Pancreatitis is a common disease in veterinary medicine that can be prevented. It is more common in dogs than cats and it means inflammation or irritation of the pancreas. The pancreas is an unusual organ in the fact that it has both an endocrine and exocrine function in the body. It is a diffuse organ that can’t be easily visualized in radiographs or ultrasound unlike the liver or spleen. It is responsible for producing insulin which allows the body to regulate its blood sugar level and it aids in the digestion of food by producing enzymes that break down fat that your pet ingests. The most common symptoms of pancreatitis are vomiting, diarrhea and inappetence. Pancreatitis is diagnosed by history, clinical signs and bloodwork that shows an increase in pancreatic enzymes (amylase and lipase) or PSL or spec cpl or fpl. It has commonly been referred to as “garbage gut” disease because it was common in dogs that got into the garbage and ate the scraps from dinner. It is aggravated by eating foods high in fat or spicy foods like pepperoni pizza. Some breeds are predisposed to pancreatitis like miniature schnauzers and miniature poodles. Treatment varies based on the presentation of your pet. It can range from an outpatient basis with resting the intestinal tract, feeding a bland diet like rice and broth and symptomatic treatment of vomiting and diarrhea to hospitalization with IV fluids, injectable medications and treatment for 24-72 hours. We tend to see an uprising of cases of pancreatitis around the holidays because owners are having family gatherings with food and guests and the pet may have easier access to unsupervised food. Usually pets recover from acute cases of pancreatitis without any issues. We become more concerned if your pet develops chronic pancreatitis because if the pancreas becomes extremely irritated it can start to destroy itself from the inside out. My best recommendation is to not feed your pet people food or scraps from the table. If your pet is having frequent bouts of pancreatitis we try to prevent this from happening by feeding a low fat diet like i/d all of the time. Please be extra careful over the holiday season.
- Dr. Julie Grossen