Holiday Season Means Delicious Foods and…Pancreatitis

As the holiday season draws near, gathering with friends and family dominate many of our plans for the upcoming months. Many times, our furry family members are right there with us enjoying the festivities. But before you let your pet indulge on treats from the parties, be aware that it can put them at risk for serious consequences.

Pancreatitis commonly occurs due to increases of lipoprotein (complexes of lipid aka fats and protein) in the blood. These lipoproteins in the blood are increased when pets eat things like fatty steak, pork, bacon, greasy French fries, etc. Pancreatitis can also occur secondary to inflammation of the liver or bile duct causing lack of blood flow and trauma to the pancreas. High levels of calcium, toxins, or infectious disease can be other causes of pancreatitis. Certain breeds are affected more than others. These include the Miniature Schnauzer, Miniature Poodle, and Cocker Spaniel. The Siamese cat also seems to be at higher risk. The average age of dogs presenting with pancreatitis is 6½ years but it can happen at any age.

The gland secretes enzymes and digestive juices that help the body digest food.dogHotDog The pancreas also produces hormones that help regulate the glucose taken from food. Dogs typically present with gastrointestinal signs like vomiting and/or diarrhea. They can be sluggish, depressed, not want to eat, run a fever, be dehydrated, and have abdominal pain.

Diagnosis of pancreatitis often includes blood testing to rule out other organ involvement like the kidney or liver. Blood enzymes like lipase and amylase are often increased on a standard full chemistry. There is also more specific testing looking at enzymes that only come from the pancreas. Sometimes inflammation of the pancreas shows up on an x-ray but it’s just as important to rule out a foreign body in many cases.

Treatment of pancreatitis is based on controlling the signs being shown by the disease. If severe enough, it may be recommended that the pet stay hospitalized. Often times, they need fluids given either IV or under the skin. We give anti-vomiting medications by injection to calm the stomach. Pain medication is often important to keep the pet comfortable. If the pet is still vomiting or having diarrhea, we will fast the pet for 1-2 days to allow the pancreas to rest. After that time, the key is addition of small amounts of low fat food. Lean meats like drained, rinsed hamburger, chicken, or rice are good places to start. If the pet still won’t eat, sometimes we need to resort to a feeding tube to put liquid food directly into the patients stomach. Often antibiotics are included if bloodwork shows an infection or if we haven’t been able to confirm pancreatitis. Chronic or recurring pancreatitis requires long term administration of low fat food. If severe, diagnosis and complete treatment can get quite costly.

So, lets keep those pets happy and healthy over the holidays and I hope I don’t see any of you on emergency for pancreatitis.

By: Dr. Haag-Eggenberger
Skinner Animal Clinic
Dwight Veterinary Clinic