Potential Complications Of Pancreatitis
Some dogs develop chronic pancreatitis, which means long-term episodes of pancreatitis can occur. Guardians of these pups must be especially vigilant about their diet, and eliminate table scraps, to help prevent flare-ups.
During an episode of pancreatitis, some dogs may also suffer collateral damage to nearby organs, such as a blocked bile duct from all the inflammation. These complications may need to be addressed during, or shortly after, pancreatitis treatment.
Additionally, damage to the pancreas can interfere with future functioning of the organ. This could include development of diabetes mellitus due to imparied insulin production, which requires daily insulin injections. Or, it could mean exocrine pancreatic insufficiency , where there is insufficient production of pancreatic digestive enzymes, leading to long-term digestive issues. Fortunately, EPI can be treated with supplementation of these digestive enzymes.
Dont worry, having an episode of pancreatitis doesnt mean a dog will develop complications. However, the possibility of serious complications is an important reminder as to why its so important to seek veterinary care as soon as possible.
How Is Pancreatitis In Dogs Treated
The first step is to give the pancreas a rest. Because the passage of food through the intestine stimulates the pancreas, we generally withhold food and water for two to three days , supporting the dog with IV fluids, including electrolyte supplementation. A critically ill dog will need 24-hour care, as well as multiple daily blood draws to monitor the condition. In severe cases, a plasma transfusion may be needed.
Pancreatitis can be a very painful condition for dogs, and pain management is crucial for the dogâs recovery and treatment. Untreated pain affects the immune system and has been shown to increase the death rate. In addition to pain medication, antibiotics and anti-nausea medications are given. While pancreatitis is not a bacterial disease, antibiotics are used to prevent a commonly associated problem: bacterial invasion from a diseased intestine.
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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What Are The Symptoms Of Pancreatitis In Dogs
Pancreatitis can present as a sudden-onset illness or as a more long-term illness.
A dog that has acute pancreatitis will have more serious clinical signs, such as:
A dog with chronic pancreatitis is typically not as sick. The clinical signs may include:
Abdominal pain and/or vomiting
In general, chronic pancreatitis is not as common in dogs as acute pancreatitis.
Dogs with chronic pancreatitis can suddenly develop worsening pancreatitis. This is a situation where chronic pancreatitis presents acutely.
How To Comfort A Dog With Pancreatitis At Home
JUMP TO THE 10 TIPS ON COMFORTING YOUR DOG WITH PANCREATITIS Updated 10/2021 As a veterinarian with a dog that has pancreatitis, I understand the
As a veterinarian with a dog that has pancreatitis, I understand the need to know how to properly comfort your dog with pancreatitis if they are having a flare-up or are suffering from the illness for the first time.
Per a study published in the Journal of Small Animal Practitioners, the main goals of comforting your dog with pancreatitis are:
- replacing fluid losses
- controlling nausea
- providing pain relief
Some aspects of treating and comforting a dog with pancreatitis have to do with the type of pancreatitis they present with.
There are two types of pancreatitis acute and chronic, many times your action plan will depend on which type your pup presents with. Both types can cause a lot of pain and if not treated can be life-threatening. Lets look at the major differences between the two
- No signs of pancreatitis before
- A dog that has suffered from pancreatitis in the past
- The condition develops over time
- Dogs can have repeated bouts of pancreatitis or flare-ups
- You may have to feed a low-fat diet for life or an extended period of time
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Signs Of Pancreatitis In Pets
Clinical presentation in cats and dogs can be nonspecific. Patients with acute pancreatitis often present for gastrointestinal signs of vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain, distended abdomen, dehydration, fever, and yellow tinge to their eyes, inner ears, or skin. Patients with chronic pancreatitis may have mild signs including anorexia, decreased appetite, and lethargy.
Get Your Dog The Right Medication
Your vet will be able to give you medications for pain, and vomiting if needed. Your pup may also have to spend some time at the vet clinic getting IV fluids, so bringing a bag of his or her things to remind them of being at home will probably be very comforting as well.
My recommendation is to put together an emergency kit for cases when your pup has a flare-up, that way you will have everything you need, like antiemetics on hand from your vet. I created a list of thing things you may want to have which you can download here.
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How Does A Vet Diagnose Pancreatitis In Dogs
- Your dogs medical history
- Blood tests to measure pancreatic enzymes
- Physical examination including stomach, gums, heart, temperature
- Radiographs or ultrasound, to rule out other causes
- Fine needle aspiration of the pancreas
As the Merck Veterinary Manual notes, as with any disease, no test should be used in isolation for diagnosis, and all clinical findings should be used in conjunction to arrive at the most appropriate diagnosis.
The Role Of Hyperbaric Oxygen Chambers
If you feel your dog is developing pancreatitis, rest his stomach from food, and if the vomiting does not subside, seek veterinary care and dont attempt to self-diagnose. If the pancreatitis was caused by a medication, the medication should be discontinued. If it was caused by a toxin, infection, or other condition, the appropriate therapy for the underlying condition should be started.
In rare instances where there are intestinal complications or the development of a pancreatic abscess, surgery may be necessary.
Hyperbaric oxygen chambers are also being used to treat dogs with both acute and chronic pancreatitis. I learned of this treatment from my dogs Internal Medicine veterinarian. During veterinary hyperbaric oxygen therapy, the dog is placed safely and comfortably in a large chamber with 100 percent oxygen at pressure 1.5 to 3 times that of normal atmospheric pressure. The sessions last about one hour and are given one or two times daily. Dogs sit and breathe in the oxygen. Our vet shared that some dogs get four or five sessions with amazing results and curative responses.
When divers go underwater, sometimes they come up too quickly and experience a cramping sensation known as the bends. These divers are often treated the same way. This video explains it. Knowing I have access within 90 minutes of my residence is reassuring:
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Treats Leftovers And Tidbits
Be sure to avoid any treats, tidbits and table scraps that are high in fat or of a low quality – the Treat Directory will help you to find suitable alternatives. Make sure other family members and friends are also onboard with this as even a slight indiscretion cold result in another bout of pancreatitis.
It is also important to make sure your bins and pet food storage containers are well and truly dog-proof.
Tips On Preventing Pancreatitis In Dogs
Unfortunately, pancreatitis cannot always be prevented. However, there are things you can do at home to reduce the risk. This is especially important if your dog has had pancreatitis in the past. Here are our top tips for preventing pancreatitis in dogs:
- Overweight dogs are more prone to pancreatitis, so keep your dog fit and slim.
- Avoid feeding your dog fatty treats or human food. We all know it can be hard to resist those puppy dog eyes, but it really is in their best interests! Try some cooked chicken breast, special low-fat dog treats or some of their usual kibble as treats instead.
- Feed a low-fat food. If your dog has had pancreatitis, your vet will probably advise a prescription low fat diet. Off the shelf low fat diets may still contain too much fat. Your dogs diet must be appropriate for their life stage, so you should always consult your vet before starting a prescription food.
If your pet has suffered with pancreatitis in the past, your vet will discuss an ongoing plan with you, to reduce the chances of a repeat episode.
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Signs And Symptoms Of Pancreatitis In Dogs
Pancreatitis symptoms in dogs are mostly gastrointestinal. The signs will vary depending on the severity of the case, but may include:
Acute pancreatitis comes on suddenly, often as the result of an external factor, like eating garbage. Dogs with acute pancreatitis usually present with vomiting, painful abdomen, lethargy, dehydration, and occasionally fever. Dogs with chronic pancreatitis, on the other hand, may show these signs during flare-ups, but can be asymptomatic the rest of the time or may only show milder signs, like lethargy or loss of appetite.
Pancreatitis shares similar symptoms with other gastrointestinal illnesses. Like pancreatitis, many of these conditions are severe or even fatal if not treated, so it is essential that owners respond appropriately.
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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Causes Of Pancreatitis In Pets
Fatty foods, obesity, toxins, certain drugs, or trauma can trigger pancreatitis. Pancreatitis may also indicate other underlying health irregularities, such as kidney or cardiovascular disease, or bacterial infection. Animals with hypothyroidism, Cushing’s disease, or diabetes are predisposed to pancreatitis. In addition, Miniature Schnauzers are more prone to developing pancreatitis than other breeds.
Pancreatitis may develop within hours after a “dietary indiscretion,” or it may take a day or two for symptoms to occur. This is often due to pets getting into the garbage, or eating large amounts of fatty leftovers, such as turkey skin, from the Thanksgiving dinner feast.
What Causes Dog Pancreatitis
There are several possible causes of pancreatitis, but more research is needed to fully understand the condition. It is also unclear why some dogs are more prone to developing pancreatitis, and the initial trigger of an acute episode in a specific individual may be unknown.
Some of the possible causes include:
- A diet high in fats
- Certain medication such as steroids
- Predisposing metabolic conditions such as diabetes or hypothyroidism
And the condition may also develop following surgery and anaesthesia.
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Pancreatitis In Dogs: Treatment And What To Feed
Pancreatitis in dogs is a tricky and sometimes frightening condition. Its hard to definitively diagnose, hard to treat and it can be life-threatening. Pancreatitis means inflammation of the pancreas. But inflammation in the pancreas can be devastating.
So its important to recognize the signs of pancreatitis and know when to go to the vet as well as what to feed a dog with pancreatitis.
Pancreatitis In Dogs: Prognosis And Recovery
Many dogs will fully recover and go on to live normal, happy lives. However, the risk of another bout of pancreatitis at some point in the dogs life remains high.
Prognosis depends largely on how severe the pancreatitis is, whether there are complications or other health conditions that complicate treatment, how soon treatment is initiated, and how a pup responds to initial treatment.
On average, dogs with milder pancreatitis tend to recover well with prompt veterinary care.
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What To Feed Dogs Recovering From Pancreatitis
A bland diet may be useful while your dog is recovering from a pancreatitis episode whether acute or chronic.
Bone broth can be a good choice as he starts to feel better.
If hes ready for solid food, give a bland diet like cooked chicken breast and white rice. If youre only feeding it for a few weeks, you dont need to add supplements.
In the long run, youll want to go with a consistent, low-fat diet.
What Is Dog Pancreatitis
The pancreas produces enzymes involved in the digestion of protein, carbohydrate and fat within the small intestine. It also produces the hormone insulin which helps to regulate blood sugar levels after a meal.
In a healthy pancreas, the digestive enzymes remain inactive until they reach the small intestine. This prevents self-digestion of the pancreatic tissue. However, in cases of pancreatitis, the enzymes are activated too soon while they are still within the pancreas. The resulting auto-digestion of the organ leads to inflammation and pain.
Pancreatitis is often categorised as acute or chronic acute pancreatitis is when it develops suddenly, and chronic pancreatitis is when it continues over time. Individuals with chronic pancreatitis can also experience acute flare-ups.
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What To Do If Your Dog Has Symptoms Of Pancreatitis
The first thing you should do is call your vet or an emergency vet if its after hours. If your dog is stable, your vet may ask you to bring your dog in immediately. If your dog is not stable, your vet may come to you or make another suggestion.
Its crucial that you act quickly if your dog is showing symptoms of pancreatitis. This condition can deteriorate quickly, leading to severe pain and even death.
Should A Dog With Pancreatitis Be Hospitalized
Many times, yes, a dog with acute pancreatitis should be hospitalized. Dogs with acute pancreatitis should be provided with:
Pain relief Antiemetic to stop vomiting Nutritional support
If the dog is hospitalized, and many times this is and should be the case, the dog should receive supplemental fluids via intravenous method or subcutaneously under the skin, depending on the severity of the situation. Dogs will be monitored, blood levels checked, pain controlled, and a diet will be introduced only when appropriate. Dogs can easily become dehydrated during pancreatitis, so re-hydration is crucial. Simply providing water at home or using a syringe to get fluids into a dog orally is not enough. In extreme cases, a food tube may be inserted to provide proper nutrition.
In both cases, we took our dog home after he received a diagnosis, subcutaneous fluids, pain medication, anti-vomiting medication, and instructions to return to the hospital for any new changes and for follow-up care and assessment.
Never second guess yourself if a dog is sick and you have any sort of suspicion that pancreatitis is rearing its ugly head. Get your dog to the vet. Hours do matter and pancreatitis can rapidly get worse. I know because Ive seen it first hand!
Dogs not responding to treatment at home under the care of the vet should be seen again and consideration of inpatient care should be given.
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How Is Pancreatitis In Dogs Diagnosed
One way veterinarians diagnose dogs with pancreatitis is through the use of a blood test called the SPEC cPL test. The SPEC cPL test, which is run overnight by a reference lab, detects 83% of pancreatitis cases in dogs and excludes other possible diseases in 98% of cases.
The SPEC cPL test should not be confused with an in-hospital pancreatic test, which provides either an âabnormalâ or ânormalâ result. I am personally not a huge fan of the in-house test because other disease processes, such as liver or gastrointestinal disease, can also cause an abnormal result.
Ultrasound is another tool that veterinarians use to diagnose pancreatitis. It not only detects 68% of cases, but it also provides an opportunity to look at other organs. Since pancreatitis may be accompanied by a tumor near the pancreas, ultrasound is an important tool for catching additional complicating factors. I discuss and recommend this diagnostic tool for all patients I suspect of having pancreatitis.
What Causes Pancreatitis In Dogs
In many cases, the cause of pancreatitis is unknown, and it seems to occur out of nowhere.
However, there are some well-established causes of canine pancreatitis, which include:
- Ingestion of high-fat food. This could mean high-fat dog food, although more commonly it means fatty table scraps or people food given as a treat.
- Dietary indiscretion, such as getting into the trash can, eating stuff off the ground during their walks, etc.
- Genetics/breed predisposition, especially for Miniature Schnauzers, Cocker Spaniels, Dachshunds, and certain terriers and toy breeds.
- Certain medications and toxins.
- A complication of abdominal surgery .
- Some underlying medical conditions, especially hormonal imbalances or high levels of triglycerides and/or cholesterol in the blood.
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