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Pancreatitis in Dogs - by Lexy Marcellus, (RVT) PDF Print E-mail
Written by Brian Adam   
Monday, 03 September 2012 08:08

The pancreas is a flat, thin organ located in the front of the abdomen, near the stomach.  It contains 2 major types of cells. One group (endocrine pancreas) produces hormones (insulin, glucagon) that regulates blood sugar, and the other (exocrine pancreas) produces digestive enzymes that are released into the intestines to break down food.

What is pancreatitis?  Pancreatitis is inflammation of the exocrine part of the pancreas. When it becomes inflamed, it is very painful & swollen, and can affect the stomach, small intestines and liver.  Swelling and irritation of the pancreas and other organs are responsible for most of the clinical signs seen.

Dogs most commonly develop acute (brief and severe) pancreatitis, but chronic (of having long duration) pancreatitis can occur and is more common in some breeds than in others.  In many cases, the cause is unknown, but eating foods that are unusual (such as human food and garbage) or that are high in fat, are known to increase the risk for acute pancreatitis. Other risk factors include obesity and the presence of diseases of the liver, small intestines, or adrenal glands. Occasionally pancreatitis can develop following abdominal trauma or surgery, or from tumors or certain infections near the pancreas.

Pancreatitis symptoms include: vomiting, dehydration, painful abdomen, lethargy & fever. While these signs are vague & can often be seen with other diseases, it's always best to consult your veterinary team at the first sign of trouble. Dogs with chronic pancreatitis usually have a poor appetite, and are lethargic.  Above-mentioned symptoms can occur especially during flare-ups.  It's also quite common for signs of chronic pancreatitis to come & go. Even if they're feeling better, the pancreas can still be inflamed. If the inflammation persists, it can cause them to develop further issues with the pancreas and other organs.

What kind of testing is recommended?  Your Vet may suggest a couple of tests to rule out other diseases, and offer the best course of action. Bloodwork will show if there are any signs of anemia (low red blood cells), infection (elevation of white blood cells), and to ensure proper clotting. Other tests may include: Liver and kidney function, hydration status, blood sugar, and an overall look at their organs. Some are able to run with their tests in-house, others will send them out. One specific such test is called: pancreatic lipase immunoreactivity (SpecLipase) to assess the function of the pancreas. X-rays and ultrasound will rule out foreign bodies and confirm the pancreas is inflamed.

Dogs with acute pancreatitis often require hospitalization for fluid therapy, medications of pain and vomiting and other supportive treatments. Food and water are initially withheld to allow the pancreas to heal. A feeding tube may be recommended in some dogs. Severe acute pancreatitis can be life-threatening and can rapidly deteriorate if not treated promptly.

Chronic pancreatitis can normally be treated as an out-patient and not require hospitalization; however, those with severe bouts may need to be hospitalized for intravenous fluids. With chronic pancreatitis, staff may look at other abdominal diseases that can affect the pancreas and make treatment more manageable.

Will your dog recover?  The prognosis depends on the extent of the disease, and a favorable response to initial therapy. Dogs that present with shock and depression have a very guarded prognosis. Most with a mild form have a good prognosis.  It may help to keep your dog on a low fat diet, that's easily digested and especially made for the gastro-intestinal.  Such a diet will help keep the pancreas happy.  And best of all?   Most dogs will bounce back from this disease with no long-term effects!heartLexy


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