Just what is pancreatitis in dogs, anyway? It's simply an inflammation of your pooch's pancreas. So what's a pancreas? It's a little gland located near the stomach. It has two main jobs--to produce enzymes that help digest food, and to produce insulin, which regulates the blood sugar level. Miniature Schnauzers have a genetic susceptibility to this condition. Yorkshire and Silky Terriers, Miniature Poodles, and Cocker Spaniels also seem to be more susceptible. It tends to occur more frequently in dogs that are older, overweight or diabetic.
Types of Pancreatitis in Dogs Pancreatitis is usually classified as either chronic or acute. What's the difference? Well, the chronic version is actually milder, but it's a continuing inflammatory disease that often causes slow, irreversible damage over a period of time. On the other hand, while acute pancreatitis is usually more severe, when it's over, there's no long-term damage to your dog's internal organs. Another less common (fortunately) type is called hemorrhagic or necrotizing pancreatitis. In this case, the damage is so severe that portions of the pancreas are actually destroyed. It can be fatal without early intervention and aggressive treatment.
Causes of Pancreatitis in Dogs What a dog eats has a great deal to do with whether or not he'll get pancreatitis. Dogs with diets high in fat, or who have been fed greasy table scraps (or have recently gotten into the garbage) have a greater chance of ending up with this condition. Even one high-fat meal can cause pancreatitis in a dog who normally eats a moderate or low-fat diet. That's why vet clinics see a lot of sick dogs around holiday times. We just can't resist sharing our high-fat leftovers with furry family members. Some other factors contributing to the development of pancreatitis include: * Obesity * Lack of exercise * Long-term use of corticosteroids * Cushing's disease * Chronic kidney or liver disease * Trauma * Recent abdominal surgery Symptoms of Pancreatitis Because chronic pancreatitis symptoms are milder, they're often mistaken for other illnesses, or just an upset tummy. Besides obvious signs of abdominal pain--such as standing with front legs down on the ground as in a bowing position--here are some other symptoms you can watch for: * Fever * Lack of appetite * Depression, lethargy, weakness * Vomiting * Diarrhea or yellow, greasy stool * Irritability * Rapid breathing and/or heart rate * Difficulty breathing
Diagnosis and Treatment For Pancreatitis Canine pancreatitis can easily be mistaken for several other conditions, which makes it tougher for your vet to make an accurate diagnosis. But he'll do his best by taking your dog's medical history (especially what he's been eating lately), doing a thorough physical exam, and running some laboratory tests. What your vet decides to do for your dog will depend on how severe the case is, and how long your dog's been sick. 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. A dog with pancreatitis can develop severe complications, so it's important to follow your vet's instructions to the letter, and entrust your pooch to in-patient clinic care if necessary.
Will It Happen Again? Pancreatitis in dogs can be a very unpredictable condition. Most of the time, if your dog suffered a one-time mild episode, chances of his full recovery are quite good. Simply avoiding high fat foods may be all he needs to do to keep from going through it all over again. That means not sharing holiday goodies with your pooch, and keeping him out of the garbage. It would also be a good idea, if your Chunky Charlie has a serious weight problem, to work on eliminating that extra fat. Add exercise gradually, and help your pooch regain his slim, youthful figure so he can ward off future pancreatitis problems. He'll feel a lot better, too!
By: Nancy Aingworth