Pancreatitis in animals

The holiday’s season is upon us and we all like to indulge with great food. And come on, who can resist those big begging eyes of your beloved pet. So you share your food with it, which is all right, but you do want to make a smart decision on which food is safe and which isn’t. Turkey with gravy for instance is not recommended. Basically any food high in fat is not recommended because it might lead to a condition called Pancreatitis.

The pancreas is an organ situated between the stomach and the intestine. The Pancreas function is to secrete digestive enzymes into the first part of the intestine to allow digestion of food. The second function of the Pancreas is to secrete hormones that are regulating the sugar in the blood, including Insulin.
Pancreatitis is an inflammation of the pancreas. The enzymes that are secreted from the pancreas are in inactive form. When the enzymes reach the intestine they become active. The active enzymes are breaking down the food and allow digestion and absorption of the nutrients. Pancreatitis occurs when the enzymes are becoming active while still in the pancreas, which leads to “self digestion” of the pancreas.
The exact cause of Pancreatitis is unknown, but there are few risk factors that might promote the condition. The most common causes are feeding high fat diet, obesity, certain drugs, secondary to viral/bacterial infections or secondary to trauma such as hit by car.
Pancreatitis can be either acute (sudden) or chronic (happen over a course of time). The acute form tends to be more severe, however both forms are dangerous, can be life threatening and might possess a long term damages. Pancreatitis can occur in both dogs and cats but more common in dogs. Cats if affected tend to have the chronic form of the disease.
The symptoms of acute Pancreatitis are: vomiting, painful abdomen, decreased or absent appetite, diarrhea, depression, abnormal body temperature (too high or too low) and dehydration. The symptoms of chronic Pancreatitis are generally similar but are usually less severe and intermittent. If you suspect Pancreatitis in your pet you should take him to your Vet. The Vet will ask you some questions about the pet’s history, such as what is the pet’s normal diet, did it get into garbage? And so on. The Vet will also perform a physical exam on your pet. Pancreatitis is diagnosed by few types of blood tests measuring the relevant enzymes. Your Vet might also suggest performing abdominal x rays/ultrasound to rule out other cases of similar symptoms.
Pancreatitis is treated with supportive treatment. The key of the treatment is allowing the  Gastro-Intestinal system and Pancreas to rest as much as possible. Hence the pet will probably stay hospitalized in the hospital with intravenous fluids supplementation, and no food or water by mouth. When the pet will not vomit any more a special diet- Low in fat and high in fiber will be offered.
Pancreatitis is a severe and life threatening condition. Chronic Pancreatitis can lead to long term damages such as Diabetes (impairment of Insulin secretion).
Because the cause of Pancreatitis is unknown it is hard to prevent it. Keeping your pet in good body weight and avoiding high fat diet will decrease your pet’s chances of having Pancreatitis. You can also feed your pet a special diet, which is low in fat and high in fiber, in order to reduce your pet’s chances of developing the condition. Please contact you Veterinarian for more information on Pancreatitis and how to try to avoid it.