Pancreatitis is a painful & serious condition that can occur in dogs of any age, breed, or sex. In recent years there have been some significant changes in the suggested treatment of dogs with pancreatitis.
Pancreatitis refers to inflammation of the pancreas and there are two types:
- Chronic, which means it’s recurring.
- Acute, which means a sudden onset.
With chronic pancreatitis in dogs, the symptoms can be less severe. However, the long-term impact can be more severe.
Symptoms of pancreatitis:
Dogs with pancreatitis will often stop eating and drinking due to the pain.
Other symptoms include:
- Upset stomach and abdominal pain
- Swollen abdomen
- Abnormal posture; arching of the back
Causes of pancreatitis:
Pancreatitis can be caused by multiple factors, including:
- A commercial diet of kibble or processed food. High carbohydrate diets are extremely taxing on the pancreas, often causing it to become inflamed.
- Gorging on a large amount of aggravating foods. Often this is seen with dogs who get into the garbage or have been fed an excess of table scraps.
- Dietary fat is known to be associated with the development of pancreatitis and can stimulate the secretion of a hormone that induces the pancreas to secrete its digestive hormones.
Dogs are designed for digesting meat, bones, organs and some plant material. Nature never intended dogs to eat a heavily-processed, grain-based diet.
Treating Pancreatitis in Dogs
The treatment of pancreatitis depends on the severity of the disease and may include:
- Hospitalization at the veterinary clinic
- Fluid therapy and electrolytes
- Pain medicine
- Antivomiting medication (antiemetics)
- Antibiotics, if a secondary bacterial infection is suspected
- Other medications, depending on your dog’s symptoms
- Keep in mind that your veterinarian may recommend that some diagnostic tests—such as the CBC, chemistry tests, and pancreas-specific tests—be repeated to monitor your dog’s progress during treatment.
It is extremely important to seek vet advice. The below diet is advisable for recovery & prevention for further instances in conjunction with veterinary treatment.
Recent changes in the treatment of pancreatitis in dogs:
Understanding how to best feed dogs with pancreatitis has undergone significant changes over the last few years.
Here’s some information from Dr Jennifer Coates.
‘Back when I was in veterinary school in the 1990s, we learned that dogs with pancreatitis should be fasted for 24-48 hours. This protocol was based on a reasonable assumption — food passing through the intestinal tract would stimulate the pancreas to secrete digestive enzymes, thereby increasing pancreatic inflammation.
But now, research in people and dogs is revealing the harmful effects that prolonged fasting can have on the structure and function of the gastrointestinal tract, including its important role in the immune system. The cells that line the intestinal tract depend on absorbing energy and nutrients that pass by after a meal. When a dog does not eat, the lining of the intestinal tract changes: the villi (fingerlike projections that increase the intestine’s absorptive surface) shrink, local immune tissue is reduced, the intestinal wall becomes “leaky,” promoting the absorption of bacteria and toxins, and inflammation increases, both within the digestive tract and systemically. Also, there is some evidence that when the pancreas is inflamed it does not secrete digestive enzymes in response to the presence of food in the same way that a healthy pancreas does, which casts even more doubt on the practice of prolonged fasting’ – http://www.petmd.com/blogs/nutritionnuggets/dr-coates/2014/august/new-recommendations-feeding-dogs-pancreatitis-31941
In short, fasting is no longer recommended for dogs with pancreatitis.
Recommended diet for pancreatitis in dogs.
The best food for a dog suffering from pancreatitis is homemade. Preparing your dog’s food at home is a good way to ensure the quality of ingredients and to control the balance of fats, protein, and carbs.
At the outset, your low-fat homemade dog food diet should consist of:
- Roughly 20% soothing vegetables (mostly pumpkin & with some leafy greens).
- 70% very low fat protein (chicken, turkey & rabbit are good examples of low fat foods and you can boil meat to remove most of the fat).
- 10% low-fat organs (like liver & kidney).
Regardless of whether fat was the initial cause of your dog’s pancreatitis or not, high-fat foods may trigger a recurrence, particularly if the pancreas was damaged.
- Be sure that your dog does not have access to your garbage:
- Don’t feed high-fat foods or treats such as pig ears. Consider offering a fat-free deer antler instead.
- Make sure that your dog does not get fatty treats from family members, friends, or neighbours.
Feed a low-fat diet until your dog is fully recovered, then slowly transition back to a normal diet if your dog can tolerate it. Some dogs may do well to remain on this diet indefinitely.
Suggested supplements for dogs with pancreatitis:
Enzymes: Supplemental enzymes assist with cellular and tissue structure and also reduce the burden on your dog’s pancreas.
One of the best sources is raw, green tripe – it carries a host of digestive enzymes. Unfortunately it’s getting harder and harder to source in Australia. If you can get it HURRAH!
If you’d like to try a natural, plant based source of enzymes – try adding some fresh papaya to your dog’s dinner.
Oils: Dogs fed a very low-fat diet may become deficient in the fat-soluble vitamins A and E. Adding fish oil and coconut oil to your dog’s diet can help.
Both these oils can be found in your local supermarket. Fish oil capsules are found in the Human Health section and Coconut oil in the Health Food Section (make sure you use organic, unrefined coconut oil – not the refined stuff for cooking).
Herbs: Yarrow helps reduce pancreatic inflammation and improves blood circulation to the pancreas. It’s also an effective way to treat diarrhea and bacterial infections of the gut & bowel.
Yarrow is available at our online store here – as well antler chews which are low fat, high in minerals and suitable for dogs with pancreatitis.
If you have any questions or concerns, you should always visit or call your veterinarian – they are your best resource to ensure the health and well-being of your dog.