Pancreatitis in Dogs and Cats

Perhaps the most nagging, aggravating digestive disorder we see in dogs and cats here in Whitehouse and East Texas is a problem called pancreatitis. Pancreatitis is an inflammatory condition of a special organ that is located next to the small intestine. Along with producing insulin, the pancreas creates and secretes digestive enzymes that aid in the breakdown of proteins, fats, and carbohydrates into their component parts. They are vital to the normal absorption of nutrients by the system.

For reasons not totally clear, the pancreas can sometimes become inflamed and spill these enzymes onto its own tissue. Swelling and extreme irritation follows that produces a variety of symptoms. In general, dogs which develop this disease usually have been fed a diet high in fat. More small dogs are affected than large dogs, and a slightly higher percentage are females in their middle years. Symptoms are highly variable, but can include vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain, unusual body positions at rest, “stomach noises”, and in extreme cases, even shock and death. Many times, owners bring these pets to us saying that something is just not right, that they’re just not themselves.

Testing for pancreatitis usually involves in office blood tests that we do here at the Rannals Small Animal Hospital. Under most circumstances, we can screen for this illness in less than 30 minutes. Often, other lab tests or imaging studies like ultrasound may be needed to assess severity of the disease or the pet’s overall health.

Pancreatitis can usually be treated successfully by the use of certain medications and dietary changes. In most dogs, treatment may take several days, even up to a few weeks. It takes time for the serious damage done to the pancreas to heal. Also, it’s important to remember that this problem can recur. Therefore, it is wise to be careful with the diet by avoiding the richer canned foods, and especially table scraps in the future. In general, low fat, easily digested foods are fed to these pets during the healing phase and often even longer term. In fact, today there are special commercial diets that are specifically designed to help dogs with pancreatitis. Our favorite is Canine I/D Low Fat diet by Hills. It takes the “guesswork” out of the diet for these affected dogs and gives the right amount of micronutrients and minerals they need.

Pancreatitis in cats has gotten much more attention in the veterinary community in the past decade. Newer testing and research has found that it is more common than previously thought. Symptoms in cats are often very vague. Often these cats are referred to as ADR cats (“ain’t doin’ right). And we have learned that pancreatitis can be part of a larger syndrome in cats called Triaditis, which is three different organ illnesses that are interrelated.

Successful treatment of pancreatitis depends as much on the owner’s supervision of the pet as on the veterinary care the pet receives. Together, we can provide relief from the discomfort and even danger that this disease brings.

Call us at the Rannals Small Animal Hospital at 903-839-7235 for an appointment.