Health series – Pancreatitis

This series on health conditions in dogs is aimed to increase awareness and to offer advice.  If you suspect that your dog may be ill, please seek professional advice from your vet.

What is Pancreatitis?
The pancreas is situated near the stomach and helps to digest food. It has two major functions:
* It secretes hormones, such as insulin, which helps to regulate blood glucose levels.
* It produces and stores digestive enzymes that are then released into the small intestine when needed to digest food.

Pancreatitis is the inflammation of the pancreas.  It is a relatively common condition in dogs and can occur suddenly as an acute disease, or as a more chronic, long lasting condition.

Signs and symptoms
The range of signs and symptoms vary from mild to severe and a dog with the condition may not have all the symptoms. Common signs seen in dogs with pancreatitis are vomiting, abdominal pain and loss of appetite. Other symptoms can include dehydration, fever, a lower body temperature, lethargy, diarrhoea and an irregular heartbeat. Dogs with abdominal pain may adopt a ‘praying’ position with the hind quarters in a standing position but with the head and front legs lowered to the ground in an effort to appease the pain and discomfort.  They may also be unable to settle and be restless. Acute episodes may resolve completely but in some cases, the inflammatory process continues causing long-term damage to the pancreas.  Unfortunately, in some cases, dogs may die from severe cases of pancreatitis.  If your pet shows any of the symptoms described, you should seek professional advice from your vet immediately.

Causes of pancreatitis
In many cases of pancreatitis the cause is unknown however there are factors which may increase the risk of the condition including scavenging and eating inappropriate food, eating food with a high fat content and obesity, amongst others.

Diagnosis of pancreatitis
Diagnosing pancreatitis can be very difficult as other conditions may have similar symptoms.  Vets may make a diagnosis based on symptoms, but they may also carry out a number of tests including blood tests, x-rays and ultrasounds.

The treatment of pancreatitis depends on the severity of the condition.  Milder cases may be easily managed at home with veterinary supervision, whereas more sever cases may require a stay in hospital with intensive treatment. Complications arising from severe cases can be fatal.

Some dogs with pancreatitis will recover and not have any other problems whereas other dogs will recover but have continual recurrent bouts of pancreatitis.  Unfortunately, on rare occasions, some dogs will develop conditions such as diabetes mellitus and exocrine pancreatic insufficiency (a condition which causes malabsorption of food) because of the damage caused to the pancreas.

On-going care and diet
Vets will usually recommend a low fat diet for dogs who have suffered a bout of pancreatitis and you should always consult your pet’s health care professional if you are considering a change in their food. Naturediet’s Feel Good Fish is low in fat and is also highly digestible.  Rich in omega 3 and made with sustainably sourced white fish, easily digestible rice and tasty carrots, this natural and low-fat meal is designed to provide all the essential vitamins and minerals needed for a healthy balanced and nutritious diet. It is advised that you don’t feed treats that are high in fat if your dog has the symptoms or is diagnosed with pancreatitis.  You should also not allow your dog to become overweight if your dog has had an episode of pancreatitis.