Sadly, pancreatitis in dogs is all too common, certain breeds are more susceptible to it such as Cocker Spaniels and Miniature Schnauzers, but it can affect any pooch. Simply put, pancreatitis is an inflammation of the pancreas, an organ behind the stomach that helps your dog to digest his food by producing digestive enzymes that are released into the small intestine. Digestive enzymes are critical for food digestion. The pancreas also produces insulin which regulates your dog’s blood sugar levels. Pancreatitis can vary in severity and although most dogs go on to recover well, and with careful weight management and an appropriate diet never have an episode again, some do experience several attacks throughout their lifetime and in the worst case scenario, it can be life-threatening.
Symptoms of pancreatitis in dogs
So what are the symptoms of pancreatitis in dogs? If your dog is suffering from acute pancreatitis, symptoms normally appear suddenly. Usually, dogs will refuse or just pick at their meals, even a favourite treat might be rejected. Your dog might vomit, have diarrhoea and can be noticeably in pain, hunching up (similar to a play bow) due to the discomfort in their stomach. Your pooch’s abdomen could be sensitive to touch, and he might be very restless or quite lethargic and maybe even whimpering to let you know that something's wrong. Of course, not all dogs present with every symptom, so take your pet to the vet straight away if you suspect they may be experiencing pancreatitis.
The symptoms of chronic pancreatitis are a lot more subtle, maybe your dog is just skipping the odd meal, losing a little weight or perhaps your pooch just doesn’t have the joy for life he once did. Sometimes his poop can be a clue if it looks a little greasy and you might notice that is abdomen is slightly swollen. Only tests at the vet can confirm pancreatitis for sure.
Causes of pancreatitis in dogs
I bet the question you’re asking yourself now is – what are the causes of Pancreatitis in dogs? Well, dogs that are overweight or obese are more at risk, as are dogs that eat a highly processed diet, such as extruded kibble or in fact any diet that is high in fat and low in protein. Giving dogs fatty human titbits are commonly believed to play a part too, so don’t be tempted to give your dog the fat from your juicy steak or lamb chop, even if he’s drooling and giving you big puppy dog eyes. Sometimes pancreatitis can be triggered by a single indulgence, as my cocker spaniel knows too well. After helping herself to a large fatty lamb steak she ended up on a drip in the vets for 24 hours, thankfully it was a one-off experience for her, but it made me more aware than ever to watch what she ate. Dogs have also been known to suffer an attack after surgery or trauma, older dogs are thought to be more at risk, and there is some research to suggest it may be linked to autoimmune disease or allergies or taking certain medications. You may never know for sure what has caused it, but the good news is that due to medical experts researching and understanding the treatment and management of the condition, the dog pancreatitis death rate is much less than it was.
Treatment and Ongoing Care
The vet will decide on a course of treatment for your dog if his pancreatitis is severe this will probably involve him staying over at the vet's for a couple of days on a drip to get fluids into him and keep him hydrated while his pancreas is recovering. If it is a milder form the vet might prescribe anti-sickness medication, pain relief and rest. When your dog is diagnosed with pancreatitis in can be very worrying but there are things you change about his diet and lifestyle to try and prevent a reoccurrence.
The appropriate dog pancreatitis diet is low in fat, low carb and free from additives. Pure is an ideal dog food for pancreatitis sufferers, especially the Turkey Terrific and Fish Supper varieties which contain less than 10% fat and are easily digestible. Most dogs also find it very appetising so it should tempt them back into good eating habits. There are some very heartwarming success stories on the site from owners who have seen their dogs improve no end from eating Pure, one pooch that has gone from suffering regular attacks to never experiencing an episode again!
Just like us, snacking can be the cause of dogs piling on the pounds so feeding healthy low-fat treats such as pieces of carrot, broccoli or lean chicken, which my dogs love, meaning you can still reward your pooch for good behaviour even if they’re watching their weight on a low-fat diet. Of course, regular exercise helps to keep your dog’s weight in check too!
If you suspect your dog is suffering from pancreatitis a trip to the vet is necessary, but treatment over, reassessing his diet is the way to go.