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Pancreatitis is inflammation of the Pancreatic Gland – the gland producing most of the digestive juices released into the small intestine.  The pancreas also produces hormones such as insulin, responsible for blood glucose regulation.

There may be many different causes for Pancreatitis and the true underlying cause is often not found.  However one consistent finding is that obese middle-aged dogs, especially females, that are not exercised adequately, are the most prone to the acute disease.

This is a very painful, febrile and debilitating condition.  There is often vomiting, depression, maybe abdominal enlargement, diarrhoea and a high temperature.  The illness may progress to shock and death, especially if not treated early.

Your veterinarian makes a diagnosis on the basis of your pet’s health history, clinical signs, physical examination and blood testing. 

The therapy your veterinarian prescribes for, commonly hospitalisation, medication and dietary modification will depend on the nature and the severity of the disease. Intravenous fluids (a drip) are often necessary to prevent or control dehydration.    Injectable antibiotics, anti-vomiting and anti-nausea medications are commonly administered.
Restriction of food and water is usually the first step in treating pancreatitis, thereby reducing the need for the pancreas to work. By not giving any oral food or water, the stimulus for the pancreas to release enzymes is decreased, and the inflamed pancreas allowed to heal.

During recovery, your pet should be fed small quantities of a food that is low in fat and whose nutrients are highly digestible.   We recommend a specially prepared formulation for this, for example Hills Prescription Diet I/D.  Small meals are often started, three to six times a day, when your pet is well enough to resume normal feeding.   Your vet will advise you if your pet needs to stay on Prescription Diet formulation long term.

Please remember to avoid giving meat or table scraps, snacks or other high fat treats.  If obesity is a complicating factor in your pet’s health, your vet may recommend a weight reduction programme.

This may be –

a) CONGENITAL – i.e. a defect present at birth, OR

b) The result of ACUTE PANCREATITIS – with several bouts (relapses) the scar tissue builds up in the Pancreatic gland destroying its ability to produce digestive enzymes.

The most common signs of Chronic Pancreatitis are persistent diarrhoea, soft faeces – the motion passed is usually formed but very soft, large in volume, pale in colour and has a particularly rancid odour.

The dog is often ravenously hungry but never gains weight no matter how well fed and tolerates poorly any variation in its diet.  Bouts of the watery diarrhoea are frequent.

Treatment is by replacing the lost digestive enzymes with artificially made enzymes; there are many preparations available.  Sometimes it may help to ‘pre-digest’ the food by warming it slightly and sprinkling the enzymes into the food and stirring well.

© Forrest Hill Vets (2000) Ltd