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Pancreatitis in Dogs

Pancreatitis in dogs is one of those conditions that owners must be informed about before it strikes because the warning signs may not always be obvious at first and the symptoms might be mistaken for something less serious, yet it’s potentially life threatening.

Pancreatitis is inflammation and swelling of the pancreas. It can occur in a mild or severe form. The cause of spontaneous pancreatitis in dogs is not well understood. Dog taking corticosteroids are at increased risk. There is a higher incidence of pancreatitis in dogs with cushing’ssyndrome, diabetes mellitus hypothyroidism and idiopathic hyperlipemia. These diseases are associated with high serum lipid levels. Pancreatitis is also more prevalent in over-weight spayed females and dogs on high-fat diets. An attack may be triggered by eating table scraps or fatty meals.

The pancreas is responsible for releasing enzymes that aid in digestion. When the organ is working normally, the enzymes became active only when they reach the small intestine. In a dog with pancreatitis, however, the enzymes activate when they’re released, inflaming and causing damage to pancreases and its surrounding tissue and other organs.

Acute Pancreatitis

An acute attack of pancreatitis comes on suddenly with no previous appearance of the condition before. It can become life threating to other organs if the inflammation spreads.

Acute pancreatitis is characterised by the abrupt onset of vomiting and severe pain in the abdomen. The dog may have a tucked up belly and assume a prayer position. Abdominal pain is caused by the release of digestive enzymes into the pancreas and surrounding tissue. Diarrhea, dehydration, weakness and shock may ensue.

Chronic pancreatitis

A chronic condition is one that has developed over time, slowly, and often without symptoms. This condition can result from repeated bouts of acute pancreatitis.

Symptoms of pancreatitis

  • Hunched back
  • Repeated vomiting
  • Pain or distention of abdomen
  • Diarrhea
  • Loss of appetite
  • Dehydration
  • Weakness
  • Fever

Causes of pancreatitis

  • A high fat diet
  • This is major cause of pancreatitis especially for a dog who gets one large helping of fatty food in one sitting
  • Obesity
  • Hypothyroidism
  • Diabetes mellitus
  • Severe blunt trauma
  • Certain medication or other toxins that include cholinesterase inhibiters, calcium, potassium bromide, phenobarbital, estrogen, salicylates, azathioprine etc.

Treatment and management

There’s no fancy treatment for acute pancreatitis. First and foremost, your dog’s pain must be managed, and early intervention to prevent further complication is key. The most common treatment and management options are:

  • Intravenous fluid therapy in severe pancreatitis
  • Vigorous monitoring of worsening condition
  • Antiemetic medication for vomiting
  • Resting the pancreas (with holding food and water for 24 hours)

Long term management includes:

  • Vigilant monitoring of fat intake – no table scraps allowed.
  • Use of prescription diet of gastro intestinal supportive low fat food.
  • Feed smaller, more frequent meals instead of one large meal.
  • Have amylase and lipase checked by

Dr Sharad Singh Yadav is the Chairman of Advanced Pet Hospital & Research Centre which is open 24 hours throughout the year and located in Bishal Nagar, Kathmandu. He may be contacted on tel: 4422855 or email: aphktm@gmail.com