Pancreatitis in Dogs: Signs, Symptoms and Treatment
What Causes Pancreas Disease?
The pancreas is a small organ located at the base of your stomach. It produces digestive enzymes which break down food into smaller pieces. These digestive enzymes are needed to digest food so it can be absorbed into the bloodstream where it will affect other organs such as the liver or kidneys. When these digestive enzymes become too low, they cause problems.
In some cases, the pancreas becomes inflamed (swollen) and may begin producing toxic substances called bile acids. Bile acid poisoning can lead to severe damage to the liver and kidneys.
If left untreated, bile acid poisoning can result in death if not treated quickly with antibiotics.
If the pancreas becomes infected, bacteria can grow inside the organ causing inflammation and eventually leading to infection. Infection of the pancreas is usually caused by viruses or bacteria.
Viruses enter through wounds in the skin, mouth or throat while bacteria enter through broken skin folds. Both types of infections can spread throughout your body and lead to life threatening complications.
How Is Pancreatitis Diagnosed?
If you notice symptoms of pancreatitis it is important that you see your veterinarian right away. Pancreatitis may be diagnosed during a physical examination or your doctor may order blood tests to check your pet’s pancreatic enzymes and liver enzymes.
In addition, your doctor may suggest a scan of the chest, abdomen or brain to look for signs of infection in the abdominal organs. It is also important that you tell your veterinarian if your pet’s appetite has decreased or if the pet has lost weight.
How Is Pancreatitis Treated?
Pancreatitis is usually treated with a combination of medications and dietary changes. Rest is very important because over exercising can cause the pancreas to work harder and lessen the time it takes for it to heal. Your veterinarian may suggest feeding smaller, more frequent meals rather than one large meal.
Your veterinarian may also suggest a low-fat, high-carbohydrate diet since fat can make the condition worse. If your pet is diagnosed with pancreatitis, your veterinarian may want to hospitalize the pet for a day or two until the pancreas appears to be working better.
Hospitalized pets are given intravenous (IV) fluids and nutrients and have blood test performed several times a day.
An intravenous tube may also be placed in a vein and hooked up to a drip bottle which slowly releases fluids into the pet’s blood. After hospitalization, your pet will most likely be sent home with prescription dog pancreas medicine.
Your veterinarian will want to see you and your pet again in about a week.
What is the Prognosis for Pets with Pancreatitis?
Most pets with pancreatitis make a full recovery if treated promptly. The prognosis is slightly worse in older pets and pets that also have diabetes. Following your veterinarian’s instructions will help ensure an optimal recovery.
Dog Pancreatitis Diet
A pancreatitis diet is very important for pancreatitis patients, but it is also very important that you do not let your dog become too hungry. Both of these things can make the condition worse and your dog’s pain much worse.
If you have to skip one meal, that’s okay. Just be sure to feed your dog 3 or 4 smaller meals per day rather than 2 or 3 large meals. It’s also a good idea to keep soft food and treats around so your dog can munch if he gets hungry.
Because fat content can make the condition worse, it’s also a good idea to avoid high-fat foods. Grease, for example, should be kept away from pancreatitis patients at all times.
Low-Fat Dog Food for Pancreatitis Patients
Most veterinarians recommend a low-fat, high-carbohydrate diet for dogs with pancreatitis. Fat can make the condition worse and carbohydrates help to stabilize blood sugar levels.
If your dog is overweight, it is best to put him on a weight reduction program before implementing a special diet. Try cutting back on treats and substitute some of your dog’s regular food with lower calorie varieties.
Make sure your dog has plenty of fresh water available at all times.
If you have questions about your dog’s diet, you should consult your veterinarian since he or she is familiar with your dog’s health and medical history.
Some veterinarians may suggest a commercially prepared low-fat diet such as Hill’s r/d or Purina HA. These are prescription diets that can only be obtained from your veterinarian.
They come in regular, medium and senior formulations as well as a low fat/high fiber version.
These diets are slightly more expensive than regular dog food, but they can be useful for treating weight problems in dogs as well as helping pancreatitis patients. Some of these products can also be used in treating diabetic dogs since they have very little sugar and a controlled amount of carbohydrates.
If these prescription diets are not available, you may use a home-made low-fat diet. Some people have had success with making their dog’s food by mixing boiling water with cornmeal and various vegetables.
Others feed vegetables alone and supplement them with a small amount of meat.
When making your own dog food, it is important to make sure you are not giving your dog too few calories. Try to consult with a veterinarian before you make any major changes to your dog’s diet or if you have any questions.
If you need to give your dog medications such as antibiotics along with his special diet, be sure to give him the medications with some soft food such as canned food or mashed potatoes rather than straight from the can or jar.
This will prevent the medication from irritating your dog’s stomach and causing additional problems.
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Caring For A Dog After Pancreatitis Treatment
Because pancreatitis can be a recurring disease, it is important to keep on top of things with your veterinarian so that you can get treatment as soon as possible if problems reappear.
Living and Management
It is important to continue regular check-ups with your veterinarian even after your dog has recovered from pancreatitis. Your veterinarian will most likely run blood tests on a regular basis to make sure that your dog’s pancreatic enzymes have not fallen below a critical level.
If they have dropped too low, your dog will need another round of enzyme supplement tablets.
Sources & references used in this article:
- Risk factors associated with acute pancreatitis in dogs: 101 cases (1985-1990) (AK Cook, EB Breitschwerdt… – Journal of the …, 1993 – pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- Evaluation of risk factors for fatal acute pancreatitis in dogs. (RS Hess, PH Kass, FS Shofer… – Journal of the …, 1999 – europepmc.org)
- Diagnosis of pancreatitis (JM Steiner – Veterinary Clinics: Small Animal Practice, 2003 – vetsmall.theclinics.com)