Symptoms Of Pancreatitis In Dogs
Not all symptoms of dog pancreatitis may make the condition obviously apparent. Pet owners may notice a difference in how their pets are acting, but may not immediately associate it with an inflamed pancreas. Dogs with pancreatitis may seem more tired than usual, slower moving, or not as hungry. On the surface, this doesnt cause rise for immediate alarm, but over time, these are symptoms which you should monitor.
For active dogs who have a habit of eating things they shouldnt, some of the signs of pancreatitis in dogs might seem more normal than others. For example, if your dog has eaten something out of the trash can, it may not sit well with his stomach, and he may experience vomiting or diarrhea on a one-time basis. However, if these symptoms linger for more than a few days or seem more severe, its always a good idea to err on the side of safety and get your pet checked out.
Any sudden changes in your pets health is always a clue that something may not be right. If you think your dog may be suffering from pancreatitis, watch out for the following symptoms:
- Hunched back
- Abdominal Pain
When you take your pet in for a checkup, the veterinarian will perform a physical exam, run blood tests to measure pancreatic enzymes, and possibly conduct an ultrasound to rule out other diagnoses. Make sure your dogs most updated medical history is on file.
The Role Of The Pancreas
The pancreas is a critically important organ in your dogs body and is located close to the stomach. It has two major functions, which veterinarians label as endocrine and exocrine.
The endocrine function of the pancreas is the production of hormones that are secreted into the blood to control blood sugar, like insulin and glucagon.
Additionally, the pancreas has a vital exocrine role that is directly related to its location in the body. The pancreas is positioned in the dogs abdomen adjacent to the first part of the small intestines, close to the stomach and liver. The pancreas releases important digestive enzymes into the duodenum in a non-active form when your dog eats a meal. The digestive enzymes become activated in the small intestines and start to digest food.
In the case of pancreatitis, the enzymes become activated inside of the pancreas instead of inside the small intestines. It sounds like something out of an alien movie, but in a nutshell, the pancreas begins to digest itself. As you can imagine this is terribly serious and painful. On top of that, the damaged pancreas also leaks the activated enzymes into the abdomen. This causes serious injury to other internal organs such as the liver and kidneys.
What Are The Causes Of Pancreatitis In The Dog
Most of the time we dont ever determine a cause. Genetics likely plays a role, and we do know that certain breeds like Miniature Schnauzers are at higher risk. One classic cause is having a sudden high-fat meal. Diseases that alter fat metabolism in the body can also increase the risk. Those diseases include obesity, diabetes, and hypothyroidism. High calcium blood levels can also increase the risk that pancreatic enzymes are activated inside the pancreas. Certain drugs can predispose a dog to pancreatitis including certain antibiotics, chemotherapy drugs like L-asparaginase, and a seizure medicine called potassium bromide.
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Pancreatitis In Dogs: Prevention Management And Misconceptions
- Early diagnosis and treatment are the key to a smooth recovery in mild cases of pancreatitis and can help prevent symptoms from progressing into a life-threatening condition.
- Older and overweight dogs, and dogs of certain breeds, have a higher risk for developing pancreatitis.
- Two BIG things you can do to ward off pancreatitis: prevent dietary indiscretion and maintain an ideal body weight.
At some point, every dog owner will witness their pup suffer a bout of vomiting or diarrhea. Very often, if they dont last longer than a day, these episodes are nothing to worry about. But sometimes, vomiting, diarrhea, lack of appetite, and lethargy can be signs of potentially serious conditionslike pancreatitis.
The term pancreatitis refers to inflammation of the pancreas. While the pancreas may fly under the radar, it plays an important role in your dogs health, and when its inflamed, it can be quite painful for your dog and in some cases lead to serious complications.
Unfortunately, this condition has been historically misunderstood, which means sometimes dog owners may not be identifying the true cause of the problem, and may miss the signs that could lead to early diagnosis and life-saving treatment. Here, well cover what you need to know about canine pancreatitis including causes, symptoms, and treatment options so you have the information you need to be an advocate for your pets health.
Understanding pancreatitis in dogs
Signs of pancreatitis
- Lack of appetite
Nutritional Management Of Pancreatitis In Dogs
Historically, it has been advocated to rest the pancreas during bouts of acute pancreatitis by withholding enteral nutrition to avoid stimulation of the exocrine pancreas and the risk for continued premature zymogen activation.3-6 Supporting evidence for this practice is minimal, and several studies challenge it.6 Evidence is mounting that early enteral nutrition improves clinical outcomes in systemically ill patients.3,4,7,8 Specifically, early enteral nutrition has been shown to decrease ileus and inflammation, stimulate intestinal mucosal regeneration and mucosal blood flow, decrease protein catabolism, and prevent protein-energy malnutrition.4,6,9 A recent retrospective study of 34 dogs with acute pancreatitis concluded that early enteral nutrition had a positive effect on return to voluntary food intake, was associated with less gastrointestinal intolerance, and should be considered as part of medical management.4
Imposed anorexia may be counterproductive to overall gastrointestinal health, as avoidance of enteral nutrition has been correlated with increased gastrointestinal permeability, bacterial or endotoxin translocation, and immunosuppression.3,6,10 Increased metabolic demands, protein catabolism, and bacterial translocation associated with pancreatitis itself may lead to systemic inflammatory response syndrome .10
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How Can A Dog Owner Recognize Dog Pancreatitis
Clinical signs associated with pancreatitis, unfortunately, overlap many other conditions that affect the GI tract. The two biggest things that might be observed are vomiting and loss of appetite. They might also notice abdominal pain which can be a bit hard for the owner to perceive. Pain can manifest as their dog becoming quieter, reclusive or more lethargic. Diarrhea is also possible.
Analgesia For Dogs With Pancreatitis
Dogs with pancreatitis have local and visceral pain. Pain scoring systems are routinely used to assess the severity of pain and determine analgesic plans however, analgesic agents have not been evaluated in dogs with acute pancreatitis.1
At the authors institution, a multifaceted, individualized approach to analgesia is based on the patients level of pain as determined by the use of behavioral and physiologic pain scoring systems.2 The initial choice of analgesic agent is an opioid . Then, depending on the severity of pain, an NMDA antagonist and/or a local anesthetic agent may be added adjunctively as intravenous constant-rate infusions.
Ketamine is the first choice when animals continue to be subjectively unsettled or look uncomfortable after opioid administration. Signs of continued pain may include vocalization/crying, failure to respond or interact with people, and guarding, vocalizing, or pulling away when the abdomen is palpated. Ketamine plays a role in reduction of central sensitization and may help reduce nociception from intra-abdominal organs and visceral peritoneum.1
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Will There Be Any Long
“Most dogs recover without any long-term consequences.”
Most dogs recover without any long-term consequences. However, with severe or repeated episodes of pancreatitis, one or more of the following problems may develop:
- If a significant number of cells that produce digestive enzymes are destroyed, a lack of proper food digestion may follow. This is known as exocrine pancreatic insufficiency and can be treated with daily administration of an enzyme replacement powder.
- If a significant number of cells that produce insulin are destroyed, diabetes mellitus can result.
- In rare cases, painful adhesions between the abdominal organs may occur as a consequence of pancreatitis.
Dogs with chronic pancreatitis are more likely to develop the secondary conditions listed above. Management of these conditions is a very important factor in treatment success.
|Contributors: Ernest Ward, DVM Updated by Amy Panning, DVM
Dog Pancreatitis: Symptoms And What To Do
By Dr. John De Biasio, DVM, DACVIM | Internal Medicine and Minimally Invasive Surgery
The pancreas is a small organ that aids digestion by releasing enzymes. When a dogs pancreas becomes inflamed it can cause a variety of health problems ranging from nausea to loss of appetite to diarrhea and in rare and extreme cases, death. It can be hard for owners to recognize pancreatitis and only a veterinarian can confirm and prescribe medication to alleviate symptoms. We spoke to internal medicine specialist Dr. John DeBlasio about what signals may indicate that your dog has pancreatitis and what to do in that situation.
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Signs That Your Dog May Have Pancreatitis
As previously mentioned, the physical signs of pancreatitis in dogs can be difficult to catch and are often mistaken for less serious health concerns. Paying close attention to any potential symptoms of pancreatitis will help your veterinarian best diagnose your pup and determine a course of action.
What Are The Signs Of Pancreatitis
Signs of pancreatitis are mostly shown in the gastrointestinal tract, and most dogs with acute pancreatitis will experience pain in their abdomen. Dogs with chronic pancreatitis may not have abdominal pain. Additional signs of pancreatitis include:
- Loss of energy
In severe cases of pancreatitis, dogs may have difficulty breathing, bleeding disorders, and collapse due to abnormal heart rhythms. Severe pancreatitis can be lethal if not treated. If you suspect your dog might have pancreatitis, call your local or emergency veterinarian immediately.
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Are Certain Breeds More Likely To Develop Pancreatitis
Yes, certain dogs are more predisposed to certain illnesses. In the case of pancreatitis, there are a few breeds that are more likely to develop pancreatitis. This includes the miniature schnauzer, English cocker spaniel, and a few other small terrier breeds. These dogs have certain genetic make-ups that make them more likely to have immune system disorders such as pancreatitis. However, any breed can get pancreatitis.
What Are The Risk Factors For Pancreatitis In Dogs
Some dogs are at greater risk for developing pancreatitis. Some of these risk factors are:
- Genetic predisposition some breeds such as Cocker Spaniels, Miniature Poodles, and Miniature Schnauzers have a higher likelihood of experiencing pancreatitis
- High triglyceride count fat in the blood that can be measured by routine bloodwork
- Hyperadrenocorticism also known as Cushings disease, or overactive adrenal glands
- Age middle-aged and older dogs are more likely to fall victim to this disease
- History of pancreatitis a dog that has experienced it before is at higher risk for experiencing it again
If your dog has a high triglyceride count or Cushings disease, then managing it will be important because these are the things that can be improved. You wont be able to change the breed or age of your dog, but being aware that they put your pet in a higher risk category will give you an advantage if you do notice signs of pancreatitis.
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What The Pancreas Does
The pancreas is a solid glandular organ located in the right upper part of the abdomen. Its tucked in along the duodenum , under the stomach. Its near the liver and the transverse colon.
The pancreas has both exocrine and endocrine functions. As an exocrine gland, it secretes its products through a duct system. Its endocrine cells secrete hormones into the bloodstream to travel throughout the body.
The Exocrine Pancreas: When your dog eats, the exocrine pancreas releases both bicarbonate and digestive enzymes. They go into ducts that flow to the duodenum. Bicarbonate neutralizes the highly acidic stomach contents as they move into the intestines. Then the digestive enzymes get to work breaking down the food so the body can absorb and use it.
The Endocrine PancreasThe pancreas is also a vital endocrine gland. It produces 10 different hormones. The two most important ones are insulin and glucagon. Insulin helps with energy production and lowers blood sugar. It also promotes the storage of fat.Glucagon does the reverse. When blood sugar drops too low, it triggers liver and fat cells to release glucose and raise blood sugar levels. Glucagon also stimulates fat breakdown.
There are two types of pancreatitis: acute and chronic.
Severe Pancreatitis In Dogs
Patients with severe, acute pancreatitis often require more extensive medical intervention and treatment.
These patients are often in need of several days, if not weeks, of treatment, including:
Intensive intravenous fluid and electrolyte support
Nutritional support in the form of a feeding tube
Severe pancreatitis patients are often critical and best treated in a specialist practice, such as an intensive 24-hour care facility. The cost for treatment is estimated at approximately $2000-5000 but can vary depending on where you live.
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Obesity Increases The Risk Of Severe Pancreatitis
It is important to keep your dog at a healthy weight for many reasons, including the fact that obesity increases the risks that your dog will develop severe pancreatitis. To learn whether your canine companion is overweight, please check out my article on determining your dogs body condition score. Then, if you decide some doggie weight loss is in order, head over to my blog, How to Help a Dog Lose Weight for four helpful tips.
When Should A Dog Be Taken To The Hospital If You Suspect It May Have Dog Pancreatitis
A dog should be taken to the hospital when theyre not able to support themselves in the home environment. For example, when they are repeatedly vomiting and cant hold down food or water. Another concern would be if you cant keep them comfortable and their pain level is such that they cant be managed at home.
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Pancreatitis In Dogs Symptoms Causes And Life Expectancy
When your canine companion is under the weather, it may leave you feeling worried and stressed. What could be going on, and how can you help them to feel better? If your dog receives a diagnosis of pancreatitis from your veterinarian, precisely what does this mean for your pet? How concerned should you be?
Well discuss canine pancreatitis, including its symptoms, causes, diagnosis, treatment options, and prognosisgiving you the most accurate information to help you support your pet and work towards recovery from this serious condition.
Certain Breeds May Be Predisposed To Pancreatitis
Yorkshire Terriers, Dachshunds, Poodles, Cavalier King Charles Spaniels, Terriers, and Cocker Spaniels all have a genetic predisposition toward pancreatitis. This puts them at a higher risk than dogs of other breeds. However, keep in mind that any breed of dog can get pancreatitis.
According to the Merck Veterinary Manual, Miniature Schnauzers, like my patient Ellie, are the most common breed identified in studies on pancreatitis. This may have something to do with the fact that Schnauzers are more likely to have higher fat content in their blood than other dog breeds. This condition, known as hyperlipidemia , increases the risk of pancreatitis.
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When Is Dog Pancreatitis Considered Chronic
Thats a tricky question. Technically chronic pancreatitis is determined based on what the pancreas looks like on biopsy. One type of inflammation defines it as acute and another as chronic. Since it is rare that we biopsy the pancreas in the dog, the diagnosis of chronic pancreatitis is a bit more subjective especially since the clinical signs can look exactly the same. Personally, I tend to start thinking it to be chronic when a dog has repeated bouts of clinical signs over several months or if certain lab tests remain elevated even when the symptoms have resolved.
What Are The Clinical Signs Of Pancreatitis
The most common clinical signs include nausea, vomiting, fever, lethargy, abdominal pain, diarrhea, and decreased appetite. During an attack, dogs may take a ‘praying position’, with their rear end up in the air while their front legs and head are lowered onto the floor. If the attack is severe, acute shock, severe depression, and even death may occur.
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Preventing Pancreatitis In Dogs
To lower the risk of pancreatitis, and to help prevent flare-ups or recurrences, try these tips:
- Feed a low-fat, highly digestible, nutritionally complete and balanced dog food. Many weight loss dog foods and prescription digestive diets fall into this category. The ideal diet may vary from pup to pup. Ask your vet for a personalized recommendation, including which treats are safe to offer.
- Avoid feeding table scraps! This is very important. Make sure all members of the home know to keep food out of your furkids reach. During parties or holiday get-togethers, make sure houseguests know not to slip your pup any treats, too.
- Prevent dietary indiscretions. Take precautions such as having a trash can that locks or is inaccessible to your dog.
- Keep up with any recommended veterinary care, especially for management of chronic pancreatitis. This may include monitoring via bloodwork rechecks from time to time, as well as certain supplements or medications.
Every dog has unique needs, so be sure to check with your veterinarian prior to beginning any diet changes, supplements, medications, or other treatments.
While pancreatitis can be a scary condition, its possible for most dogs who develop the condition to live normal livesand enjoy a great quality of life, with all their favorite activities so long as appropriate treatment and management are implemented.