Pancreatitis and Dogs

If your dog isn’t eating, is depressed, uncomfortable and just generally “off” it could be something as serious as pancreatitis – don’t take a chance, get to the doctor!

Many dog owners have found themselves dealing with a dog that has suffered a bout of pancreatitis.  It is one of the most common exocrine pancreatic diseases in both canines and felines.  Dietary indiscretion, surgery and various drugs can all be causes along with certain specific diseases like inflammatory bowel disease, diabetes, hyperlipidemia, hypothyroidism and Cushing’s disease.  Some drugs include those used to treat epilepsy (potassium bromide and phenobarbital), certain antibiotics (sulfa drugs, tetracycline and metronidazole), hormones, long acting antacids, acetaminophen and aspirin to name a few.

Perhaps the most common cause falls under the dietary indiscretion label.  Most usually from eating fatty scraps from the garbage, on the street, from the table.  You tend to see more cases around holidays like Thanksgiving when folks are often slipping a little something (like turkey skin) to their dog under the table.  Low protein diets are another culprit – commercial prescription diets for problems like kidney failure or for dissolving urinary stones are two of the biggest of those.

While any dog is susceptible, most often the illness is seen in middle aged, old, inactive and overweight dogs.  Even breed can play a part (and this means a mix of ANY of these breeds as well, there is no such thing as hybrid vigor in reality!).  Some regularly affected breeds include Miniature Schnauzers, Cavalier King Charles Spaniels, Collies, Boxers, German Shepherd Dogs, Shetland Sheepdogs, Miniature Poodles, terriers and other non-sporting breeds.  Injuries to the pancreas, gallstones, various infections, vaccinations, bloat and heredity can all cause the disease.  In reality, while we have tons of information as to where it MAY come from, actually figuring it out with a certainty isn’t easy and often doesn’t happen.  We must often simply make and educated guess and hope we hit the mark.

Sometimes pancreatitis happens and we don’t even realize it.  Symptoms can be confused with any number of other problems but since its a deadly illness its something we must consider whenever we see certain things from our pets.  Watch for loss of appetite, vomiting, depression, lethargy, belly pain, and general weakness.  You may also see loose stool, whining and crying and drooling.  Do the appearance of one or more of these symptoms mean that your dog HAS pancreatitis?  Not absolutely- but why take the chance when its so much easier to treat when caught in its early stages?

Getting your dog over a bout of pancreatitis is usually the first step and great care should be taken when doing so.  Cooking a bland diet for the first 10-14 days is recommended adding ingredients as you go.  Eventually, most dogs, can return to their normal diets – with a few tweaks for safety.  Often, a dog who suffers an acute bout of pancreatitis, has no future problems BUT if it was caused by an over abundance of fat than keeping them on a relatively low fat permanent diet may be wise.  When feeding raw, its relatively easy to control your dog’s fat intake.  You KNOW what you are giving them, there is no guessing involved.  Turkey and Beef Tripe are probably the best foods to start with  as neither is very high in fat and tripe is one of the gentlest foods you can find.  The naturally occurring pre-biotics, pro-biotics and digestive enzymes found in tripe are incredibly helpful for digestion and this is even more important for a dog recovering from pancreatitis.  Various commercial kibbles and canned foods are full of things not easily digested by canines – this puts undue stress on the pancreas and raises your dog’s chances of a recurrence.   Chicken necks (minus the skin) are another viable alternative for feeding a fat sensitive dog.  Remember that you want to feed low fat NOT no fat.  Dogs use fat for energy – they need it.  Remember as well that oftentimes when a raw fed dog suffers a dietary pancreatitis it is because they were giving something OUT OF THE ORDINARY.  Usually cooked fats – quite different from raw fats in truth.

There are supplements that will help your pancreatitis prone dog as well.  Chief among these is a Digestive Enhancer.  Pro-biotics are not recommended for dogs in the throes of pancreatitis (acute pancratitis) but as a maintenance measure, Digestive Enhancers will help your dog handle his food overall with their mix of pro-biotics, pre-biotics and digestive enzymes.  Fish oil is another supplement that has been shown to be beneficial in cases of pancreatitis by lowering fat levels in the blood.

Finally, EXERCISE YOUR DOG.  Overweight and inactive dogs are most susceptible to this illness.  Don’t be fooled – pancreatitis is DEADLY. For every dog who survives another does not.  Scary.  If your dog is more likely to get this disease because he or she is fat than who really is to blame?  Even if your dog is older, exercise is a GOOD THING.  Just modify it to fit their abilities.  Don’t overfeed and keep your middle aged and older dog active.  Lean dogs are healthy dogs and not only will you lessen your dog’s chances of getting pancreatitis, you will also give him a chance at a longer life – fat dogs generally die far younger than they should.

Pancreatitis can kill.  It can also be upon your dog before you even know it.  Watch what your dog eats – especially at holiday or busy times when you have new people in the house who might just think its cute to slip your dog some food under the table.  Be aware, watch for symptoms and don’t delay dealing with those symptoms.  Pick up the phone, call your vet – it could mean the difference between having your dog for years to come and losing him less than 24 hours after he “was totally fine”.  Be smart.