Happy Fall everyone! Dr. Christina Martini here. With the holidays approaching I thought it would be a great time to talk about pancreatitis; a condition we see all too often at SWVH when pets eat fatty foods they shouldn’t!
The pancreas is a small organ that lives up high in the abdomen, near the stomach. It secretes digestive enzymes into the first part of the small intestine to help digest our food. If a pet eats something too rich, like candy or bacon, the pancreas can become inflamed. Symptoms usually include vomiting, lethargy, abdominal pain, dehydration and sometimes diarrhea and fever as well.
If you think your pet may have pancreatitis it is important to bring them to the vet right away! Pets can quickly become dehydrated and decline without treatment. To diagnosis pancreatitis we listen carefully for any history of eating rich or fatty foods, perform a complete physical exam looking for abdominal pain, and also analyze blood work. SWVH now carries a test that can help detect pancreatitis in as little as 20 minutes! Radiographs may also be recommended to rule out other causes, such as an obstruction, if the pet’s history is unclear.
Depending on the severity of pancreatitis, some pets may have to stay in the hospital for IV fluids, nausea and pain medications. Once released back home it is important for these pets to be fed a low fat diet, something easy on the pancreas, until they make a complete recovery.
So, how do you avoid pancreatitis? Try to keep your pet on as consistent of a diet as possible. Remember, dogs and cats do not get bored eating the same thing every day like we do! If they are doing well on their current diet, stick to it. Resist the big brown eyes that beg for those yummy scraps from the table! I’ve seen a dog that developed pancreatitis from just one bite of steak! Be mindful of your trash can too. This is a common enticing source of left over scraps, especially the day after Thanksgiving! It is best to store trash in the garage or where pets do not have easy access. At least once every holiday season we have to hospitalize a dog for eating a box of candies that was wrapped under the Christmas tree!
Pancreatitis is treatable and prognosis is usually good. However, severe cases may have to be hospitalized for several days. With this condition, prevention is truly the best medicine!
The countdown to the Holidays begins!