What is Pancreatitis?

18th April 2024

What is pancreatitis and how can it affect your dog? Read on to find out all you need to know about this disease.

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As a dog owner you may have heard the term pancreatitis, or you may know someone who has suffered with the condition. It is unfortunately becoming more common in dogs in the UK. Although the exact cause of this disease is unknown, there are certain factors which can contribute to it. First, let's take a look at the function of the pancreas and then we can highlight the key signs and how to prevent and protect.

What is the Pancreas and What Does it do?

The pancreas is a small organ in a dog's body, located near the stomach and intestines. Its main job is to help with digestion and regulate blood sugar levels. It does this by producing enzymes that help break down food so the body can absorb all the good stuff like nutrients. Additionally, the pancreas makes hormones like insulin, which helps control the amount of sugar in the blood. So, basically, the pancreas plays a big role in helping dogs digest their food properly and keeping their blood sugar levels steady.

Controlling blood sugar levels in dogs is important because it helps keep them healthy and feeling good. When blood sugar levels are too high, it can lead to problems like diabetes, where the body can't use sugar properly for energy. On the other hand, if blood sugar levels are too low, it can cause weakness, shaking, and even fainting. By keeping blood sugar levels in the right range, dogs can have the energy they need to play, walk, and do all the things they love without feeling sick or tired. So, it's like keeping their bodies running smoothly, just like making sure a car has enough fuel to keep going!

What is Pancreatitis?

Pancreatitis in dogs is a condition characterised by inflammation of the pancreas. The enzymes that are produced to breakdown food can activate too early and start to break down cells in the pancreas, this then causes the inflammation.

This condition can be acute (meaning it can occur suddenly) or chronic (developing over time) and can either be mild or severe. It's important to note that every dog is different and if you are worried about your dog, always consult your veterinarian.

The exact cause of pancreatitis is still unknown however, there are some factors which can increase the risk of developing the condition which are:

  • Diet: High-fat foods, table-scraps, ingesting toxins and inappropriate items.
  • Obesity: Dogs who are overweight have a higher chance of developing pancreatitis.
  • Medical Conditions: Diabetes mellitus, hypothyroidism and cushing's disease may be predisposed to pancreatitis.
  • Genetics: Some breeds may have an increased risk including Terriers, Boxers, Border Collies, Cocker Spaniels, Cavalier King Charles Spaniels, Miniature Schnauzers and Dachshunds.
  • Medications: Some medications may trigger pancreatitis in some dogs including antibiotics, cholinesterase inhibitors, estrogen and diuretics. Always read the leaflet of medications or ask your vet to explain any risks.

What are the Symptoms of Pancreatitis?

There are many symptoms which can be associated with pancreatitis but which are also similar to those of less serious illnesses. Should your dog present with several of these symptoms, please contact your vet:

  • Lethargy
  • Loss of appetite
  • Diarrhoea
  • Dehydration
  • Fever
  • Hunched posture or reluctance to move
  • Vomiting numerous times

As advised above, these symptoms can be associated with a number of different conditions, but if your dog presents with multiple of the above, do contact your vet right away.

How to Manage Pancreatitis in Your Dog

If your dog has been diagnosed with pancreatitis, we firstly recommend to follow your vets advice. There are ways in which you can support recovery and prevent future episodes:

  • Feed a low-fat diet. Low-fat meals will put less pressure on the pancreas.
  • Feeding smaller portions throughout the day rather than one or two large meals a day. This will minimise the demand of the pancreas.
  • Hydration, make sure your dogs has access to fresh water at all times.
  • Weight management, if your dog is overweight, work out a dietary plan to reduce their weight and therefore reduce the risk of relapse.
  • Avoid feeding table scraps and processed treats and foods, feeding only nutritious and species-appropriate food will help nourish the body and reduce strain on the digestive system.
  • Regular exercise will help your dog maintain a healthy weight and will help all systems in the body to function optimally.

What Food Can I Give My Dog with Pancreatitis?

As mentioned above, it's important to feed a low-fat, nourishing diet. At Paleo Ridge we have a great selection of low-fat meals, all with no additives or preservatives. Each meal has been meticulously crafted to provide optimum nutrition for your dog. The meals in this range are:

If your dog is suffering with chronic pancreatitis, we recommend feeding Special Diet, Lamb & Mint, Pork & Apple or Turkey & Fish as these have 5% fat or lower which is ideal.

When to Contact Your Vet?

If your dog is showing symptoms and you have concerns about their behaviour, it's best to contact your vet straight away. Pancreatitis can be very serious and needs immediate attention. If your dog has pancreatitis and you have recently changed to a raw low-fat diet, your vet will arrange regular tests to check enzyme levels in the blood.

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