About Enteritis & Pancreatitis in Dogs

by Betty Lewis
    If his intestines are inflamed, he has enteritis; if it's his pancreas, he has pancreatitis.

    If his intestines are inflamed, he has enteritis; if it's his pancreas, he has pancreatitis.

    Chris Amaral/Digital Vision/Getty Images

    Enteritis and pancreatitis in dogs present many of the same symptoms, including loss of appetite, diarrhea and vomiting. However the cause, treatment and prognosis can be quite different. If Buddy experiences any of this discomfort, he should see his vet. Various medical tests and his medical history will help the vet's diagnostic process.

    Intestines: Inflamed or Infected

    Enteritis refers to inflammation or infection of your pup's intestines. The symptoms vary, from abnormal poop or diarrhea, to a decrease in food and water intake. A dog suffering from enteritis may vomit, run a fever, lose weight and show weakness or depression. If the enteritis is caused by an infection, chances are it's because the dog has parvovirus -- the most common reason behind infectious enteritis. Other causes of infectious enteritis include salmonella, E. coli and other bacteria. Buddy doesn't need to catch a bug to suffer from enteritis; if he's been foraging through the garbage, picked up a parasite or ate something toxic or otherwise upsetting to his belly, he may suffer the effects of enteritis.

    Calming Down the Upset

    Everyone experiences an upset stomach occasionally, but if Buddy's vomiting and experiencing diarrhea at the same time, he should see the vet. He can become fatally dehydrated or experience blood loss or intestinal damage if he has severe or bloody diarrhea. If he shows symptoms, call the vet and be prepared to take a stool sample with you, if possible. The vet will test Buddy's stool and blood, and perhaps take X-rays to assist with a diagnosis. Though treating enteritis depends on its cause and severity, fluid and electrolyte therapy are common measures. Occasionally, antibiotics and dewormers are necessary. Buddy's diet may be restricted, so don't give him special treats in his recovery phase.

    An Angry Pancreas

    Buddy's pancreas, which aids his digestion and blood sugar level, can become mildly to severely inflamed, referred to as pancreatitis. Pancreatitis can be sudden -- or acute -- or it can worsen over time to be considered chronic. Depending on the type of pancreatitis the dog is suffering from, he may have only mild symptoms or experience life-threatening illness. Part of the problem with pancreatitis is the similarity of its symptoms to other ailments; decreased appetite, vomiting, fever, diarrhea and a painful abdomen are signs of pancreatitis as well as other illnesses. In serious cases of pancreatitis, the dog's pulse is often weak and rapid; in very severe situations, he may go into shock.

    Figuring Out Pancreatitis

    Pancreatitis can be fatal, so Buddy's symptoms should be run by the vet. After taking his medical history, the vet will run blood tests and gauge serum enzyme levels. A radiograph may be helpful, but an ultrasound is usually more successful for scouting out swelling of the pancreas. Occasionally, surgery is used to make a conclusive diagnosis. Treatment for a dog suffering from pancreatitis depends on what sort of episode he's having. If he's having a severe attack, life-saving measures are taken, such as administering supplemental oxygen and intravenous fluids. Otherwise, the first order of business for a dog suffering from pancreatitis is to withhold food and water for 24 to 72 hours to allow his pancreas time to rest. He may need fluid therapy to meet his fluid requirements or to rehydrate him and antibiotics are used if there's concern of a secondary infection. In severe cases, such as the presence of a pancreatic abscess, the vet may perform corrective surgery.

    Life After Pancreatitis

    Many dogs are able to live a fine life after suffering from pancreatitis; some experience just one episode. You can minimize the risk of additional episodes by being careful about what Buddy eats. A low-fat, bland diet will spare his pancreas an extra workout; so will spreading out his allotted food portions throughout the day, instead of eating one meal at once. Buddy will have to say goodbye to table scraps and other fatty foods, as well as keep his nose out of the garbage. He should become used to checking in with the vet regularly to monitor his recovery.

    Photo Credits

    • Chris Amaral/Digital Vision/Getty Images

    About the Author

    Betty Lewis is a writer and editor specializing in pet care, animals, careers and emergency management. She previously ran an animal shelter, where she also served as a kennel attendant and dog trainer. Lewis holds a bachelor's degree in journalism, an M.B.A. and a master's degree in professional studies.

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