The pancreas serves two main functions in the body: producing insulin that
enables the body to utilize and store glucose; and producing pancreatic enzymes
essential for the digestion of food. Problems with pancreatic function can cause
blood sugar problems, exocrine pancreatic insufficiency, or pancreatitis. Pancreatitis
is an inflammation of the pancreas usually resulting in pancreatic enzymes
leaking into the abdomen. It occurs in both dogs and cats, but is most common
among overweight, middle-aged dogs. Pancreatitis can be acute or chronic and can
be anywhere from mild to quite severe, painful, and life-threatening. Companion
animals with mild pancreatitis may be treated at home while those with severe
disease will require hospitalization and intensive care. Chronic pancreatitis
can reoccur, or eventually lead to diabetes.A high-fat diet, obesity or injury can bring on pancreatitis. Overuse of
corticosteroids, sulfa-containing antibiotics, certain chemotherapy drugs, anti-convulsants,
or diuretic drugs can also contribute to pancreatitis, as well as exposure to
organophosphate insecticides. Pancreatitis may be an indication of other
underlying disease issues such as kidney or cardiovascular disease or possibly a
bacterial infection. Animals with a hypothyroid condition, Cushing’s disease, or
diabetes are predisposed to pancreatitis. Miniature Schnauzers are more prone to
developing pancreatitis than other breeds.Pancreatitis may develop after an animal gets into the garbage or is offered a
large amount of fatty leftovers from the Thanksgiving dinner feast. Symptoms in
dogs can include depression, loss of appetite, vomiting, or diarrhea. They may
have a distended and/or painful abdomen – which can cause restless behavior,
panting or a resistance to lying down. Mild pancreatitis is harder to detect
since the dog may just appear a bit reserved with a depressed appetite. If the
pancreatitis is mild and chronic, he may seem cross and more aggressive than
normal due to chronic pain and feeling poorly. Cats with pancreatitis do not generally show obvious symptoms, but rather seem
depressed or withdrawn, have a poor appetite and may have a fever and an
elevated heart rate. They are not as likely to have abdominal pain or vomit.
Prevention, as always, is the best course. Feeding a properly balanced, high
quality diet with regular exercise is the key. Exercise improves digestion and
helps keep your companion’s weight under control. (Please see our article
Weight Management for Dogs and Cats if your companion is overweight).
The treatment of pancreatitis can vary greatly depending on the severity and
duration of the illness. If the symptoms are severe enough to include vomiting
or diarrhea, an immediate trip to the veterinarian is essential. Hospitalization
will likely be necessary for the administration of fluids and monitoring of the
animal’s condition. As pancreatitis can also be very painful, pain management is
an important consideration. Mild pancreatitis is more easily managed at home – that is after a visit to your
companion’s veterinarian for a proper diagnosis. After an initial, mild attack
of pancreatitis you will likely be advised to withhold food for several days.
Cats cannot be fasted as long as dogs, so they may need to be fed intravenously
or through a tube in the intestine. Light broths in small amounts may be permitted, along with distilled water
offered frequently in small portions. This allows the pancreas to rest and begin
the healing process. Food will be reintroduced gradually in very small portions
in the beginning. The diet should be very low in fat and any foods the animal
seems to react to should then be avoided. A home-made diet is ideal for animals
with pancreatitis. It is often recommended to feed grains separately from meats,
or not at all as the pancreas must produce different enzymes in order to digest
different foods, so feeding simpler meals will ease the work of the pancreas.
Animals prone to or recovering from pancreatitis should be fed more frequent
meals with small portions rather than two larger meals each day. Food should be
at room temperature for optimal digestion and less stress on the pancreas.
Digestive enzymes are a very important supplement for animals that have
experienced pancreatitis, as are probiotics. Antioxidants and vitamins, such as selenium, A, B complex, C, and E may help
the healing process and strengthen the pancreas.
Essential Fatty Acids are recommended as well; even though they are higher
in fat, EFA’s can also contribute to healing and strengthening the pancreas. The
liver can be adversely affected by an attack of pancreatitis when the enzymes
seep into the abdomen, and may also be stressed by the higher level of toxins in
the system. Support of the liver with Milk Thistle may be useful for animals recovering from
pancreatitis.Vaccinations should be minimized or avoided for any animal with pancreatitis.
Diet changes should always be very gradual for animals prone to pancreatitis as
Lower fat foods for Cats.
Lower fat foods for Dogs.
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