Pancreatitis in Dogs: Protecting Your Canine from a Silent Killer

Pancreatitis in Dogs: Protecting Your Canine from a Silent Killer

As the holidays approach, it is a good time to understand the risks of pancreatitis in your dog. In the midst of the festivities, be aware fatty foods can be a culprit.
All dog owners have to deal with their pet experiencing episodes of not feeling great. Vomiting is one common sign of an upset stomach. Combined with the prospect of yucky cleanup, you don’t spend a lot of time worrying about it. After all, with dogs, barf happens. But your dog’s repeated vomiting may mean something more serious than just swallowing some stalks of grass. Continued episodes of vomiting can be a symptom of pancreatitis.
What is Pancreatitis
As the name suggests, pancreatitis is inflammation in the pancreas. For such a small organ, the pancreas has a big job: it releases the enzymes that help with digestion. When the pancreas performs as it should, its enzymes go to work when they hit the small intestine. After they release in a dog with pancreatitis, enzymes kick in. They proceed to work on digesting the pancreas itself, as well as other organs and tissues in the area. The inflammation results in extreme abdominal pain.
When considering pancreatitis, there are several signs to be watchful for. These include:
  • Repeated vomiting
  • Loss of appetite
  • Diarrhea
  • Painful abdomen
  • Swollen abdomen
  • Arched back
  • Restlessness
  • Gagging
  • Lethargy
Diagnosis and Treatment
Naturally, when your dog experiences any or all of the above symptoms, it is time to get him to the veterinarian. Your vet will need to run a few diagnostic tests to make a correct diagnosis. These may include:
  • A complete blood count. These will reveal the presence of inflammation, infections, anemia or other conditions.
  • Chemistry tests will reveal blood sugar levels, pancreatic disease or problems in the kidneys or liver.
  • Electrolyte tests for dehydration and electrolyte imbalance.
  • Ultrasound or other imaging to check pancreas and other organs.
Along with these tests, your vet will check the pancreas itself for disease. If your vet detects disease in your dog, treatment will depend upon its severity. The veterinarian will almost certainly administer fluids, which usually results in the dog feeling better. While hospitalised, the animal hospital will treat your dog with pain medication, anti-vomiting medication, and antibiotics. The hospital will provide nutritional support along with whatever other medications your dog’s condition requires.
During your dog’s recovery, your veterinarian will likely want to continue diagnostic testing to make sure things are progressing as they should.
Cause and Prevention
Several factors can cause a sudden pancreatitis attack. These include:
  • A fatty diet
  • Hypothyroidism or similar endocrine disease
  • Obesity
  • Diabetes
  • Medications or toxins
  • Traumatic injury

Diet is a primary cause of pancreatitis, especially for a chow hound who gets a whole plate of bacon in one meal. But a lifelong habit of feeding high calorie meals and snacks puts your dog at risk for health problems.
Some dogs may have a genetic predisposition for pancreatitis. However, all dogs should have their diet closely monitored, not only through table scraps but commercial foods as well. Some commercial dog foods are very high in fat, with ingredients that will contribute to the problem. If cooking for your dog, stick to the lean parts of meats, and include a healthy variety of green vegetables and non-invasive carbs such as rice. For commercial foods, select brands that use rice and oatmeal as fillers, rather than corn or potatoes.
How to Protect Your Dog During the Holiday Season
Holidays are notorious for occasions of pancreatitis in dogs. House guests are prone to sneaking fatty treats to dogs on such an occasion. This is where a precautions such as a DO NOT FEED collar would come in handy!
Owners must be vigilant for signs of an upset stomach, and not give in to temptation no matter how much the dog begs or uses his sad brown eyes. Consider it a test of will, for the good of all concerned. After all, stomach aches are not fun, and neither is wiping up a puddle of vomit, especially in the middle of the holiday cheer!
AKC: Pancreatitis In Dogs
Pets Web MD: Dog Pancreatitis Symptoms and Treatment
Pet Health Network: Dog Diseases

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