What Can Cause Dogs to Develop Pancreatis?

by Lisa McQuerrey
    A dog with abdominal pain should be quickly seen by a vet.

    A dog with abdominal pain should be quickly seen by a vet.

    Dean Golja/Photodisc/Getty Images

    Pancreatitis is a condition in which digestive enzymes infiltrate pancreatic tissue and force the organ to swell. Symptoms can include abdominal pain, poor or non-existent appetite, lethargy and sometimes gastric upset in the form of throwing up and diarrhea. These symptoms are also characteristic of bloat, a potentially dangerous form of gastric dilatation-volvulus, which requires immediate medical attention. If your dog exhibits these symptoms, seek veterinary attention right away.

    Overweight Dogs

    Obese dogs can be prone to developing pancreatitis, primarily because overweight dogs tend to eat a diet higher in fat than is appropriate. Spayed females, in particular, are more susceptible. Feeding your dog table scraps, like fatty meats, can trigger an attack of pancreatitis.

    Medications and Health Conditions

    Corticosteroids, zinc and some types of medications prescribed to treat cancer or prevent seizures can trigger pancreatitis. Excess degrees of calcium or fat in your dog’s blood can also lead to the disorder, as can a diagnosis of hypothyroidism, diabetes or idiopathic hyperlipemia, a disorder of miniature schnauzers.

    Pancreatitis Diagnosis

    Your vet may diagnosis your dog’s condition using a number of different methods. He will review your dog's medical history, conduct a physical and ask about her dietary habits. He will rule out the potential of bloat, draw blood to test lipid levels and use an ultrasound machine or X-ray to examine the pancreas. Based on early findings, a biopsy of the pancreas may be prescribed.

    Pancreatitis Treatment

    Pain control and fluid balance will be the primary approaches to treating a diagnosis of pancreatitis. A blood transfusion may be recommended and your dog may be treated for dehydration or shock. Your vet will start your dog on a low-fat diet plan -- possibly in conjunction with a pre-diet fast -- that is essential for you to stick to. A dog suffering from pancreatitis can have a painful relapse after eating even a single high-fat meal.

    Untreated Pancreatitis

    Canine pancreatitis, left untreated, can worsen to the point of becoming fatal. Antibiotics may be prescribed and surgery may be necessary to drain fluid from the organ. Severe pancreatitis can also make existing diabetes worse, which will require its own lifelong course of treatment.

    Future Pancreatitis Prevention

    Follow your vet’s instructions for getting your dog to a healthy weight and keep her on her prescribed low-fat diet. Once your pet suffers from a bout with pancreatitis, she is more likely to have future episodes. Resist the urge to feed your pup fatty human food and make sure your dog doesn’t have access to trash cans or discarded fatty meats.

    Photo Credits

    • Dean Golja/Photodisc/Getty Images

    About the Author

    Lisa McQuerrey has been a business writer since 1987. In 1994, she launched a full-service marketing and communications firm. McQuerrey's work has garnered awards from the U.S. Small Business Administration, the International Association of Business Communicators and the Associated Press. She is also the author of several nonfiction trade publications, and, in 2012, had her first young-adult novel published by Glass Page Books.

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