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Flukes: Pancreatic and Liver in Cats

By: Dr. Bari Spielman

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Pancreatic and liver flukes are worms or parasites that infect domestic cats. They infect the biliary tract, which is part of the liver and gallbladder that supports the flow of bile, and the pancreas.

Pancreatic and liver flukes are caused by the trematodes (worms)

  • Platynosomum concinnum
  • Eurytrema procyonis

    During the life cycle of flukes, the eggs passed in cat feces are ingested by snails. A toad or lizard must then ingest the snail and in turn, the cat must ingest the toad or lizard.

    Cats are at risk if they are outside, predatory and live in endemic areas where these flukes exist, especially in Florida, the Caribbean and Hawaii. There is no breed or sex predilection.

    What to Watch For

    Few infected cats actually develop clinical signs. However, some typical signs include:

  • Anorexia
  • Jaundice (yellow color to the skin and mucus membranes)
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Weight loss
  • Abdominal distension

    Diagnosis

  • Complete blood count (CBC). This test may be within normal limits or have an elevated eosinophil count, which is a type of white blood cell.

  • Biochemical profile. This may be within normal limits, although it commonly reveals elevations in bilirubin and liver enzymes.

  • Urinalysis. An important part of any baseline work up, this urine test is usually within normal limits.

  • Chest and abdominal X-rays are usually within normal limits, but they may reveal liver enlargement, and they are important in ruling out other disorders that may mimic signs seen in these patients.

  • Fecal examination detects fluke eggs in many cases.

  • Microscopic examination of cells within the bile may reveal adult fluke and/or their eggs.

    Treatment

    The level of treatment depends on the clinical status of the patient.

  • Specific anthelmintics, or deworming agents, are recommended and quite effective.

  • Bile thinning agents may be of benefit in some patients.

  • Supportive therapy, to include intravenous fluids and electrolytes may be indicated for critically ill patients.

  • Surgical intervention may be necessary in those patients that have blocked bile ducts.

    Home Care

    Administer all medication as directed by your veterinarian. Cats should be prevented from hunting toads and lizards in endemic areas.

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