Pancreatitis is inflammation
and swelling of the pancreas. It can occur in a
mild or severe form. The cause of spontaneous pancreatitis in dogs
is not well understood. Dogs taking corticosteroids are at increased risk.
There is a higher incidence of pancreatitis in dogs with Cushing’s syndrome,
diabetes mellitus, hypothyroidism, and idiopathic
hyperlipemia (a disease of Miniature Schnauzers). These diseases are associated
with high serum lipid levels. Pancreatitis is also more prevalent in overweight
spayed females and dogs on high-fat diets. An attack may be triggered by eating
table scraps or a fatty meal.
Acute pancreatitis is characterized by the abrupt onset of vomiting and severe pain in the
abdomen. The dog may have a tucked-up belly and assume a prayer position.
Abdominal pain is caused by the release of digestive enzymes into the pancreas
and surrounding tissue. Diarrhea, dehydration, weakness, and
shock may ensue.
The diagnosis can be suspected based on a physical examination. It is
confirmed by blood tests showing elevated amylase and/or lipase levels,
along with a new serum test called canine pancreatitis lipase immuninol
reactivity and TAP (trypsinogen activation peptide). Abdominal ultrasonography
may reveal an enlarged and swollen pancreas.
Mild pancreatitis produces loss of appetite, depression, intermittent
vomiting, and diarrhea and weight loss.
Fulminant necrotizing pancreatitis is an acute, extremely severe, usually
fatal form of pancreatitis. In hours, your dog will go into shock. Dogs may
vomit or simply show signs of severe abdominal pain. If you suspect this
problem, get your dog to the veterinarian immediately!
Following an attack of pancreatitis, the pancreas may be permanently
damaged. When it is, the dog may develop diabetes mellitus if the islet cells
have been destroyed or may develop exocrine pancreatic insufficiency if the
acinar cells have been destroyed.
Treatment: Dogs with acute pancreatitis require hospitalization to treat
shock and dehydration. The most important step in treating pancreatitis is to
rest the gland completely. This is accomplished by giving the dog nothing by
mouth for several days and maintaining fluid and electrolyte balance with
intravenous saline solutions. Antibiotics are used to prevent
secondary bacterial infections. Pain is controlled with narcotics. Cardiac
arrhythmias, if present, are treated with anti-arrhythmic drugs.
Dogs who do not respond to medical treatment may require surgery to drain an
infected pancreas. The prognosis for dogs with shock and spreading peritonitis is poor.
Dogs who recover from pancreatitis are susceptible to recurrent attacks,
which can be mild or severe. These episodes can be prevented, in part, by
eliminating predisposing factors. For example, place overweight dogs on a
weight-loss program. Feed the total daily ration in two or three small servings
to avoid overstimulating the pancreas. Do not feed table scraps. Dogs with high
serum lipid levels (determined by your veterinarian) should be placed on a
fat-restricted diet. If scarring has damaged the acinar or islet cells, your
dog may need supplemental treatment such as enzymes or insulin.