What is Canine Pancreatitis?

Debra Durkee

Canine pancreatitis is a disease that affects dogs later in life. Elderly or middle-aged female dogs are the most susceptible to this disease in which the juices of the pancreas attack the tissues of that organ. With a combination of treatments such as hospitalization, medication, rest, and in the worst cases surgery, it is many times possible for a dog to recover. There can a number of complications that arise from it.

Cocker spaniels are more susceptible to canine pancreatitis than other breeds.
Cocker spaniels are more susceptible to canine pancreatitis than other breeds.

The pancreas aids in the digestion of food. When the digestive juices of the pancreas are activated when they are still in the glands that produce them, they begin to digest the tissues of the organ. While this process can be life-threatening, it doesn't necessarily have to be if diagnosed early. Some breeds are more susceptible to developing this condition, including small dogs such as cocker spaniels, Yorkshire terriers, and miniature schnauzers and poodles.

Yorkshire terriers are at a higher risk of canine pancreatitis.
Yorkshire terriers are at a higher risk of canine pancreatitis.

Owners familiar with their dogs' behavior will notice differences in them that indicate there is something wrong. A change in appetite can be one of the most obvious symptoms, as a dog with canine pancreatitis often stops eating or even drinking because of the pain it causes. This abdominal pain can sometimes cause the dog to cry or whine when his torso is touched or squeezed. He may also become restless and have difficulty lying down. Vomiting, diarrhea, and a fever can also accompany other outward demonstrations of weakness and restlessness.

Once any abnormal conditions are reported to a veterinarian, the dog will undergo a blood and urine test to determine the levels of pancreatic enzymes in his system. Typically, the diagnosis will be confirmed with an x-ray of his abdomen; if the diagnosis is positive, he will require hospitalization, rest, and IV fluids. Pain medications can also be administered to help keep the dog calm, quiet, and comfortable. Severe cases may require surgery to remove damaged tissues, but this is a risky procedure that is usually a last resort.

One of the most common causes of canine pancreatitis is poor diet. A proper diet is high in protein and low in carbohydrates. Many inexpensive dog foods are full of meat by-products, artificial flavorings, soybean and corn meal with artificial colors, and nutrition-free fillers.

The pancreas can also be affected when a dog is constantly fed fatty meats and table scraps. Dogs supplied with poor diets also have a higher chance of being obese, another condition that can aid in the development of canine pancreatitis. Those who recover from canine pancreatitis will require a high-protein diet for the rest of their lives.

Severe cases of canine pancreatitis may require surgery.
Severe cases of canine pancreatitis may require surgery.

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