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Every year we see a number of cases of pancreatitis in both dogs and cats. Pancreatitis is an inflammation of this gland that produces most of our digestive enzymes as well as regulates blood glucose (it produces insulin and glucagon). Clinical signs often include:
· Lethargy, Depression, Poor or non-existent appetite (anorexia) – common in dogs and cats
· Vomiting, Diarrhea, Abdominal Pain – more common in dogs than in cats
· Weight Loss – more common in cats
Pancreatitis is more common in overweight middle aged or greater animals. In dogs there seems to be an increased incidence of this disease in females and for cats the Siamese breeds are often over represented. In many cases we truly do not know the inciting cause of this disease. Some of the potential causes of pancreatitis include: nutritional factors, pancreatic trauma, extension from other inflammatory abdominal problems (intestinal, stomach, liver), certain recent medication/drug administrations, infectious agents and a number of concurrent diseases may increase prevalence.
Every time an animal eats or drinks the pancreas is stimulated to produce digestive enzymes, which may leak from the pancreas when it is inflamed. These leaked enzymes may self digest and destroy surrounding tissues. Thus pancreatitis in its mildest form can often be treated with small frequent bland meals, which stimulate the pancreas minimally. However in more severe cases, animals must be hospitalized, provided with intravenous fluids and medications and nothing may be given by mouth to put the pancreas in a physiological state of rest. If left untreated or in very severe cases animals (an people) can die of this disease.
Thankfully there are a few things we can do to prevent pancreatitis. Once again we have a reason to TRY to keep our furry friends from gaining excessive weight. Having an older dog or cat that is slightly chubby is all right, but FAT is not where it’s at! We see an increase in pancreatitis and digestive problems every year associated with holiday meals. As much as we would like to share with our dogs and cats table food, this often creates more problems especially if it is rich (high fat) and our animals are unaccustomed to eating it. I know it’s hard but just say no to giving that little morsel or too many treats. Cats are often natural nibblers eating small amounts frequently; we want to encourage that behavior. If your cat eats too much at once you may have to put out smaller amounts more frequently to discourage over eating. Dogs should be fed twice daily which helps decrease all digestive upsets including pancreatitis and bloating. A dog who is prone to upset stomachs (vomiting) and diarrhea should be fed a low fat diet and perhaps 3 or more small meals per day. If your pet is prone to vomiting and or diarrhea consult your veterinarian, or Scottsdale Veterinary Hospital, for more information.