Pancreatitis refers to an inflammatory condition that affects the pancreas and may occur in humans, dogs and cats.
The Pancreas is a small gland situated in the front of the abdomen that helps with digestive function and controls blood sugar levels. Pancreatitis may be acute (sudden onset) or chronic (low level long term pancreatitis) and affects the exocrine pancreatitis cells, or those cells involved in digestive enzyme release.
THE EXACT CAUSE of pancreatitis is often unclear and it may occur in any dog breed. Some breeds, for example Miniature Schnauzer may be more likely to get this disease. The cause is likely to be multifactorial with genetics and eating fatty scraps two of the possible causes currently being examined.
DURING AN EPISODE of acute pancreatitis fat digesting enzymes are released inappropriately leading to “autodigestion” of the pancreas and surrounding tissues. The inflammatory cascade that is triggered causes severe pain, lack of appetite, nausea and vomiting.
DIAGNOSIS is usually reached by a vet, after a physical examination, blood tests and often an ultra sound scan of the abdomen. Acute bouts of pancreatitis can be very serious and warrant immediate and aggressive medical treatment.
TREATMENT usually means a stay in hospital for your pet on intravenous fluids, with added pain relief. Other drugs that are used include anti-nausea medications, antacids and antibiotics. Careful monitoring of clinical signs and blood test results during the acute period are necessary to guide the treatment plan.
ONGOING MANAGEMENT following an episode of pancreatitis usually includes changing over to a low fat diet and awareness of the possibility of a relapse.
Although pancreatitis is a severe disease, rapid treatment means the outcome in these dogs is usually good and most will make a full recovery.