Pups, they’re just like us! They’re suckers for fatty foods—especially when humans give them tastes during the holidays. But those high-fat table scraps can seriously backfire: They’re one of the main reasons why dogs are diagnosed with pancreatitis (the day after Thanksgiving is known as one of the busiest days for pancreatitis emergency vet visits!) The gastrointestinal disease is surprisingly common—one out of 100 dogs will have it—but it’s probably underdiagnosed, says Andrew Hanzlicek, veterinarian and associate professor at Oklahoma State University. He gave us the scoop on how to avoid pancreatitis—and what to do if your pup gets it.
Why pups get pancreatitis
The primary cause is a high-fat diet, according to Hanzlicek. Often, it’s due to an abrupt change in what the dog is eating: “We hear about the dog who gets into the trash and ate something fatty,” Hanzlicek says. It can also be caused by a history of eating fatty foods and obesity, as well as diabetes and endocrine diseases like hypothyroidism. Other times, pancreatitis could be caused by a trauma to the pancreas from a car accident or from a tumor, says Wendy Brooks, veterinarian with the Mar Vista Animal Medical Center in Los Angeles. Miniature Schnauzers are predisposed, because they typically have altered fat metabolism.
What’s going on in your pup’s body
In technical terms, pancreatitis is the inflammation of your dog’s pancreas. So their digestive enzymes, which should be in granules, are released prematurely into their body, resulting in what Brooks calls a “metabolic catastrophe.” The tissue becomes inflamed, and toxins are released into the body causing your dog’s entire body to become inflamed. There are two types, acute and chronic, and both can be mild or severe. Either way, vomiting, stomach pain, and anorexia are the most common symptoms, Hanzlicek says.
How to diagnose and treat your pup
If you suspect your dog has pancreatitis, take them to the vet immediately! It’s important to get them diagnosed because it can also be accompanied by a tumor. An ultrasound can detect 68 percent of the cases, but there’s a new test called the SPEC cPL that can detect 83 percent. There’s no specific treatment for pancreatitis, just treatment for the effects of it: If it’s not a bad case, your vet will likely prescribe anti-nausea and pain medicine Hanzlicek says. If it’s more serious, your pup may need to be hospitalized and get IV fluid therapy.
Ways to prevent pancreatitis in pups
If your dog is prone, stick with a healthy, relatively low-fat diet (salmon, chicken, and turkey are lower fat proteins) and don’t feed your pup fatty scraps, Hanzlicek says. Giving your dog smaller, more frequent meals can also help. Some studies have found that Vitamin E, Vitamin C, beta-carotene and methionine can help, as well as fish oil because it lowers blood lipid levels.
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