It seems every year, immediately after Thanksgiving, we see quite a few patients diagnosed with pancreatitis or an obstruction because we all have had such a good Thanksgiving dinner! This year I would like to go over a few helpful hints, so that we can all have a happy (safe) holiday season!
In my family, we always have a big “get together” every Thanksgiving, as I’m sure many of you do as well! We have a huge feast so my dad thinks that our pets should also get to enjoy an extra special meal as well! This idea is fine, as long as we consider what is healthy for our pets! Feeding our pets “people food” is not the best recommendation. If your pet usually only eats dry food, you can possibly ‘splurge’ for a can of wet pet food. Or if your pet routinely eats canned wet food, you could get them a special treat from the pet store! Please note: It is extremely important to dispose of our waste properly! Those handy little turkey buttons, or the string casing that it comes in, can be potentially dangerous. Letting them chew on the bones or carcass is really not a good idea either.
What is pancreatitis and what causes it?
The pancreas is a vital organ which lies on the right side of the abdomen. It has two functions; to produce digestive enzymes assisting in food digestion and to produce hormones such as insulin. When the pancreas becomes inflamed, the disorder is called pancreatitis. There is no age, sex or breed predispostion.
Many veterinarians believe that one of the main triggers for pancreatitis in our pets is diet. Dogs and cats can both get pancreatitis, but it is more common in dogs and somewhat hard to diagnose in cats. The processed foods that many dog parents feed to their dogs are very taxing on the dog’s pancreas because such foods lack natural enzymes. Therefore, the pancreas has to work very hard every time the dog eats to produce extra enzymes to digest the foods. As a result, the pancreas can actually live in a state of chronic stress and inflammation. In addition, many dogs are fed a diet that is much too high in fat, which can also be a trigger that results in low-grade recurring pancreatitis in dogs.
Certain medications are also known to cause canine pancreatitis. For example, anti-seizure drugs such as potassium bromide or phenobarbital are well known to cause pancreatitis issues. Other drugs include corticosteroids (Prednisone) and certain diuretics (such as lasix or furosemide). Dogs that have a balanced diet can even get acute pancreatitis from getting into the trash.
There are two main forms of acute or sudden onset pancreatitis: the mild form and the more severe, hemorrhagic form. A few dogs that recover from an acute episode of pancreatitis may continue to have reoccurring episodes, which is then called chronic relapsing pancreatitis. The associated inflammation allows digestive enzymes to spill into the abdominal cavity resulting in secondary damage to the liver, bile ducts, gall bladder, intestines and could result in digestion of the pancreas itself.
What are the clinical signs of pancreatitis?
Clinical symptoms may include (but are not limited to):
* Loss of appetite
* Abdominal pain
If the attack is severe, acute shock, depression and death may occur. Laboratory tests usually reveal an elevated white blood cell count; however, an elevated white blood cell count may also be caused by other conditions. The elevation of pancreatic enzymes in the blood is probably the most helpful criteria in detecting the pancreatitis using a CPL (Canine Pancreatitic Lipase) snap test.
How is pancreatitis treated?
The sucessful management of pancreatitis will depend on early diagnosis and prompt medical therapy. The mild form of the disease is best treated by resting the pancreas from its role in digestion. The only way to “turn off” the pancreas is to withhold all oral fluids and food. This approach is accompanied by intravenous fluids to maintain normal fluid and electrolyte balance. Most dogs with pancreatitis are hospitalized for two to four days while intraveneous fluids and antibiotics are administered and food is gradually re-introduced. The presence of systemic shock necessitates the immediate and aggressive use of intraveneous fluids and shock medications. Analgesics are administered due to the intense pain pancreatitis often causes. Dogs that present with shock and depression have a very guarded prognosis. Most of the mild forms of pancreatitis have a good prognosis.
Will there be any long-term problems?
There are three possible long-term complications that may follow severe or repeated pancreatitis. 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 (EPI) and can be treated with daily administration of enzyme replacement. If a significant number of cells that produce insulin are destroyed, diabetes mellitus can result. In rare cases, adhesions between the abdominal organs may occur as a consequence of pancreatitis. However, most dogs recover with no long-term effects.
Prevention of pancreatitis
Diet, nutrition and regular exercise can keep the dog’s weight down and help prevent canine pancreatitis. Feed your dog a balanced and natural diet. So remember, please do not over feed your dog, especially with fatty foods or human junk foods! And we hope you enjoy this holiday season with your pets!