By definition, a pancreatic abscess is a collection of pus, usually in proximity to the pancreas, containing little or no pancreatic necrosis. Pancreatic abscesses are considered a complication of pancreatitis. A bacterial infection may or may not be present, but almost all cases reported in small animals have been sterile. Clinical signs are nonspecific and may include vomiting, depression, abdominal pain, anorexia, fever, diarrhea, and dehydration. In some animals, abdominal palpation reveals a mass in the cranial abdomen. Common clinicopathologic findings are neutrophilia with a left shift, elevated serum amylase and lipase activities, elevated hepatic enzyme activities, and hyperbilirubinemia. Elevated serum TLI and PLI concentrations have not been reported in dogs or cats with a pancreatic abscess, but anecdotal reports suggest that both serum parameters are increased in these patients. Surgical drainage and aggressive antimicrobial therapy are the treatments of choice in human patients with an infected pancreatic abscess. Dogs and cats may also respond favorably to surgical drainage. However, in one report only slightly more than 50% of animals survived the immediate postsurgical period. Thus, given the mixed results and risks, difficulties, and expenses associated with anesthesia, surgery, and postoperative care, surgery may not be warranted unless there is clear evidence of an enlarging mass and/or sepsis in a medically managed animal.
Last full review/revision March 2012 by Jörg M. Steiner, DrMedVet, PhD, DACVIM, DECVIM-CA