What is Pancreatitis in Dogs?

Pancreatitis is an inflammation of the pancreas. This vital organ can be found next to the stomach. The function of the pancreas is to produce enzymes that aid in the digestion of food. The pancreas also produces insulin, a hormone that helps to regulate the metabolism of glucose or blood sugar. When the pancreas becomes inflamed, digestive enzymes are released into the abdominal cavity, damaging the intestines.

Pancreatitis in Dogs

Pancreatitis can be incredibly painful. Dogs may exhibit a hunched posture, yelp when the abdomen is touched, or hide from the family. Pain can cause dogs to respond aggressively to handling; owners should take care when transporting pancreatitis dogs to the veterinarian.

Pancreatitis in Dogs Causes

The exact cause of dog pancreatitis is largely unknown. Veterinarians do know that pancreatitis can be triggered by the ingestion of fatty foods like ham, bacon and lunch meat. Dog pancreatitis can also be caused by the administration or ingestion of corticosteroids like prednisone. Pancreatitis dogs are more susceptible to developing the illness in the future.

Risks of Pancreatitis in Small Dogs

There are few risks associated with mild cases of pancreatitis. Moderate or severe cases of pancreatitis have several risks, particularly in small dogs. Risks of pancreatitis in small dogs include diabetes, intestinal obstruction, kidney failure, and death. Dogs are also more likely to develop pancreatitis again in the future once it has occurred.

Risks of pancreatitis are reduced when medical intervention occurs in the early stages of the disease. Dogs that exhibit vomiting, lethargy, diarrhea, or inappetence should be seen by a veterinarian as soon as possible. When pancreatitis is diagnosed in its early stages, treatment is more successful and risks are fewer.

Exocrine Pancreatic Insufficiency in Dogs

Exocrine Pancreatic Insufficiency (EPI) is a condition seen in dogs of every breed and of all ages. When a dog has EPI, the pancreas does not produce digestive enzymes. A dog with EPI eats copious amounts of food, yet it remains constantly unnourished. This is because the food being eaten is not being properly digested. A dog with untreated EPI will die of organ failure as a result of malnourishment.

Is Pancreatitis in Dogs Fatal?

Dog pancreatitis can be fatal in some cases. The prognosis depends on how quickly the dog is diagnosed. The dog is more likely to recover if it responds well to initial therapies. Dogs that are not treated for pancreatitis may go into shock, develop depression, or progress to hemorrhagic pancreatitis. Sudden death is a possibility if the illness progresses this far.

How to Treat Pancreatitis in Dogs

The successful treatment of dog pancreatitis is dependent upon early diagnosis. When mild pancreatitis is diagnosed, veterinarians offer recommend withholding food and water from the dog for a specified amount of time. This treatment allows the pancreas to stop releasing digestive enzymes.

In moderate cases of pancreatitis, veterinarians often prescribe intravenous fluids, analgesics, anti-inflammatory drugs, and an antiemetic. Most dogs with moderate to severe cases of pancreatitis need to be hospitalized for several days. Pancreatitis dogs are reintroduced to food and water very slowly over the course of hospitalization.

Pancreatitis dogs often return home with prescription medication and special diet recommendations. Medications must be given as prescribed and special diets followed. Owner compliance can determine whether a dog survives pancreatitis or not.

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