Even if your dog doesn’t normally eat a high-fat diet, the introduction of a large amount of fatty food all at once can cause acute pancreatitis. … The most common symptoms of acute pancreatitis in dogs are loss of appetite, vomiting, and abdominal pain. Other symptoms you may notice include: Swollen abdomen.
The pancreas is a gland located in your dogs abdominal cavity that consists of cells arranged into small sections, or lobules. These cells produce a number of digestive enzymes, which are moved from ‘storage’ in the lobules via two excretory ducts into the intestine where they function in digestion.
Acute pancreatitis refers to a sudden onset of disease, while chronic pancreatitis is when it develops slowly and may linger for weeks or months. Chronic pancreatitis can also refer to recurrent bouts of acute pancreatitis. Despite acute pancreatitis usually being more severe, the symptoms can sometimes be mild, and chronic pancreatitis can sometimes be severe. Acute pancreatitis usually responds well and quickly to aggressive supportive treatments, while chronic pancreatitis tends to result in longer standing inflammation, and other irreversible changes such as fibrosis or atrophy.
While many of the signs of pancreatitis can be common to other illnesses, it is important to seek veterinary attention if you notice any of the following:
- Hunching their back
- Loss of appetite
- Pain or distension in their belly – this may appear as discomfort or bloating in the abdomen
What causes pancreatitis
While a high fat diet is a common cause (including the sudden introduction of high fat foods), pancreatitis may also be caused by:
- Endocrine diseases, including hypothyroidism
- Genetics – Schnauzers, for example, have a higher likelihood of developing the condition
- Severe blunt trauma
- Some medications or other toxins including cholinesterase inhibitors, calcium, potassium bromide, phenobarbital, l-asparaginase, oestrogen, salicylates, azathioprine and thiazide diuretics.
How is it diagnosed?
Your vet will ask for your dog’s medical history and ask about their dietary habits. As well as a physical examination of their belly, gums, hydration, heart and temperature, they will usually conduct blood tests to measure pancreatic enzymes and assess hydration. They may also rule out other causes with an abdominal ultrasound.
Treating pancreatitis in dogs
Treating pancreatitis is about managing your pet’s pain, improving hydration and avoiding triggers. Depending on the severity, your vet may:
- Administer IV fluid therapy
- Give medicine to stop vomiting
- Give pain medication
- Recommend a 24-hour food fast to rest the pancreas
- Administer antibiotics if infection is suspected
To prevent further attacks, your vet will talk to you about providing a pancreas friendly diet – this will mean a low fat, high quality dog food, and no scraps from the table. If your dog has a predilection for scavenging their own treats, your vet will recommend strategies to keep them away from dangerous nibblies.
Some vets recommend digestive enzyme supplements which may work to reduce the work of the pancreas and inhibit pancreatic secretion. Despite its high fat content, some studies suggest a high level of fish oil may be helpful to reduce inflammation, but you should always chat to your vet before providing any supplements.
Is it fatal for dogs?
The short answer is yes, it can be if left untreated. However, by chatting to your vet, following their treatment protocol to the tee and ensuring your dog consumes a healthy, high quality low-fat diet with limited human or other high fat treats, you can reduce the risks.