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Elizabethton Veterinary Clinic

Article Written by:  Dr. Michael Brown - Owner of Elizabethton Veterinarian Clinic

Our Paws Newsletter by Elizabethton Veterinarian Clinic


Pancreatitis is an inflammation of the pancreas. The pancreas is an organ located adjacent to the duodenum and produces most of the digestive enzymes. Also, within the physical structure of the pancreas are the Isles of Langerhans. These structures produce the insulin and glucagon enzymes which, together, control the blood sugar concentrations – and, thereby, diabetes. Under most circumstances the Isles of Langerhans are not affected when a patient has pancreatitis.

Pancreatitis is a very variable disease in that it can range from very mild to very severe and can quickly become necrotizing pancreatitis – a condition which is very often fatal despite intensive treatment. The microscopic glandular tissue of the pancreas produces the enzymes that digest meat proteins. You have to wonder why these enzymes don’t routinely digest the cells that produce them. The pancreas has a very complicated combination of host defense mechanisms that normally prevent autodigestion (the pancreas digesting itself with its own enzymes). However, once in a while the host defense mechanism fails and the pancreatic enzymes begin to digest and destroy the pancreas. This condition is pancreatitis.

Pancreatitis can be caused by many, many things. However, the most common cause of pancreatitis in middle aged pets is the ingestion of meat proteins and fat that simulates an excess production of proteolytic enzymes. The foods that are most commonly associated with pancreatitis are pork (any pork product or product containing pork), fat, and spices. Most dogs and cats can eat table scraps containing the above mentioned foods and never have trouble. About one percent of middle aged dogs and cats do develop pancreatitis when fed these products. Once the condition is diagnosed and treated and the patient has recovered, the maintenance plan is to be sure that the patient no longer has access to pork products, fatty food, or spicy food.

The clinical signs of pancreatitis are lethargy, loss of appetite, not feeling well, fever, vomiting, diarrhea, and severe abdominal pain – any, or all of the above.

Treatment for pancreatitis often does not require hospitalization but does require prescription medication. If the vomiting and diarrhea are significant, intravenous fluids may be necessary to prevent dehydration. The abdominal pain is sometimes so severe that the patient needs injectable pain relief medication.

By a large margin, Schnauzers are the most commonly affected breed. There really is no good reason to feed your pet table scraps. The only reason to feed your pet table scraps is that you believe that if you were a dog you would like for someone to feed you table scraps simply because you believe that table scraps should taste better than commercial pet food. Good quality commercially prepared pet foods are scientifically formulated and provide a better diet for your pet that the diet of most people. All pet foods on the market do not fit into the category of “good quality”. Pancreatitis is most easily prevented by simply not feeding you pet table scraps in general and definitely not fats, pork, or heavily spiced food.

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