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- Pancreatitis in Dogs: Cause, Symptoms & Treatment
The pancreas is a very important organ, vital not only for digestion (it produces pancreatic enzymes) but also for metabolism. Apparently, 64.4% of dogs present histologic evidence of pancreatic inflammation which means pancreatitis is one of the most common disease in dogs. Unfortunately, pancreatities leads to death so timely and accurate diagnosis is essential.
Causes of Pancreatitis
Pancreatitis appears in adult dogs, females having a higher incidence. Usually, the exact causes are very hard to determine but here are some factors that might be responsible for this disease:
- Hyperlipidemia (high fat content in blood) & Hypercalcemia (high amounts of calcium in blood) as well as other metabolic disorders.
- Certain drugs and toxins – i.e. some types of diuretics, antibiotics.
- Concurrent disease like Cushing’s syndrome, Diabetes Mellitus, hypothyroidism, and idiopathic hyperlipemia (a disease of Miniature Schnauzers).
- Contaminated food or water
- Bacterial or viral infections
- Inappropriate diet – high in fats (so beware of feeding your dog table scraps or greasy people food)
Schnauzers and Yorkies appear to be more prone to pancreatitis than other breeds.
Clinical signs of pancratitis include vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain, and fever. Acute pancreatitis is characterized by the abrupt onset of vomiting and severe pain in the abdomen. Acute pancreatitis can also lead to severe dehydration and may progress to hypovolemic shock (tachycardia and weak peripheral pulses).
Considering the fact that all the mentioned symptoms can point towards several disorders, diagnosing pancreatitis can often prove to be challenging. There are certain ways of determining pancreatitis in dogs among which: blood tests showing elevated amylase and/or lipase levels; a new serum test called canine pancreatitis lipase immuninol reactivity; TAP (trypsinogen activation peptide); abdominal ultrasonography which may reveal an enlarged and swollen pancreas; radiography (x-rays).
Acute pancreatitis (fulminant necrotizing pancreatitis) may lead to attacks, shock and death in a matter of hours. A pancreatitis attack may leave the pancreas permanently damaged and your dog can get prone to other diseases such as diabetes mellitus or exocrine pancreatic insufficiency .
The first and probably most important step in treating pancreatitis is withholding the food, water and medication for at least 24 hours. Why is this important? The pancreas needs to rest and stop producing digestive enzymes. Maintaining fluid and electrolyte balance can be done with intravenous saline solutions. Depending on the dog’s response, a special, low-fat diet can be started in the next few days. Acute pancreatitis is usually treated through hospitalization until the dog overcomes the shock and dehydration.
Dogs which do not respond to medical treatment may require surgery to drain an infected pancreas. Dogs which recover from pancreatitis are susceptible to recurrent attacks, which can be mild or severe. These episodes can be prevented by eliminating predisposing factors like high-fat diets, large meals, table scraps. As the diet is very important for your dog’s health, I would recommend feeding a fat-restricted diet, 3-4 meals per day, small portions, along with a proper exercise program.
Dog Training Tip #1