Canine Pancreatitis Demystified — Is Your Dog at Risk?

Bev Saunders
December 17, 2023

Canine Pancreatitis Demystified — Is Your Dog at Risk?

The Silent Danger: Pancreatitis in Dogs

Pancreatitis, inflammation of the pancreas, is a serious condition in dogs with a spectrum ranging from mild to life-threatening. A common cause of acute pancreatitis is the consumption of a large quantity of high-fat food, often due to sneaky countersurfing. This condition affects the pancreas, disrupting the secretion of insulin and digestive enzymes critical for nutrient absorption.

Understanding Pancreatitis:

Pancreatitis can be fatal, especially in dogs, with survival rates ranging from 27% to 58%. An inflamed pancreas compromises vital functions, leading to systemic inflammatory response syndrome (SIRS) and severe necrotizing pancreatitis. The ingestion of high-fat foods, often during dietary indiscretions, triggers this condition.

Pancreatitis Risk Factors:

Certain breeds, like Miniature Schnauzers and Yorkshire Terriers, are more susceptible to pancreatitis. Risk factors include obesity, diabetes, hypothyroidism, Cushing’s disease, gastrointestinal issues, recent surgeries, and specific medications. Dietary indiscretions, especially involving high-fat cooked foods, contribute significantly.

Symptoms to Watch For:

Symptoms vary in severity, from mild to severe, and can include anorexia, abdominal pain, vomiting, dehydration, weakness, and diarrhea. Systemic inflammation can lead to shock or cardiovascular collapse. Diagnosis involves a comprehensive examination, bloodwork, and advanced tests like the Spec cPL test for accurate results.

Treatment and Management:

There is no cure for pancreatitis, making treatment primarily supportive. Intravenous fluids address dehydration, pain management is crucial, and enteral nutrition may be necessary. Antibiotics are generally unnecessary, and certain medications, like NSAIDs and steroids, should be avoided. Recovery varies, with some dogs experiencing recurrences or developing chronic pancreatitis.

Ultra-processed Pet Food and Pancreatitis:

Ultraprocessed pet food may contribute to the rising incidence of pancreatitis. Cooked, oxidized fats in processed foods have been linked to pancreatitis, while natural food-based enzymes crucial for pancreatic health are absent. Lack of enzyme-rich food stresses the pancreas, potentially leading to chronic inflammation.

Preventing Pancreatitis:

Adding digestive enzymes to your dog’s diet can help reduce pancreatic stress. Providing a nutritionally optimal, species-specific diet is essential. Avoiding heat-processed fats and incorporating clean, human-grade sources of unrefined fresh fats can positively impact your pet’s health. Preventive measures, especially for dogs with a history of pancreatitis, involve reducing pancreatic stress and preserving function.