switch to a low-fat diet.



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