Meet Moby who stayed with us in hospital for a week after presenting very unwell with vomiting. Moby normally is a very happy little guy that loves nothing better than to wag his tail and greet every one with the same amount of enthusiasm. When he came to us with his tail down and his eyes not so bright we knew he wasn't a well guy.
Dr Alex ran blood tests and concluded that Moby had pancreatitis. After a week of treatment of intravenous fluid, antibiotics and lots of TLC, Moby was able to return to his feline sister Daisy and brother Sydney who had missed him so much. We have seen Moby since his stay with us and since being on a reduced fat diet is back to his old self, charming everyone around him.
What is pancreatitis?
The pancreas is an organ in the abdomen which has two main functions - to produce digestive enzymes and insulin. Eating stimulates the pancreas to increase production of digestive enzymes, which digest meat, carbohydrates and fats. Occasionally some of these enzymes leak into the pancreas and tissues around the pancreas and it starts to 'digest itself', causing pain and inflammation, i.e, pancreatitis and sometimes peritonitis.
Why does pancreatitis occur?
This may occur because a patient has eaten a particularly fatty meal (causing large amounts of digestive enzymes to be released) or there may be no obvious explanation. However, once patients have had one episode of pancreatitis, they are more prone to experiencing repeat bouts.
Pancreatitis is much more common in middle-aged, overweight, female dogs, however it can occur in male or female dogs of any age or weight.
What are the signs?
Patients with pancreatitis may just be lethargic, or 'tired'. Vomiting is common, and diarrhoea may occur. Appetite may or may not be affected, byt eating will usually cause vomiting. Thirst may be increased - again, drinking will often cause vomiting. There may be fecer and dehydration. There is often abdominal pain which may be eased by dogs getting into a 'praying' position (standing on hind legs, but with elbows on the ground).
Diagnosis is usually made on a combination of clinical signs and the results of blood and urine tests.
How is pancreatitis treated?
1. No food or water by mouth (to reduce the activity of the pancreas).
2. Intravenous fludis (often with a vitamin supplement) to maintain hydration and flush out toxins.
3. Antibiotics to prevent the damaged pancreas becoming infected.
4. Anti-vomitng drugs to settle the stomach and reduce the feeling of nausea.
5. Pain relief.
How do I prevent pancreatitis?
While most dogs won't ever get pancreatitis, it is a good idea to avoid fatty meal as a general rule. Not allowing your dog to be overweight will also minimise the risk (as well as making it generally healthier).