What is pancreatitis in dogs?

crain.What’s the big deal about feeding your pet people food?  All of the fatty foods might taste great to us, and most dogs certainly won’t turn up their noses at them. However, a fatty meal (or “dietary indiscretion”: veterinary code word for getting into the trash or something nasty out in the yard) can easily cause a very upset stomach and, in some cases, can lead to a serious condition called pancreatitis in dogs.

What is pancreatitis? 

Pancreatitis means quite simply inflammation of the pancreas. The pancreas is very important

for digestive function: it helps the body to digest fat, carbohydrates and protein. It also is a critically important endocrine organ, controlling blood sugar through the secretion and balance of insulin and glucagon. The pancreas is a L-shaped organ in our furry family members, one arm stretching along the bottom of the stomach and one arm extending down the duodenum (the first segment of small intestine after the stomach).

Why is the pancreas important?

The most common presenting complaint is vomiting and abdominal pain. As pancreatitis progresses, diarrhea can also be seen. Dehydration is a potentially serious side effect of the vomiting and diarrhea. Swelling of the pancreas in dogs can, in rare cases, cause narrowing and partial obstruction of the pylorus (outflow channel of the stomach). In some extremely serious cases, parts of the pancreas can become so inflamed that the blood supply is disrupted and the pancreatic tissue dies. Depending on how much tissue is lost, this could be fatal. The most serious long-term effect of pancreatitis is the increased risk of diabetes mellitus, especially after a particularly serious episode or after repeated episodes. Diabetes is no walk in the park, especially when you have to give your sweet little Fluffy shots twice every day for the rest of his or her life.

 How do I know if my pet has pancreatitis?

Let’s say Fluffy snuck out the front door and got into the neighbor’s trash. Within 24 to 48 hours, she is vomiting, and she screams when you pick her up. Do not delay. If it is evening or the weekend, take her to the Animal Emergency Clinic in Greenville. If you are lucky enough to notice what is happening during our business hours, please bring her in to our office in Travelers Rest, Greenville, or Simpsonville, as soon as possible. We can perform in-house lab work and potentially radiographs (x-rays) as we try to figure out what is causing her symptoms. An obstructing  foreign body can look similar, so we need to make sure we rule that and other possibilities out. If a diagnosis of pancreatitis is confirmed, you can expect hospitalization with IV fluids, usually IV antibiotics and pain medications. Usually anti-nausea medications are necessary, as is a special low fat diet that is easily digestible.


Will my pet be ok after pancreatitis?

In most cases, if found and treated early, your pet’s first case of pancreatitis causes some discomfort to your pet (and to your wallet), but you do not see long-term effects as long as you strictly enforce the no fatty foods diet going forward. If you slip up and give that piece of bologna , Fluffy could end up back in the hospital. With each episode of pancreatitis, the risk for damage to the pancreas’s endocrine function and development of diabetes increases. I know those big brown eyes can melt your heart, but please don’t give in to their pleas for potato chips. Stay strong! An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Your wallet and Fluffy’s pancreas will thank you. This friends, is why your pet can’t have people food.