Canine pancreatitis is a common ailment that veterinarians see. It can vary in severity, and can be quite scary for a pet owner. It can, in it’s most severe form, be life threatening. Some cases are preventable, and thus I thought worth discussing it.
Pancreatitis is an inflammation of the pancreas, which is an organ in the abdomen that produces substances that help digest food (amongst other things). The pancreas releases enzymes into the digestive tract to help break down fats and promote digestion. When it becomes inflamed, the condition is referred to as pancreatitis. What happens next is that these enzymes and other substances are released into the surrounding area of the add omen. They cause localized inflammation that damages the pancreas and nearby organs, and can lead to life-threatening complications. It can also be extremely painful.
There are two forms of pancreatitis: acute (tends to occur suddenly) and chronic (tends to happen over time). Both forms can be mild or severe, and their clinical signs can be very similar. Although there are several identified events that may cause pancreatitis, the underlying cause remains undetermined in may cases.
Acute pancreatitis can occur after a dog eats fatty food such as pork, beef, and high fat foods such as cheese and bacon, for example. It can occur after a dog gets into the garbage. It can also have other causes, including certain medications and some viral or bacterial infections. Obese or diabetic dogs area at greater risk for developing pancreatitis. Miniature schnauzers may also be predisposed to the disease. Chronic pancreatitis can result from repeated episodes of acute pancreatitis,but in most cases it is not clear what causes chronic pancreatitis.
The signs may be mild or severe, and the acute and chronic forms of the disease may look very similar.
-depression and lethargy (tiredness)
-fever (severely ill dogs may have a high fever, low blood pressure, and dehydration)
Details in your medical history, and physical exam may help your veterinarian diagnose this disease. Still, it can be complicated to confirm, as there is no single test that can diagnose it in all cases. Initial diagnostic testing may include blood work such as a chemistry panel and complete blood cell count (CBC), radiographs, and an abdominal ultrasound to look for any pancreatic abnormalities and to rule out intestinal blockages and other causes that may mimic the clinical signs. There are also specific blood tests that, when combined with other supporting information, may help diagnose pancreatitis.
There is no treatment that reverses the condition, making it a challenge to treat in some cases. Therapy is aimed at supporting the patient and minimizing the clinical signs until they resolve. Antibiotics are commonly given (although not always), in addition to anti-vomiting medication, and pain therapy. It is important to “rest” the stomach and intestines to give them time to heal and rebound. Your veterinarian may recommend withholding food and water until the pet is no longer vomiting. During that time, the patient may receive fluids by injection, often while hospitalized. They may additionally give intravenous nutrition, or through a feeding tube. If they do not respond to medical treatment, there are also surgical procedures to treat the condition.
The long-term outcome can be difficult to predict. Severe pancreatitis may cause life-threatening damage to the body, including kidney failure, diabetes, and intestinal obstruction. If a pet recover from an episode, there may be concern that the problem will recur and become chronic. Sometimes, a permanent diet change to a reduced-fat diet may be indicated. Pet owners may also be advised to stop giving any table food.