Canine Pancreatitis: Questions, Answers and Considerations

by janie knetzer

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my dog jenna and pancreatitisThere are sadly many afflictions that can strike our four-legged friends.

Having experienced Pancreatitis in one of my own dogs, I can tell you that this is one of the worst conditions that our beloved pets can experience.

The nature of the condition makes it extremely painful and unfortunately, reoccurring.

This illness is one that never allows you to take your guard down.

What is Pancreatitis?

Canine pancreatitis is simply the inflammation of the pancreas. But, there are two different forms that dogs (and humans) can develop: acute pancreatitis and chronic pancreatitis.

Acute pancreatitis is essentially the sudden inflammation of the pancreas. This has some serious complications and can be a deadly condition, and should be considered a medical emergency.  I know first hand, because it was the acute form that ultimately ended my Jenna’s life.

Chronic pancreatitis, on the other hand, is a more enduring version of pancreatic inflammation. This can actually strike in episodic fashion or can be quite persistent. While it’s still just as troubling, it’s not as serious as the “acute” form.

What Signs Should You Look For?

The pancreas is an abdominal gland that produces digestion-aiding enzymes, so the majority of the symptoms associated with pancreatitis in dogs are related to the digestive system.

The symptoms tend to occur suddenly in our pets, which can make treatment an even more urgent affair. Here’s what to look for:

  • Lack of appetite
  • Vomiting (large amounts) and diarrhea, possibly containing blood (diarrhea is not always present)
  • Greater need to consume water
  • Weakness
  • Difficulty walking
  • Abdominal tenderness
  • Temperature fluctuations
  • Sunken eyes
  • Dry eyes and other signs of dehydration
  • Lethargic, laying around

The above symptoms can lead to other diagnoses, of course, so it’s always best to talk with your holistic veterinarian as soon as possible to find out exactly what’s going on with your fur baby.

What Causes Pancreatitis?

First, it’s important to realize that there are no known specific causes of pancreatitis. The exact rationale behind this condition is unknown, which can make tracking it down a bit of a complicated issue. That’s not to say that there aren’t any contributing factors, however.

High blood fat content, also known as hyperlipemia, can lead to pancreatitis. This is a condition in which the amount of fat in the blood is heightened, generally after a meal. For the most part, this condition self-regulates with the consumption of food. But in some cases, dogs can have metabolic issues that lead to more fat than usual remaining in the blood.

My girl Jenna also had Hypothyroidism which can lead to pancreatic problems.  If your dog has a thyroid issue, or you suspect, I urge you to get your dog checked by a holistic vet.  But, it is VITAL that you go to a veterinarian who can ACCURATELY read the thyroid test results.  All vets cannot!  They might tell you they can, but they can’t.  It was Jenna’s holistic vet who discovered that she had thyroid issues, and Jenna had been seen my a traditional vet many times.

Infectious diseases, like bacterial or viral infections, can also lead to pancreatitis. And abdominal trauma has also been known to lead to pancreatitis. Fast eating, stool eating, grass eating and stress are also contributing factors.  Obesity also plays a role, as you might imagine, so the overall nutritional status certainly can lead to trouble over the long haul.  Chronic episodes of can also lead to diabetes in dogs.

How is Pancreatitis Treated?

There are a number of treatment options for dogs who have endured pancreatic problems and many therapeutic measures that you as a dog owner can incorporate into his or her daily needs.

However, this isn’t to say that your dog shouldn’t be seen by a vet; it’s critical that you seek veterinary care.  What I share with you here is all about nutrition and digestion, since controlling Pancreatitis relies heavily on nutrition and supplements.

Here goes:

  • If your dog is or has had an acute episode (the really bad Pancreatitis), your vet will most likely recommend IV fluids in order to keep the do dehydrated and provide essential nutrients.  Depending on the severity, dogs can end up being on IV for up to 5 days.
  • Once your dog comes home, you will still need to watch him closely over the next several days, and most likely, you will have to withhold all food, water (ice cubes are okay — your dog still needs to stay hydrated), supplements and medications taken by mouth in order to reduce stress on the pancreas.
  • Most vets will tell you to avoid all supplements including fish oils until the dog shows signs of improvement

How and What to Feed Your Dog After He or She Recovers to Help Avoid Future Episodes

  • Then, slowly introduce food at minimal amounts to see how your dog does.  You should also feed in smaller portions through-out the day.  This is VERY IMPORTANT!
  • Again, diet is critical for this condition and it MUST be low fat (not kibble). If interested, my cookbook provides two easy crock pot recipes tailored specifically for Pancreatitis, or I also recommend Verve formula made by The Honest Kitchen. You can review it here if you like. *Note: The recipes in my cook book are home made, which means they are not balanced. For that reason, I note in the book that you should include a multivitamin daily.  However, for dog’s with problems related to the pancreas, I suggest that you follow the protocol below instead and avoid the multi-vitamin.
  • Diets MUST BE low fat and include the right dose of nourishment and essential elements.  Digestive enzymes are critical for dogs susceptible to Pancreatitis.  Although I used a standard digestive enzyme product for Jenna; I would have used this one made by Standard Process specifically for dogs with pancreatic problems if I had known about it.  They have excellent products!
  • A good B-Complex is also highly recommended.  This one by Thorne Research should be good.  I’ve used their products many times over the years, but I have to admit that I’ve never used this on my pets.  Follow the instructions on the bottle based on your dog’s size.
  • Weight reduction should also be a consideration, which could mean that other dietary concerns need to be addressed. And as always, consult your holistic veterinarian for more information about diets and other treatment options for your pet.
  • Fish oil is good for fighting inflammation and aiding digestive problems, however, DO NOT FEED JUNK FISH OIL.  The oil you include should be guaranteed mercury and toxin free.  I’ve personally used products made my New Chapter and I highly recommend them for both you and your pet.  You can check out their B-complex yourself  right right here:
  • Dosage instructions: little dogs get 1 daily, medium sized dogs get 1 to 2 daily, larger dogs should get 2 a day

In our next article, we will address diet concerns in more detail.

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