Structure and Function of the Pancreas in Cats

Below is information about the structure and function of the feline pancreas. We will tell you about the general structure of how the pancreas works in cats, common diseases that affect the pancreas, and common diagnostic tests performed in cats to evaluate the pancreas.

What Is the Pancreas?

The pancreas is a gland located in the abdominal cavity that serves important functions related to digestion and the production of certain hormones in cats.

Where Is the Pancreas Located in Cats?

The pancreas is located within the upper abdominal cavity in close proximity to the stomach, liver and small bowel. There are two parts or lobes of the pancreas. The right lobe is located along the descending part of the duodenum, which is the first segment of the small bowel (intestine). The left lobe of the pancreas lies next to the stomach.

What Is the General Structure of the Pancreas?

The feline pancreas is composed of right and left lobes, with a small central portion that joins the lobes. Microscopically, the pancreas consists of cells arranged in to small sections or lobules. These cells produce a number of digestive enzymes, and they store them within small granules or packets located within the cell. Two excretory ducts – the accessory duct and the pancreatic duct – carry these enzymes into the intestine where they aid in the digestion of food. The anatomic arrangement of these ducts differs slightly between dogs and cats, and among individual animals.

The pancreas also contains unique cells (beta cells) that form the islets of Langerhans, which produce insulin. Insulin allows many cells in the body to use blood sugar (glucose); therefore, it is an important hormone in regulating levels of glucose in the blood. The pancreas also produces the hormone, glucagon.

What Are the Functions of the Pancreas in Cats?

The pancreas serves two main functions. First it produces and stores digestive enzymes and fluids. Pancreatic juice is secreted (released) into the intestinal tract in response to eating food. Pancreatic juice contains enzymes needed for digesting proteins, carbohydrates, and especially fats.

Secondly, the pancreas produces and secretes hormones that are very important in the regulation of blood sugar. When the beta cells of the pancreas detect an increase in the blood sugar concentration, insulin is released directly into the blood where it acts to carry glucose into the body’s cells. The higher the blood sugar, the more insulin is secreted. Thus, insulin lowers the blood glucose concentration. The hormone, glucagon, acts to increase blood sugar and is released when blood sugar is low.

What Are the Common Diseases of the Pancreas in Cats?

There are a number of common diseases of the pancreas.

What Types of Diagnostic Tests Are Used to Evaluate a Cat’s Pancreas?

Commonly used tests in evaluation of the pancreas include the following: