The pancreas is an elongated gland located near your dog’s stomach. Canine pancreatitis occurs when it becomes inflamed and can cause a series of problems that affect your dog’s health and well-being.
If your dog has been diagnosed with pancreatitis, you may be asking yourself how he got it in the first place and what sort of treatments are available. While the good news is that often a bout of pancreatitis remains an isolated event, the bad news is that in some cases, it can come back again and again, and ultimately become chronic.
We take a look at some of the causes and symptoms of this disease in dogs and give you some advice on canine pancreatitis treatment at home.
Understanding How the Canine Pancreas Works
The dog’s pancreas is responsible for a number of duties. Located behind the stomach, this organ aids the digestive system by secreting pancreatic juices like digestive enzymes. These enzymes are passed to the small intestine where they aid the digestion of nutrients such as carbohydrates, proteins, and fats. As well as this, the pancreas is also responsible for producing insulin.
If the pancreas becomes inflamed serious problems may occur. Being a storage center for digestive enzymes responsible for breaking down nutrients, leaking of such enzymes may cause the pancreas to ‘digest itself’.
Causes of Pancreatitis in Dogs
One of the most common causes of pancreatitis in dogs is a diet heavy with fatty foods. It is not unusual to see this condition develop around the holidays when dogs are fed greasy table scraps or when dogs are prone to raid the trash bin. Faced with large amounts of fat, the pancreas must work extra hard to digest such greasy substances and this ‘overdrive’ causes it to become inflamed.
Some medications such as potassium bromide or antibiotics may also cause the pancreas to work extra hard, causing inflammation and leading to a bout of pancreatitis. If this is the case, halting the administration of such medications is required. Note that exposure to toxins may also lead to this condition.
There are also some predisposing factors that make a dog more likely to develop pancreatitis than other dogs. Obesity, for instance, is a common trigger and so are metabolic disorders such as hyperlipidemia and hypercalcemia, and hormonal disorders such as Cushing’s disease, hypothyroidism, and diabetes. Or simply belonging to a predisposed breed such as Boxers, Border Collies, Schnauzers, and Yorkshire terriers can also be a factor.
Symptoms of Pancreatitis
Many of the symptoms of pancreatitis will be easy for you to notice. Most dogs will appear to be in pain and may assume a hunched up position. Also look for the following:
- Loss of appetite
Some dogs may also develop heart arrhythmias, increased heart rate, dehydration, and difficulty breathing. Life-threatening conditions may also arise in severe cases such as hemorrhages, the risk of nearby organs being ‘digested’ and sepsis, which is a widespread infection.
If your dog is showing any of these symptoms you should seek medical attention immediately.
Treatment of Canine Pancreatitis
Since the pancreas is stimulated to secrete digestive enzymes when food is in the stomach, the practice of fasting will allow the pancreas to rest. This is what many vets will advise upon diagnosing pancreatitis.
Vomiting must be controlled to reduce the chance of serious dehydration and fluids are supplemented subcutaneously or intravenously. Pain medications may also given as needed.
Once the dog is no longer vomiting, a bland diet may be prescribed. Such bland diet is obviously easy on the stomach and will need to be low in fat. it may be given temporarily for acute cases or long-term for chronic or recurrent bouts.
Canine Pancreatitis Treatment at Home
Supportive care is also essential as the pancreas is healing. You should monitor your dog carefully once home for any changes and any signs of recurring symptoms. Your dog’s diet is something you can control.
- Avoid fatty foods and don’t feed your dog scraps from your meals.
- Try feeding your dog smaller meals more frequently rather than all at once.
- Use only high-quality, easy to digest, food for your dog to ensure they are getting the most nutrients possible.
- Foods should be home-made wherever possible and made with fresh whole foods, so you know what you are feeding your dog.
- You can also try some homeopathic treatments to help reduce inflammation and pain.
Will My Dog Survive Pancreatitis?
The prognosis for pancreatitis varies from one dog to another, based on underlying causes if identified, response to dietary changes, and predisposing factors. If caught and treated early, your dog can recover fully from pancreatitis. The recovery time will depend on the severity of the inflammation and your dog’s response to treatment. Left untreated, it can be fatal.
Please remember that you should take your dog to the vet if you suspect that he is suffering from pancreatitis, and only provide treatment if your vet has recommended it.
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