What’s pancreatitis in dogs?

What’s pancreatitis in dogs?

Pancreatitis is the inflammation of the pancreas.  Once the pancreas begins to stop working properly the juices within it begin to leak out into the surrounding tissues within the body causing great pain and discomfort to your dog.  The body is in essence trying to digest itself.  There are two types of pancreatitis - chronic and acute.  By far the most common, and probably the reason you are reading this, is chronic pancreatitis.

As the pancreas leaks, there are less digestive enzymes to digest the fat and protein in your dog's diet.  This can be seen in the yellowy grey diarrhoea which often accompanies this problem.

The symptoms of pancreatitis

  • diarrhoea
  • gurgly tummy
  • weight loss
  • dull coat
  • increase of appetite
  • wind

All of the above are signs that the digestive system is not functioning as it should be.

What causes pancreatitis?

Some dogs are more prone to developing the disease than others, so genetics are thought to play a part (cocker spaniels, german shepherds and dachshunds for example). However this does not account for the vast number of dogs that suffer from the disease.

The stress that over vaccination causes on the body, although unproven, is also thought to play a part.

However, without doubt, the leading cause of pancreatitis in dogs and cats is the food they eat.  This is almost certainly due to a high carbohydrate biscuit diet.  It is well known in human medicine that pancreatitis has a strong nutritional link, so it's not too much of a stretch to consider this with our dogs too.  After all, the majority of them are eating a completely unnatural diet that their bodies are not efficient in managing.

Most vets will recommend a low fat diet to dogs diagnosed with pancreatitis. Many kibble manufacturers have a high carb, low fat biscuit that they claim will do the trick.

Can pancreatitis in dogs be cured?

Yes, with the right diet. 

The first thing your dog will need is for the inflammation of the gut to reduce. The pancreas needs to rest.  This can be done by fasting your dog, more often than not your dog will do this by refusing food for 24 to 48 hours anyway.  

Once you start to reintroduce food, the important factor here is that the food is highly digestible and DOES NOT contain any carbohydrate. The last thing you want is for the inflammation to begin all over again.  

Fresh food is the most easily digestible food.  Feeding little and often (4 or 5 times a day) reduces the stress placed on the pancreas.

What to feed a dog with pancreatitis?

A lot of owners understandably get hung up on the fat content of foods.  The vets, after all, have told them to stick to a low fat diet.  

Before worrying about the fat content, the first important step is to remove all carbohydrates from the diet (including treats).

When feeding a raw diet, the easiest rule of thumb is to limit (not eliminate) beef and lamb and stick to leaner meats such as chicken, turkey, lamb tripe, non oily fish and game, such as rabbit or venison.

Foods high in protein and no carbohydrate are what your dog needs. This is far better than getting hung up on the exact percentage of fat in every meal which is both worrying and exhausting for the owner.

Also try and start to include a small amount of fresh pancreas into your dog's diet. Pancreas has all the necessary enzymes your dog's body is crying out for. By feeding pancreas you will be giving your dog what it needs to help to heal itself. 

With time and management it is possible for your dog to recover and lead a normal life.

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