Canine Pancreatitis Overview
The pancreas is a V-shaped organ located behind the stomach and the first section of the small intestine. It has two main functions: 1) produce insulin to help the body metabolize sugar and 2) produce enzymes to digest food. When the pancreas becomes inflamed from an excess growth of digestive fluids, it leads to a condition called pancreatitis.
Pancreatitis can occur suddenly (acute) or over a course of time (chronic). Middle-aged (about seven years old) and elderly dogs are more prone to canine pancreatitis with female dogs having a higher likelihood of obtaining it than male dogs. Genetics can also play a role. Yorkshire Terriers and Miniature Schnauzers are more often prone to have the condition.
Symptoms of Pancreatitis in Dogs
The common symptoms of pancreatitis are abdominal pain, vomiting, decreased appetite and/or weakness. Pancreatitis is very painful and not to mention serious and can be life-threatening. If you suspect your dog has pancreatitis, call your veterinary office and schedule an appointment.
When you go in, the veterinary assistant will take your dog’s vital signs (temperature, pulse, and respiration rate). The veterinarian will do a physical exam to check for abdominal tenderness/soreness. Next, the doctor will recommend running a thorough blood test that will measure levels of enzymes in the pancreas. If the two pancreatic enzymes, amylase and lipase, are elevated, it’s a strong indication your dog has pancreatitis. To further confirm the diagnosis, X-rays and an ultrasound may be done as well.
Once the diagnosis is confirmed, the doctor will recommend hospitalization. Allowing the pancreas to heal on its own is the key factor, which means no food or water by mouth for 24-72 hours. Oral fluids are given to prevent dehydration and flush out toxins. Medications are given for pain management and to reduce diarrhea and vomiting.
How to Prevent Pancreatitis
To prevent future episodes of pancreatitis, it’s important to feed your dog food that is a good source of protein and fat. The first ingredient should be real beef, chicken, lamb or seafood. Avoid ingredients like meat byproducts, food coloring and/or corn gluten. Also, avoid feeding table scraps. Pancreatitis is preventable with proper food nutrition and exercise.
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