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Pancreatitis in dogs

Updated on February 2, 2012

Should you give Fifi that left over bacon from breakfast? Making a special holiday left over meal for your pooch? Feeding certain types of human food to your dog in moderation is usually okay, but there are some health risks associated with feeding your dog the wrong types of food. Pancreatitis can be dangerous to your dog and a form of the disease can be caused by consuming foods or a diet high in fat.

Dogs might really enjoy human food, but to reduce the risk of Pancreatitis and other health issues it's important to monitor what your dog eats.
Dogs might really enjoy human food, but to reduce the risk of Pancreatitis and other health issues it's important to monitor what your dog eats. | Source

The pancreas is an organ located near the stomach that works with both the endocrine and the digestive system. For the endocrine system, the pancreas produces hormones such as glucagon and insulin. As a digestive organ, the pancreas secretes fluids that contain digestive enzymes to help the body break down food and absorb nutrients.

Pancreatitis is a condition characterized by swelling of the pancreas. In dogs, Pancreatitis can be caused by eating an especially fatty meal, such as human table scraps. The disease is more common in overweight spayed female dogs and also in dogs that eat high fat diets. Dogs taking corticosteroids, or who have diabetes, hypothyroidism, or Cushing’s syndrome also seem to have a higher risk of developing Pancreatitis.

Pancreatitis in dogs can be acute or chronic. Chronic Pancreatitis is persistent or recurring pancreatic inflammation. Acute Pancreatitis is usually a single episode that attacks abruptly. Whether acute or chronic, the disease can be mild or severe. The signs of Pancreatitis vary from mild stomach upset to, in the most extreme of cases, death. Most dogs display some amount of stomach upset, including signs such as vomiting, abdominal pain, anorexia, and/or diarrhea. Fever, dehydration, and lethargy are also common symptoms. Because these symptoms can also be indicators of other conditions, swift vet treatment is advised. If left untreated for too long, Pancreatitis can cause fluid to build up in a dogs abdomen and chest. It can also lead to renal failure, and cause inflammation in the dogs arteries and veins. This inflammation can occasionally trigger the body's clotting factors, depleting them. When depleted, spontaneous bleeding that can become fatal may occur. Heart arrhythmias, difficulty breathing, and sepsis are other symptoms of the severe form of the disease.

If you think your dog may be suffering of Pancreatitis it's important to get them into a vet. Your vet will most likely conduct a physical exam and take a blood sample to test. Other tests your vet may preform include urinalysis, x-rays, and/or ultrasound. Treatment of Pancreatitis usually focuses on keeping the dog comfortable and stable, making sure no further complications arise. Pain medication and fluid therapy are a normal part of the treatment. Other medications may be given to help control symptoms such as vomiting. Food given should be bland and low in fat. If your vet determines that your dogs Pancreatitis was caused by an underlying problem such as an infection or toxin, they should treat accordingly.

In the case of acute and mild bouts of Pancreatitis your dog's outlook should be good. Your vet may advise you to start your pet on a low fat diet in order to hopefully prevent future occurrences. Chronic Pancreatitis can cause some complications, such as diabetes and/or what is called pancreatic insufficiency. Dogs who develop pancreatic insufficiency cannot process nutrients out of their foods correctly. The treatment for this is to replace the dogs digestive enzymes by giving a medication created from the pancreases of pigs and cattle. This treatment is usually expensive, but should help the dogs who need it live a close to normal life.

It's important to be aware of the signs of Pancreatitis in dogs, and how you can help to prevent it. Don't feed your dogs a diet high in fat, and give treats and human foods in moderation. Watch your dogs weight and try to maintain a health body weight, as this can also decrease their likelihood of suffering from Pancreatitis as well as many other diseases. If your dog becomes sick and you think it may be Pancreatitis or are unsure of what's wrong, a visit to the vet is probably your best option. Early diagnoses can mean that your beloved pet will be feeling better again sooner, and it can also decrease the chances that further damage will be done to vital organs. Hopefully you and your dog will never have to experience the realities of Pancreatitis, but by learning about the disease now you should be able to help prevent it as well as know how to recognize the symptoms if they ever do occur.


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