Have you heard of pancreatitis in dogs? Read our Houston, TX, animal hospital‘s article to learn more about the five key signs that your dog may have this severe problem.
What is Pancreatitis in Dogs?
Pancreatitis is a disease that affects the pancreas in animals. The pancreas is an important organ which can be found in the abdominal cavity. The pancreas produces some of the enzymes that a body uses to digest food.
Pancreatitis is a common health problem in dogs, and is an inflammatory disease. The pancreas becomes inflamed causing pain, loss of appetite, and vomiting.
Pancreatitis may either be mild or severe. Mild forms of pancreatitis involve swelling. Severe forms of pancreatitis include bleeding, as well as swelling.
What are the Causes of Pancreatitis in Dogs?
Pancreatitis is caused by the very enzymes they create. In a healthy dog, pancreatic enzymes are inactive until they reach the intestines.
A dog with pancreatitis has pancreatic enzymes that are activating too early. The enzymes begin to digest the pancreas.
Risk Factors in Dogs
There are a few risk factors that can affect a dog’s chances of developing pancreatitis.
- High-fat diet
- Eating garbage
- Endocrine diseases
- Severe blunt force trauma
- Diabetes mellitus
- Genetic predisposition**
*Medications include: estrogen, calcium, potassium bromide, cholinesterase inhibitors, I-asparaginase, azathioprine, phenobarbital, salicylates, vinca alkaloids, and thiazide diuretics.
**Dog breeds with a genetic predisposition for pancreatitis include: Miniature Schnauzers, terriers, and “toy” breeds.
What Are the Symptoms of Pancreatitis in Dogs?
The symptoms of pancreatitis can be easily overlooked or mistaken for another illness. It is important to know them ahead of time and go to the vet if your dog exhibits any of them, as pancreatitis can be life threatening if not treated quickly.
Pancreatitis can be either acute or chronic, and each form has different symptoms. Chronic pancreatitis is not as common as acute pancreatitis. Over time chronic pancreatitis can become acute pancreatitis.
Chronic pancreatitis is usually less severe. Symptoms can include:
- Abdominal pain
- Loss of appetite or decreased appetite
Acute pancreatitis is usually more severe. In its early stages it may mimic chronic pancreatitis. Symptoms can include:
- Lethargy to severe lethargy
- Abdominal pain
- Severe dehydration
- Persistent vomiting
- Persistent Diarrhea
Lethargy paired with any of the other symptoms is a red flag that your dog may be suffering from something serious. Lethargy is a common symptom of some of the more severe illnesses including pancreatitis, cancer, and food poisoning.
Abdominal pain is harder to diagnose in dogs. If your dog suddenly doesn’t want their belly rubbed or seems uncomfortable when lying down, you may want to check with your vet.
Lack of Appetite or Decreased Appetite
If your dog’s appetite has decreased or they are showing little to no desire for food, then you need to call your vet immediately. Lack of appetite, especially involving treats, is often a sign of something serious. Make note of any other symptoms that your dog is exhibiting.
If your dog starts vomiting for no obvious reason, call your vet. Vomiting is your dog’s body’s way of trying to get something bad out. If they are vomiting, they are either very sick or they ate something that could be toxic to them.
Diarrhea is a more common problem. If your dog occasionally has this problem then Pancreatitis may not be the answer. However, if diarrhea is paired with any of the other symptoms, check with your vet as something is wrong.
Constant diarrhea is a key sign that your dog may have pancreatitis. Call your vet or the closest emergency vet immediately if this happens.
Dehydration is both a symptom and an effect of the symptoms. Dogs that are vomiting and suffering from diarrhea are likely to become dehydrated. Dehydration is life threatening. If your dog doesn’t seem to be drinking enough water, or if they are drinking a lot more than usual, call your vet and get them in for a check-up.
Diagnosing Pancreatitis in Dogs
You will need to take your dog to the vet to get pancreatitis diagnosed, as it is important to get it diagnosed as early as possible. At the first signs of symptoms, call your vet to make an appointment.
Unfortunately, the symptoms are common in many illnesses. This means your vet may need to run multiple tests to determine what is wrong. Most of the typical tests they run will not catch pancreatitis.
There are specific tests for pancreatitis, however, even these tests are not 100% effective. Your vet will likely pair these tests with a look at your dog’s medical history, physical exam, and an ultrasound.
Treating Pancreatitis in Dogs
Once your dog is diagnosed with pancreatitis, there is no cure. However, you can take steps to make life more comfortable for your dog.
Whether your dog has chronic or acute pancreatitis, the first step is treating the symptoms and changing your dog’s diet. You need to feed your dog a bland, low-fat diet.
For mild cases, your vet may suggest you start a subcutaneous (under the skin) fluid treatment for your dog at home.
Your vet may also prescribe:
- Antinausea medication
- A medication or supplement that protects the stomach
- A pain-reliever
Treatment typically takes one to two weeks. After that, it is important to keep an eye on your dog since their pancreatitis symptoms can come back at any time. You may also need to make permanent changes to your dog’s diet.
In severe cases, your dog may need to stay in a pet hospital for at least a couple of days, sometimes, as long as a week or more.
- Intensive IV fluids
- Electrolyte support
- Pain control measures (including medications)
- Antinausea medications
- Stomach-Protectant medications
- Feeding tubes and nutritional support
Once you bring your pet home, you will need to continue the bland, low-fat diet until symptoms are gone. It is important to continue a low-fat diet even after symptoms are gone. However, the food doesn’t need to remain bland.
You may need to also learn how to give your dog IV fluids for at home care.
Reach Out to Our Houston, TX, Veterinarians ASAP If Your Dog Has Pancreatitis
The earlier you get treatment for your dog, the better chance they have of survival, call your vet if you are worried about your dog’s health. It may be nothing, but it may also be something. It is always better to be safe than sorry.
Our Houston, TX, animal hospital is available 24/7 for any emergencies or general services. Give our veterinary team a call at (713) 526-5881.