Tis the season, and nothing says family like gathering around the table for a big meal. Since most pet owners consider their pets family, it’s only natural to want to include them in any planned holiday celebrations, including sharing the holiday feast.
But while you’re at the table (and during the prep and clean-up, too), it’s essential to remember that our indulgences shouldn’t be theirs. Pets may experience GI upset, diarrhea, and vomiting – or worse – from partaking in the holiday meal. Ingestion of fatty foods and even any sudden change in diet can cause a painful and serious condition called pancreatitis.
With all those puppy dog eyes so hard to resist (and out-of-town guests unknowingly sharing scraps with the family pups), it’s no wonder veterinary hospitals see a marked increase in pancreatitis cases during the holidays. Before you offer your pet a sampling of the festive feast, learn how to recognize signs, or better yet, prevent, this potentially life-threatening condition in your pet.
A Glimpse of Pancreatitis in Dogs
The pancreas is an organ located to the right of the abdomen near the stomach. It is part of the digestive system and is responsible for producing digestive enzymes and insulin. Pancreatitis occurs when the pancreas becomes inflamed, which can be caused by many reasons, including consuming rich, fatty foods.
Inflammation occurs when digestive enzymes begin working in the pancreas instead of their normal starting point in the small intestine. When this occurs, pet owners may notice subtle changes in their dog’s behavior, such as not wanting to eat, restlessness, or not eating as much. Sometimes, acute shock can occur over the next few days, so paying attention to those early and less severe symptoms is crucial to achieving a better outcome.
When pancreatitis occurs, your pet may experience:
- Gagging or drooling
- Hunched posture
- Abdominal pain
If you believe your pet may be experiencing pancreatitis, please call us immediately or visit the nearest emergency hospital.
What Causes Pancreatitis in Dogs?
While there is no specific reason that we can pinpoint, there is strong evidence of a link between pancreatitis and eating fatty foods. As a result, veterinary clinics see more of these cases during the holidays, when rich human food is often given to pet family members.
Some of these high-fat foods that can cause digestive upset and pancreatitis include turkey skin and bones, gravy, buttery foods, seasoned foods, and creamy, cheesy, or fried foods.
Along with diet, certain other factors play a role:
- Endocrine disorders
- Age/senior pets
- Breeds such as miniature schnauzer, cocker spaniel, and miniature poodle
- Pets who have had pancreatitis once before
Treatment for Pancreatitis
Diagnosis is made through laboratory testing that includes the evaluation of the pancreas, kidneys, and liver and complete blood counts. If dehydration is present, it is also vital to look at electrolyte levels. Diagnostic imaging of the internal organs may also be required.
Once your pet is diagnosed with pancreatitis, treatment depends on the severity of the condition. Still, it will likely include hospitalization with IV fluid therapy, anti-nausea and pain medications, and nutritional support. We will also monitor blood levels to ensure pets are recovering well. Most pets are hospitalized for at least a few days. Rest assured that your pet will receive the most thoughtful and comprehensive care available in our 24/7 staffed ICU.
Avoiding Pet Pancreatitis
Pancreatitis is painful, potentially fatal, and can be an awful (and expensive) way to spend your holidays. While not all cases of pancreatitis can be linked to eating fatty foods or obesity, the safest bet is to avoid the biggest risk by keeping your pet a healthy weight and away from rich or fatty people foods no matter what time of year.
If you want to include your dog in the holiday meal, look on Pinterest for healthy, fresh dog treats to share with your four-legged Thanksgiving guests. We’re sure your dog will be just as happy with the alternative, and so will you!
If you have questions or concerns about your dog and pancreatitis, the Internal Medicine department and Emergency Service at BEVS is available.