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How to Prevent Pancreatitis in Pets

How to Prevent Pancreatitis in Pets

What is pancreatitis?

The pancreas is a gland in the abdomen adjacent to the stomach that produces digestive enzymes and insulin and glucagon hormones, which help regulate blood sugar.

Typically, the digestive enzymes are stored in inactive forms and are not activated until they get to the intestinal tract. The pancreas and blood supply have enzyme inhibitors that stop the pancreas from digesting itself. If they are somehow blocked, the enzymes can set off inflammation in the pancreas.

Sudden or acute pancreatitis usually occurs around the holidays when dogs indulge in rich, fatty foods from the table. However, pancreatitis can also be chronic and eventually lead to the destruction of the cells that make insulin and digestive enzymes leading to diabetes mellitus and exocrine pancreatic insufficiency.

What causes pancreatitis?

A precise cause of pancreatitis has not been determined. Instead, there are risk factors associated with it. These risk factors include:

  • Being overweight, obesity
  • Diabetes, Cushings, Hypothyroidism, Epilepsy
  • History of ingesting rich, novel human foods, high-fat diets
  • Hypertriglyceridemia (especially schnauzers)
  • Concurrent liver and intestinal disorders/IBD
  • Exposure to toxins such as organophosphates
  • Medications: thiazide diuretics, furosemide, some chemotherapeutic drugs, sulfonamide/tetracycline antibiotics, bromide, and phenobarbital, to name a few

What breeds are prone to pancreatitis?

The miniature schnauzer, dachshund, poodle, Cavalier King Charles spaniel, cocker spaniel, collie, boxer, and some terriers, including the Yorkshire and fox terriers. Siamese cats may be predisposed.

What are the signs of pancreatitis?

Signs can vary from mild to severe. The most common symptom is vomiting and abdominal pain. The condition is usually painful, and dogs may splint or tense when you touch their abdominal area. Pets may sometimes have a fever. Diarrhea and vomiting (sometimes with blood) can occur, and they are lethargic and can progress to weakness and shock.

How is pancreatitis in cats different?

Signs of pancreatitis in cats are subtle, and as vets say, they are “ADR,” also known as ain’t doing right! They may be lethargic, have decreased appetite, and weight loss. In addition, they may or may not have vomiting and diarrhea.  

Signs of pancreatitis in cats are different:

Unlike dogs, cats with pancreatitis typically have subtle or vague clinical signs. They will likely be lethargic and have a decreased appetite and weight loss.

Vomiting is a less common clinical sign compared to dogs. Some cats have concurrent inflammatory bowel disease, liver disease, and pancreatitis. This is known as triaditis.

How is pancreatitis diagnosed?

Blood work can show elevations in pancreatic enzymes such as amylase and lipase, but this is not always the case. Ultrasound may also prove helpful.

Is pancreatitis serious?

Pancreatitis can cause severe illness and shock, so it’s essential to consult with a veterinarian if you suspect it as soon as possible. Unfortunately, 1/3 of dogs with acute pancreatitis can diet within a month of diagnosis.

How is pancreatitis treated?

Pets may need to be hospitalized to control severe vomiting and administer supportive care for pain and hydration. Dogs with pancreatitis are fed a highly digestible, low-fat diet.

How can I prevent pancreatitis?

Since animal ERs often see numerous pancreatitis cases the day after a holiday, one must be careful not to offer turkey skin/fat and drippings to pets, no matter how sad they look. Your veterinarian will likely prescribe a low-fat diet until things subside, and some dogs will need to be on one more extended term. They also avoid risk factors like having an overweight or obese pet and being especially careful with prone breeds.