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My dog has pancreatitis!?

That wonderful time of year is approaching again! In between shopping and pumpkin spice lattes, we will be eating (and eating, and eating). What better time than now to talk about what can happen when our furry family members overindulge as well and develop pancreatitis?

What is pancreatitis?

Technically, pancreatitis means inflammation of the pancreas. The pancreas is the organ that sits between the stomach and the intestines and is responsible for making insulin as well as enzymes to help digestion. When it becomes inflamed, it releases these enzymes in large amounts which causes irritation to the lining of the intestine and leads to the symptoms you will see at home.

What causes pancreatitis?

Pancreatitis can occur secondary to a number of things: infection, trauma, metabolic disorders, etc. It sometimes even happens without there being an obvious cause. One of the more common reasons for pancreatitis that we see however, is when a pet has eaten something out of the ordinary, especially if it is something that is high in fat. For example, the dog got into the trash or ate a bunch of people food that he is not used to eating.

What are the signs of pancreatitis?

The most common sign will be vomiting. Your dog may also have diarrhea, lose their appetite, or act very mopey. Pancreatitis can also be very painful and dogs with abdominal pain may pace, be reluctant to lie down, whine, or put their front legs down with their rear end up (“praying posture”). If you see ANY of these signs, you should take your dog to your veterinarian.

How is pancreatitis treated?

Most often, because of the vomiting and diarrhea, dogs with pancreatitis are dehydrated so one of the mainstays of treatment will be give them intravenous (IV) fluids to help rehydrate them. Your veterinarian can also give injections of anti-nausea medication to alleviate the vomiting and pain medication to make them more comfortable. Your veterinarian may also recommend fasting your dog for 12 to 24 hours, until the vomiting is under control. In mild cases of pancreatitis, this may be all that is needed. Dogs with more severe signs, may require more aggressive treatments and longer hospital stays. In rare cases, pancreatitis can be so severe that it leads to death.

How can you decrease the risk of pancreatitis in your dog?

This is where you come in. Keep all those yummy holiday treats away from your dog and make sure the trash can is somewhere safe too. If you feel the need to share in the holiday spirit with your dog (and we know you do), be sure to only offer low fat options and in small amounts. For example, a small piece of turkey breast without the skin. Dogs that have had a history of pancreatitis in the past should only be fed a low-fat, easily digestible diet.

A few simple precautions will help keep you and your pet out of the vet’s office this holiday season!

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Sugar Land Team