‘Tis the Season for Indulging – and Pancreatitis

How to avoid Pancreatitis in your dog this Christmas

Christmas is a time for gift giving and general indulgence of all kinds of delicious foods and drinks but as vets, we know this is also a common time for visits to emergency centres for dogs suffering the nasty and painful condition – pancreatitis.

What is Pancreatitis?

Pancreatitis is a condition which causes inflammation and swelling of the pancreas and can occur in both mild and severe forms.

The pancreas is a small organ located near the stomach which produces both insulin (to control blood sugar levels) and digestive enzymes which enable proper absorption of food. When this organ becomes inflamed, it causes leakage of the digestive enzymes whereby it literally starts to digest itself. This causes enormous pain to your dog and can be life threatening – especially in an acute (sudden onset) attack

The actual causes of pancreatitis are not well known and it is thought that many different factors can contribute to the onset of the disease including genetic predisposition, dogs on specific medications, bacterial or viral infections, hormonal imbalances and dogs with limited fat metabolising abilities.

Symptoms of pancreatitis can also vary from mild tummy upsets, loss of appetite, depression, intermittent vomiting and diarrhoea to severe vomiting and a painful abdomen.

Both sudden onset or low level chronic (developing over time) pancreatitis need immediate treatment so if you notice any of the tell tale symptoms – head to your vet as quickly as possible.

While not all the symptoms listed may be indicative of pancreatitis, it is still wise to have your dog examined by your vet just in case.

How is Pancreatitis Diagnosed?

In order to diagnose pancreatitis, your vet will use a combination of the following:

  • A detailed history from you to include any sudden changes in diet and medications
  • A physical examination
  • Blood tests
  • X-Rays – to rule out foreign body obstructions or blockages
  • Ultrasound – to examine the state of specific internal organs

How is Pancreatitis treated?

Because there is no actual cure for pancreatitis, all treatment is supportive only to enable healing. If your dog is diagnosed with pancreatitis, be prepared for at least a few days of hospitalisation and relevant medical treatment.

How to avoid causing Pancreatitis

The best way to avoid pancreatitis is not to give any fatty foods to your dog. This includes fatty meat leftovers, bacon, cream and other dairy products and rich meat gravies and sauces. Lean meats and vegetables are O.K.

Naturally, you’d like your dog to enjoy some of the delicious festive fare so just feed small amounts of the safer foods as a treat and do make sure the rest of the family is informed and plays by the same rules.

Wishing you all a safe and “vet free” Christmas and New Year.