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Pancreatitis in Dogs

Update for all those who have asked  and sent their best wishes and prayers for Angelina… (06.27.11  8a.m.)

Thank you to all of you who have asked about her.  My husband Tim is on his way right now to pick her up at the Vet’s.  Her symptoms are better but the Vet says it takes a week before the the levels in the blood go down, so too early to test. The Vet was in the office at about 2a.m. last night and sometime between then and 7a.m. when the first of his staff come in, Angelina had managed to get out of her cone and remove her own IV.  (We warned him!) He said she didn’t like their food, the environment or the company…  Or lack thereof~  So, it was probably time to come get her. ;-)

We had to take the littlest of our four pups, Angelina, to the vet today.  Turns out she has pancreatitis. Who knows why but perhaps because we are temporarily in a situation where we can’t control everything she/they eat.

Angelina is the little chocolate brown and white one. (Photo by UCLA Shutterbug)

Poor thing had to stay at the hospital because she needed an infusion of fluids.  I felt so bad. She is used to having us around plus her doggie family and there was only one other dog at the hospital… and he was knocked out suffering from liver cancer.  We left her with an IV, a cone around her neck and a pain patch in a cage all by herself.  I wanted to cry and she was crying when we left. I tried to convince the vet to let me stay and watch over both of them… keeping him from having to run over in the middle of night to check on them, but no go because of liability issues.

She kept looking at me like… Mom are you leaving me?  How could you? Are you ever coming back?  And then I felt particularly bad because I hadn’t brought her a toy or a blanket that smelled like home; never thought she’d have to stay over.  (The blanket was a clean freshly washed one,)  It made me think of all the people who just abandon or dump their pets and makes me wonder even more than I always have… How could they?

The other 3 are all moping around and the Dad of the bunch keeps walking around like he is looking for her.

M~

What Is Pancreatitis?

Pancreatitis is simply an inflammation of the pancreas and is found in animals as well as humans.

So what’s a pancreas? It’s a little gland located near the stomach.

The pancreas has two main jobs. Its first job is to produce enzymes that help digest food. Its other job is to produce insulin, which regulates the blood sugar level.

And the cause of spontaneous pancreatitis in dogs is not well understood.

Types of Pancreatitis

Pancreatitis in dogs is usually divided into chronic and acute cases.

Symptoms of chronic pancreatitis are milder and are often mistaken for other illnesses.

While chronic pancreatitis is the milder form of the two, it’s a continuing inflammatory disease that’s often accompanied by slow, irreversible damage.

Acute pancreatitis is usually more severe, but when it’s over, there’s no remaining damage to organs.

So basically, pancreatitis can be acute and only occur once in a dog’s lifetime or it can become chronic and keep returning over and over again. It can be a rapidly life threatening illness or a mild attack of pain that resolves in a few hours or a day or so.

There’s another very severe form of this condition called necrotizing pancreatitis, in which the damage is so severe that portions of the pancreas are actually destroyed. Some authors refer to this as hemorrhagic pancreatitis.

This form of pancreatitis can be fatal and requires early intervention and aggressive treatment.

Causes of Pancreatitis in Dogs

In a large number of cases, the cause of pancreatitis remains unclear.  Like with colitis, we really don’t know what causes it.

However, there are certain things that we know are associated with the disease.

Genetics.  Many dogs are just born with it or if they have parents or grandparents that suffered with it they can inherit the propensity if not the disease itself.

There was a period where vets, who were trained through a training system that was affected by large donations from the commercial pet food industry, use to think and tell people who fed their pets human food, which is actually real food, was causing or at least sparking outbreaks of pancreatitis.  But just like with pre-packaged food for humans and commercial baby food, we are realizing that we have been had. Big Pharma has controlled the medical field for humans for years and works on the same concept and formula for babies and commercial pet foods.

Cooking for your pets or feeding them a raw diet is now being taught as the healthiest diets.  Back to the way grandma great-grandma fed her pets, kids and family is finally coming back into mode.

Dogs with diets high in fat, and dogs who have recently gotten into the trash or have been fed ‘greasy’ table scraps, seem to have a higher incidence of the disease.  Ham, bacon, meat fat from our plates that we won’t or shouldn’t eat, processed hot dogs, ice cream, and greasy junk foods can cause an out break of pancreatitis.  In fact, a single high fat meal can cause pancreatitis in a dog whose normal diet is moderate or low in fat.

That’s why there’s a rash of pancreatitis cases at vet clinics around Thanksgiving, Christmas and Easter every year. People just can’t resist sharing their ‘high fat’ leftovers with the family dog.

Some other factors contributing to the development of pancreatitis in dogs include:

  • Obesity
  • Trauma
  • Liver disease
  • Lack of exercise
  • Certain medications
  • Cushing’s disease
  • Chronic kidney disease
  • Recent abdominal surgery
  • Blood clotting disorders
  • Long-term use of corticosteroids
  • High calcium levels in the blood
  • High triglyceride and/or cholesterol levels in the blood

But for some dogs who are genetically pre-disposed to pancreatitis it can be none of the above.

Signs and Symptoms of Pancreatitis In Dogs

The most common symptoms of pancreatitis are:

  • fever
  • lack of appetite
  • depression
  • vomiting
  • signs of abdominal pain

Other pancreatitis symptoms include:

  • Diarrhea
  • Yellow, greasy stool
  • Dehydration
    • sunken eyes
    • dry mouth
    • dry skin
  • Lethargy
  • Depression
  • Weakness
  • Irritability
  • Rapid heart rate
  • Rapid breathing
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Redness of the gums
  • Signs of shock
Making a Diagnosis

Pancreatitis in dogs mimics several other conditions, making diagnosis difficult. Some of these most common “look alike” conditions are:

  • Acute gastroenteritis
  • Colitis
  • Inflammatory bowel disease
  • Intestinal obstruction

While there is no definitive test for pancreatitis, your veterinarian will try to make a diagnosis through information obtained from:

  • Medical history (especially what your dog eats)
  • Physical exam
  • Laboratory tests
  • Radiographs (X-rays)
  • Abdominal ultrasound
  • CAT scan
  • Biopsy (occasionally)
Treatment For Pancreatitis In Dogs

The treatment your veterinarian selects will depend on the severity and duration of the illness. Dogs with a mild case of chronic pancreatitis may be treated at home, while those with a severe case of acute pancreatitis will require hospitalization and intensive care.

Resting the pancreas and gastrointestinal system is the most important key to your dog’s recovery.

That means no food or water by mouth for at least 24 hours to 48 hours.

The second major part of the treatment is the administration of large amounts of intravenous fluids.

Most dogs with pancreatitis are dehydrated from recurrent vomiting and diarrhea.

Other treatment measures include drugs to control vomiting, pain medications, and sometimes antibiotics to control or prevent bacterial infection.

Once the patient seems to feel better, he’s allowed to drink a bit of water. If he doesn’t vomit in the next 12 to 24 hours, he can graduate to solid food. He’ll probably be given small meals of a bland, easily digestible, low-fat food.

Over the course of a week or more, the amount of food can be gradually increased. Most dogs can go home once they’re able to eat and drink again.

Some dogs, if there was damage to the pancreas, may need supplemental treatment such as enzymes or insulin indefinitely.

Complications of Pancreatitis In Dogs

Dogs with severe pancreatitis can recover, but may also develop fatal complications, including:

  • Shock
  • Abnormal bleeding and clotting
  • Heart arrhythmias
  • Liver or kidney damage
  • Abdominal inflammation and fluid accumulation
  • Sepsis (internal infection from bacteria and toxins)
  • Breathing difficulties
How Can I Keep It From Happening Again?

Pancreatitis can be a very unpredictable disease. In most cases, if the attack was mild and the dog only had one episode, chances of full recovery are good. Simply avoiding high fat foods may be all that’s needed to prevent another attack and/or complications.

Most vets generally prescribe a low-fat, high-fiber diet for pancreatitis in dogs, to help speed recovery and to prevent future episodes. (Homemade chicken and rice is a great choice!)

Depending on your dog’s situation, the diet recommendations may require a change for life or he may be able to gradually return to his former food, if it’s low enough in fat and high enough in quality.

Although most dogs can eat an occasional high-fat meal without a problem, once a dog develops pancreatitis, a high-fat meal will often cause another episode.

And make sure he can’t get into the garbage!

Some vets will try to steer you toward special commercial food for dogs with pancreatitis. If you feed your pet commercially prepared food, it is probably healthier than what you are feeding now and if you feed your pets a mixture of pet food and real food, you might try this type right after the incident and see if they will eat it. But the best food you can feed your dog is homemade chicken and rice, veggies, barley and a variety of non-fatty meats, plus a high quality probiotic and a natural vitamin daily.  Natural chicken and duck type jerky strips and homemade biscuits are the best treats.

Sadly, veterinarians like MD’s know very little about nutrition.  Vet and Med schools only spend about 10-hours out of their entire training process on the subject.  Some, however, are beginning to educate themselves on this and other subjects, and once they do they all become proponents of feeding your pet real food, raw or homemade (non-greasy, non-junk) foods.  The idea that real food is human food and not good is proof of the great selling job big business and marketing firms have done and the myth they have sold the public as well as many veterinarians and vet schools.  Just look at what animals eat in the wild.  Americans are starting back on the road to common sense on this matter as well as on many others.

Holistic, natural or alternative vets are always the best choice.  They generally combine western veterinary medicine with nutritional therapy, acupuncture, chiropractic and other other holistic practices in order to treat the whole dog and the whole disease, including its root cause.

We have found that when our little Chiweenie (Chihuahua-Dachshund mix) has a flare-up from pancreatitis that a double dose of StemPets: For Dogs (and cats) helps her get back to her normal self better than anything we have found, prescription or natural, and giving it to her daily has kept her from having many flare-ups or kept them mild.

Who’s At Risk?

As with most diseases or conditions, certain dog breeds are more susceptible to pancreatitis than others. Miniature Schnauzers have a genetic susceptibility to the disease.

Other dogs that seem to be more predisposed to this condition are Yorkshire and Silky Terriers, Dachshunds, Miniature Poodles, and Cocker Spaniels.

The disease occurs usually in middle aged to older dogs, and overweight dogs are at a higher risk. It seems to affect females a little more frequently than males. Dogs with diabetes are also more at risk than others.

But it can strike any breed in any physical condition and at any age.

June 26, 2011 - Posted by | Animal or Pet Related Stories, Animal Related Education, animals, Chiweenie, Dogs, Holistic Pet Health, If Animlas Could Talk..., Just One More Pet, Man's Best Friend, Pet Health, Pet Nutrition, Pets, responsible pet ownership | , , , ,

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