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Dogs and Pancreatitis | A serious illness!

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In order to understand some medical issues that our dogs face in their lives, we need to ensure we are aware of what to be on the look out for.  Dogs are capable of getting many of the same illnesses that humans get, and yet we don’t always realize what they are.Dogs and Pancreatitis

When it comes to life threatening serious illness that can affect our dogs I want to know as much as possible so hopefully I can catch the warning signs early enough.

Our dog BOO first was diagnosed with pancreatitis when he was about 8-9 years old.

The first reaction we had was, what is the story with dogs and pancreatitis.   I had never even heard about a dog getting pancreatitis before.   If I didn’t know what it is was, how the heck could we catch it early.

What is pancreatitis?

To understand what pancreatitis is, we need to think about a dogs digestive system.  The pancreas is a very important part of dogs endocrine system that plays an integral part in digesting food.

The pancreas is responsible for producing the enzymes that help digest food and produces insulin in the body. Insulin helps regulate the body’s blood sugar or glucose metabolism.

When there is a disruption in this process of the flow of enzymes, the pancreas becomes inflamed and this is called pancreatitis.   This flow of enzymes is forced out of the pancreas and into the abdomen.

By the time this happens, the enzymes that are forced into the abdomen start to actually break down the fat in other organs.   So effectively the body is in disarray and starts to digest itself.  Close to the pancreas is the liver and kidney so when the enzymes are out of sync the entire abdomen can be inflamed.   This can also cause an infection within the abdomen.   At this point there can bleeding within the abdomen which can lead to shock and even death.

Once there is inflammation in the pancreas it can rapidly progress.   If not caught early there can be severe damage to the organ.   However if we are able to recognize the early symptoms it can be treated without having long term damage.

On the flip side of that if it is not caught early it can even cause brain damage.

There are two kinds of pancreatitis, acute or chronic.   Acute means a sudden onset of symptoms with no previous history of pancreatitis.   Chronic pancreatitis comes on very slowly.

pancreatitis

Early symptoms.

Early detection is the key to avoiding any long term effects from pancreatitis.   Some symptoms to be on the look out for are when your dog is experiencing a mild case of pancreatitis are:  loss of appetite, lethargy, uncomfortable abdomen and diarrhea.

When there is an attack of the pancreas that is severe your dog may lift up his hind end, put their head and front paws down.   Other symptoms that your dog may encounter are:

Fever, depression, vomiting, increased heart rate, fatigue, trouble breathing, mild to severe abdomen pain, dehydration, sepsis and even anorexia.

There is no certain dog breed, age or sex that has a predisposition for pancreatitis but smaller breeds seem to be more likely to get pancreatitis.


Causes.

Now that we know what it is and the signs to watch out for, what causes pancreatitis?

Well to be honest, there is not just one cause that you can point to and say this and only this is the cause.   Now in saying that, there are red flags of a few things that can have a direct cause.

A dog that eats a lot of table scraps, a high-fat diet or is obese can actually cause pancreatitis.   Even giving a dog one meal of a very fatty content all at once can cause an attack.   Dogs are not equipped to handle extremely fatty binge type eating.   This would be an example of an acute pancreatitis as it comes on quickly and without warning.

There is also certain medical conditions like hypothyroidism which is an excessive adrenal gland disease like cushing’s disease that can cause pancreatitis.   Severe trauma, surgery, diabetes and even certain drugs can also cause this.

In BOO’s case the first time he had pancreatitis we never did find the real cause, he did however have two more occurrences in his life.   Those two were caused by the fact that he was diagnosed with cushings disease.

As we know a cushing’s diagnosis can be one of the major causes of a serious pancreatitis attack.

BOO pancreatitis

Diagnosis.

When you take your dog to the vet with concerns about your dog, the first thing that they will do is take your dog’s history if they don’t already know it.

They will do a physical exam of your dog and will check your dogs abdomen for discomfort or swelling.  They will then run some blood tests to test for the presence of pancreatic enzymes.   An increase in white blood cells and elevated pancreatic enzymes can really help lead them to a diagnosis.   Looking at the liver can also be an indication of a serious pancreatic problem.

Some other tests that they may want to do are x-ray’s and even do an ultrasound.   Even doing a biopsy of the pancreas is something that may lead to helping with the diagnosis.

Our first situation with BOO were luckily on the milder side and were diagnosed by a blood test, x-ray and ultrasound.   These few tests were able to give us his diagnosis.

dog iv

Treatment.

When the Vet gives you the diagnosis of pancreatitis, they will start treatment right away.   Depending on the severity of the pancreatitis there maybe some variation in the best treatment that your dog will need.   In really severe cases your dog will have to stay in the hospital to make sure that your dog requires 24 hour medical care.

One thing that the Vet may want to do is give your dog IV fluids to help with the dehydration that your dog is likely suffering from.  Giving your dog medication to help stop the vomiting and relieve the nausea.

If the pancreatitis is less severe, your dog will still likely require medication to help with the nausea or vomiting.  Restricting the amount of food and water that your dog has will depend on how bad the vomiting is.

Extremely severe pancreatitis can occur if there is a blockage in the pancreas that is causing the inflammation, an accumulation of fluids or if part of it has been damaged beyond repair.  Surgery will be needed to fix any of these serious issues.dog surgery

For the less severe cases, once the medication for the vomiting has started doing its job, food maybe slowly introduced.  Your Vet will likely change the food that you were feeding your dog prior to the attack and switch to low-fat food as well as low-fat treats.

Your Vet will also most likely prescribe an antibiotic to help protect your dog from getting an infection in the abdomen.

Keeping your dog hydrated is also something that is very important in your dogs life moving forward.   Regular visits to your Vet maybe required to help make sure your dog is on the right path.

BOO’s treatment by the Vet was to put him on Medicam for the nausea and vomiting.   He also was prescribed an antibiotic pill to ensure that he didn’t develop an infection from the pancreatitis.

There was also a very important change that we had to make was to switch him to a very low-fat diet and literally limited any treats whatsoever for a while at least.   When we did go back to giving him treats it was things like a small piece of cucumber, or a piece of tomato.  Things that are healthy for them to have.

Preventing a reccurance.

A dog that has had pancreatitis before has an extreme likely hood that they will encounter it again in their lifetime.  These recurring episodes can be mild to very severe.

There are some tips that can help you to ensure you can help prevent another pancreatitis attack or episode.  Ensuring your dog eats a low-fat diet with little to no treats.   Do not feed your dog table scraps at anytime if they have had a pancreatitis attack or episode.

dog eating carrot

Switching to smaller meals more frequently can also help.   I know for BOO we switched to the smaller more frequent meals and it really was super successful.

If the cause of your dogs pancreatitis is due to their weight, then the most important thing would be help your dog lose the excess weight.  Regular exercise will be a key element to the weight loss.  Make sure that you don’t overdo it with your dog all at once, make the changes slow and steady.  Overall keep your dog as healthy as you can.

The good thing about all these valuable tips that can help your dog from having another pancreatic attack is they are simple things that will really help protect your dog.

Watching the food that they eat, how much they drink and making sure they get enough exercise, are things that we should be doing everyday for our dogs anyway.

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20 Comments

  1. First of all, I wanted to tell you that Boo is adorable. Ironically, a lady where I work had a dog that was just diagnosed with pancreatitis. Sadly, they ended up having to put the dog to sleep. Their dog was 10 years old. Is this more common in older dogs or can it happen at any age? Thank you so much for this awesome information. I have a three year old lab and I try to keep her on a healthy diet. Just curious, do you know which dog food are the healthiest? Thanks again for this great article!

    • Hi Bonnie, 

      Thank you so much for your comments. Boo sure was an adorable puppy. Sadly he has now passed away about 3 weeks ago. It sure is heartbreaking. Pancreatitis can happen at any age unfortunately.  A friend of mine just lost her little dog suddenly due to giving the dog a steak bone. The bone brought on severe pancreatitis and she died. 

      It is so important for me to let dog owners know how dangerous this can be and how quickly it can happen. 

      For food for our dogs, we due to allergies had to buy Vet dog food Royal Canine kangaroo actually.

      I really appreciate your feedback on my post.  Thank you.

      Coralie 

  2. Wow, didn’t know that dogs can also come up with such similar illnesses as we humans too. I didn’t know that dogs are capable of getting obese. I didn’t know that we need to watch what out dogs eat or drink. I can really learn from your own experience. This is very good and I have learnt from it honestly. I have a little dog and I think this has taught me how to deal with my dogs diet too. I will take him on some more walks that I did in the past and watch what he eats too. Thank you

    • Hi Henderson,

      Yes sadly dogs can become obese, from overfeeding and lack of exercise.  I have never had an overweight dog, but I do know people that have dogs that are.  It is very difficult to see a dog struggle to hold themselves up on their own legs.

      I am glad that you were able to learn something about your dog from my post.  That is my goal with my website is to help fellow dog owners.  They are so precious to us and it is our job to make sure they live their best and longest life.

      Thank you for your comments.

      Coralie 

  3. This is an excellent resource. I didn’t know dogs can get pancreatitis. You’ve provided thorough information for dog owners to help them if their dog becomes ill. Trying to diagnose a dog is hard because, unlike children, they can’t tell you what’s wrong or how they feel. It’s important to look for these symptoms so we can help our dogs! Thank you! Your dog is so cute!! Have you had other dogs get pancreatitis?

    • Hi Rebecca,

      Thank you for your very sweet comments on my dog and my post. LOL! I didn’t find out about pancreatitis either until are boy BOO got it the first time.

      Dogs are so tricky to even try to diagnose like you said.  All of a sudden just like that they are sick.  I have never had another dog that had pancreatitis before BOO.

      But I have heard of many other dog owners that have also encountered this tough disease, so I wanted to share what I know in hopes of helping.

      Coralie 

  4. This is a very serious illness for dogs. I did not know that a dog can suffer so much. Until my dog was affected. I am very glad that I found your blog, you have explained it so well, my big Rocky is sick right now and all I could do is watch her suffer, we go for treatment to the vet every day (it has been 3 days). But she is still weak, I guess when she will gain more strength, we will exercise more. The reduction of the meal portion is really helping but because she is not used to it now, she is still weak.

    Thanks

    • Hi Adyns68,

      Thank you for sharing your dog Rocky’s story.  I am so sorry to hear about him being sick with pancreatitis.  She sounds like she is in good hands and I am sending positive vibes your way.

      It does take them awhile to bounce back, but keep thinking positive. My boy BOO had 3 different bouts with it in his lifetime and he lived to almost 16 years old.  So Rocky has a great chance of getting past this.

      I am glad that you found my post helpful.

      Thank you

      Coralie 

  5. Hi Coralie, I just got my puppy so I am interested in all the information I can get about raising a healthy happy dog. You are so right. I hardly think of dogs having the ailments and diseases that humans have. It seems to me that if not diagnosed early these symptoms will cause us to end up with no dog at all. I am grateful for the description of the course of treatment and the symptoms to look for. Now I know more. Thank you

    • Hi JJ,

      It is so exciting that you just got a new puppy.  They are just so much fun.  HAHA, but also a ton of work, so I wish you the best of luck.  Just remember the puppy stage doesn’t last that long.

      Yes you are right that catching pancreatitis early is the key.  Making sure that we always try to feed them the best possible food that we can and watch for any early signs or issues.

      I am sure your puppy will be happy and healthy for a long time. Enjoy the puppy stage.

      Thank you so much for sharing your story with me.

      Coralie 

  6. Detailed information you have provided up here concerning  pancreatitis and how it affects the body health of our dogs. My dog was recently diagnosed to have pancreatitis and I was actually very sad and down that I might lose him to it but luckily for me, the vet told me about the possibilities of being treated and how to approach the treatment. Well, luckily for us, he is healing well and responding well to treatments. He was even placed on supplements to help him maintain his health. Thanks so much for this article.

    • Hi Roland,

      I am so sorry to hear about your dog and his pancreatitis scare.  It is great news that he is on the mend and healing well.

      Supplements sounds like a great idea to help maintain his as a healthy dog. Thank you so much for sharing your story about your dog.   I am so glad that you found my post helpful.  I wish you the best of luck with your boy.

      Give him lots of hugs.

      Coralie

  7. Hi, I am not a “doggy” person, but we do have dogs in the wider family, and I do like to have them around. I now that people do worry about the heath of their dogs, and your site is fulfilling a need for people who are concerned that their pet might be ill. Your explanation of symptoms is concise without being too technical for the lay reader. All in all a great job. Robert

    • Hello Robert,

      Thank you for your wonderful comments on my post.  I am so glad that my explanation was easy to read and understand.  I really want to help all dog owners to provide them with any information that I can. 

      Education is the key to making sure that we try to be aware of things we may have never heard of. 

      Thank you

      Coralie

  8. Pancreatitis is very dangerous as a illness to the body health of our dogs and if neglected, can actually lead to the death of our dogs. I have a neighbour who lost her dog to this illness. Hence, I decided to read more about it and try to maintain personal hygiene with my dog. Thankfully, you have provided more than enough information on the illness and how best to approach the treatment for our dogs if they were ever diagnosed with it. Great post

    • Hi RoDarrick,

      I am really glad that you found my post informative and helpful. There are many people that sadly encounter this disease with their dog.  The outcome isn’t always the same for ever dog.  My boy BOO survived 3 bouts of pancreatitis and did live to be almost 16 years old.

      Learning what we can do as dog owners to do our best to keep them healthy is very important.

      Thank you for sharing.

      Coralie 

  9. Hello Coralie. This does not sound like a very pleasant disease for a pet.This information will help owners to know what to look for. My daughter recently lost her big St. Bernard to a flipped stomach (Gastric Dilatation). I had never heard this term before. By the time they realized something was wrong, it was too late. Education is important as it is hard to know if your pet is just having an off day and not eating well or if it has something much more serious or life-threatening. 

    Thank you for this information.

    • Hi Mary Ann thanks for sharing your daughters story about her St. Bernard. I am so sorry.  It is so hard when our dogs get sick so quick and because we don’t know what signs to watch for we find out to late. 

      You are so right about education and I am dedicated to helping dog owners learn as much as possible. Thank you.

      Coralie 

  10. My dog is suffering a bout of pancreatitis right now. I have been feeding him home cooked food of beef, turkey, chicken livers and chicken hearts/gizzards. Do you think that could have caused this incident? He is a mini poodle/mini schnauzer mix 12 years old

    • Hi Sue,
      I am so sorry to hear about your dog suffering with pancreatitis. It can be a tough battle to go through. I do know that what we feed them certainly can play a huge issue in your dog having a bout of pancreatitis. Foods that are rich, and high in protein can certainly be a cause. Anytime my dog had a flare up his food was always the first thing that the Vet recommended we change. He eventually ended up eating a low fat soft food and then we never had another issue with him.
      I hope this information helps you. I wish you the best of luck.
      Thank you for sharing your comments on my post.
      Coralie

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