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) production of insulin that helps the body metabolize sugar and 2) produce enzymes to digest food. When the pancreas becomes inflamed by an excess growth of digestive fluids in the pancreas, it leads to a condition called pancreatitis. It can be sudden (acute) or happening over a course of time (chronic). Though pancreatitis can occur in both dogs and cats, it is a condition most common in dogs. In dogs it tends to be acute, whereas in cats it tends to be chronic. Often middle-aged (about 7) and elderly dogs are more prone to canine pancreatitis, with a higher likely hood found in female versus male dogs. Genetics also can play a role. Yorkshire terriers and miniature schnauzers are more often prone to have the condition.
The common symptoms of pancreatitis are abdominal pain, vomiting, decreased appetite, and or weakness. It is very painful, not to mention very serious and can be life threatening. Once you suspect that your pet may have pancreatitis, call your veterinary office and schedule an appointment. When you go in the veterinary assistant will take your petís vital signs (temperature, pulse, and respiration rate). The veterinarian will do a physical exam checking 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 liapase are elevated, it is a strong indication your pet 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.
To prevent future episodes it is important to feed your pet dog food that has a good source of protein and fat. The first ingredient should be real beef, chicken, lamb, or seafood. Avoid ingredients like meat-by-products, food coloring, and/or corn gluten. Also, avoid feeding table scraps. Pancreatitis is preventable with proper food nutrition and exercise.