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Every owner will witness their beloved pet go through a bout of sickness where they’re not acting themselves. Usually, their symptoms clear up within a few days and they’re back to normal. However, if your dog is vomiting, eating grass, has a lack of appetite, is lethargic, or has diarrhea for more than a few days, you should call your vet. These could be signs of a more serious condition, such as pancreatitis
Pancreatitis involves your dog’s pancreas, a gland that plays an important role in your dog’s digestive health. When it becomes inflamed, it can cause your pup a lot of pain and in some cases lead to severe complications. If you’re worried your dog may be suffering from pancreatitis, continue reading to learn more about the condition and what you should do to keep your pet healthy.
Pancreatitis is when your dog’s pancreas becomes inflamed. This inflammation develops when enzymes inside the pancreas, proteases, amylases, and lipases, become active at the wrong times, causing the pancreas to start digesting itself. Normally, pancreatic enzymes are not active inside the pancreas, and instead only become active when they are secreted into the small intestine. Here they help break down food so that it can be digested properly. If the area between the small intestine and the pancreas gets backed up or the pancreas gets damaged through an accident, those enzymes can start activating in the wrong location. If this happens, a whole host of issues can be created as a result.
Canine pancreatitis can be acute or chronic, as well as mild or severe. In acute pancreatitis, symptoms occur quickly and are typically quite painful. For chronic pancreatitis, symptoms develop and can get worse over time. If left untreated, mild pancreatitis can turn into severe pancreatitis which can produce life-threatening symptoms. With quick diagnosis and treatment, most dogs make a full recovery from acute cases of pancreatitis.
The best things you can do to prevent pancreatitis is to keep trash and fatty table scraps from getting into your dog’s stomach as well as making sure they maintain an ideal bodyweight. This means no feeding your pup under the table – even if they give you their best puppy dog eyes.
Early diagnosis and treatment are important factors in making sure your dog can recover completely and keep symptoms from progressing into life-threatening issues. Overweight and older dogs are more prone to developing pancreatitis, so keep an extra close eye on them if they start showing any symptoms.
In most cases, pancreatitis in your pup has no known cause. However, vets have come up with several factors that are related to the progression of the condition. These factors are excess weight, dietary indiscretion (consuming things that aren’t food), hormonal imbalances, toxic reactions to medications, reflux in the pancreas, or blunt trauma to the pancreas. Certain breeds are also more prone to developing this condition. Miniature Schnauzers, miniature poodles, Cocker spaniels, Dachshunds, and some terriers are all at an elevated risk.
Your dog will likely display one or more signs that should alert you if they are experiencing pancreatitis. However, these signs can often be easily missed because many of them develop slowly over time. Common signs to look for include:
In more severe cases, your dog may experience an irregular heartbeat, shock or collapse, depression, widespread infection, and difficulty breathing. If your dog is displaying any of these symptoms, especially if they are vomiting. Pancreatitis is a serious condition and treating it in a timely manner gives your dog the best chance of recovering.
A prompt diagnosis is essential with pancreatitis cases! Let your vet know as soon as you notice any symptoms. Your vet will use multiple methods for diagnosing this condition. Some of these include using your dog’s medical history, administering a blood test, giving a physical examination, or practicing fine needle aspiration of the pancreas. The blood test is used to
check for elevated levels of pancreatic enzymes. This test, the specific canine pancreatic lipase test, can accurately detect pancreatitis while excluding other possible diseases. Your dog may also undergo an ultrasound or abdominal X-rays to detect the condition.
Unfortunately, none of these tests are 100% effective in diagnosing pancreatitis. X-rays are not very helpful in diagnosing the condition, but they are often used to rule out other issues. Ultrasounds are typically the best method for diagnosis; however, the tissue of the pancreas has to be abnormal enough to see using an ultrasound. This means that ultrasounds may miss cases of pancreatitis that are chronic and milder. Typically, your doctor will use multiple tests in conjunction to arrive at the most accurate diagnosis.
Based on the findings, your vet will make a diagnosis and give you a treatment plan. For acute pancreatitis, much of the treatment will focus on managing pain and making sure further complications don’t develop. The most common treatment options for pancreatitis are listed below.
The prognosis for dogs with this condition depends on the severity of the illness, when it was detected and treated, and your dog! A dog with severe pancreatitis has a poor overall prognosis, meaning they have a higher risk of death. These patients can suffer from severe inflammatory conditions throughout their entire body which can result in organ failures. However, dogs with milder cases will likely make a full recovery with prompt and proper treatment. Remember, prevention is key! Don’t allow your dog to eat anything that isn’t food and don’t give them your table scraps. Make sure they eat healthily and maintain a good body weight.
As a responsible, caring, and knowledgeable dog owner, you now know what to look for and how to treat pancreatitis in your dog.
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