Four adult sibling meerkats (Suricata suricatta) presented with acute severe pancreatitis. The underlying cause was undetermined, but dietary changes were implicated, and genetics may have influenced disease progression. The first meerkat presented with lethargy and anorexia 2 weeks following changes to a higher fat content diet.
In this animal, abdominal guarding and a cranial abdominal mass were identified. Blood chemistry revealed elevated cholesterol, triglycerides, amylase and lipase. Exploratory surgery revealed peritonitis and a saponified spleno-duodenal mass. A partial pancreatectomy, splenectomy, and mass excision were performed. Histopathology revealed severe, multifocal subacute necrotizing and granulomatous pancreatitis, peritonitis and pyogranulomatous mesenteric steatitis.
Two additional sibling meerkats presented within 12 days of each other with almost identical clinical and histologic abnormalities at subsequent surgical procedures. Complete physical examinations of all unaffected collection meerkats were performed. Based on physical and hematologic findings, the fourth sibling meerkat was diagnosed with pancreatitis. Medical rather than surgical treatment was initiated, as this animal was diagnosed before clinical signs presented.
Pancreatitis is serious, often fatal, and difficult to definitively diagnose. Several hematologic tests used in domestic animals have not demonstrated high sensitivity and specificity for pancreatitis. In recent years, pancreatic lipase immunoreactivity (PLI) has shown to be highly sensitive and specific for diagnosis of pancreatitis in both cats and dogs. However, PLI tests are species specific. PLI testing was performed on meerkats from multiple institutions to test its validity in Suricata.
The authors would like to thank the University of Illinois Zoological Pathology Program for their histopathology support; Jennifer Langan, DVM, DACZM; the Chicago Zoological Society at Brookfield Zoo; Lincoln Park Zoo animal care staff; Jörg M. Steiner, Med Vet., Dr Med Vet, PhD, DACVIM, DECVIM-CA; and the Texas A&M gastrointestinal laboratory for their help with these cases.