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Copyright Ian Billinghurst
Pancreatitis means literally - "Inflammation of the Pancreas."
The Pancreas is an organ that does two things. Firstly, it produces the hormone Insulin which is involved in the regulation of blood sugar in the body. Secondly, it produces digestive enzymes. Pancreatitis is usually seen in middle aged, sedentary overweight dogs which have spent a lifetime being fed a diet which consisted mainly of cooked and processed foods.
It is a disease of bodily degeneration. When a dog develops pancreatitis, it is because the digestive enzymes it produces start to attack the pancreas itself instead of waiting until they reach the inside of the digestive tract where they help digest the food. In other words, those enzymes in the pancreas start to digest the pancreas. This produces pain, it makes the dog feel nauseous, and so the dog often vomits and quite often bacteria move into this area causing an infection. Usually the dog will run a temperature.
The bottom line with this disease is a depressed, inactive, vomiting, inappetent dog with a temperature and a tummy ache.
The diagnosis is made based on the above clinical signs together with the results of blood tests.
How do we treat Pancreatitis?
The initial treatment involves non-steroidal anti-inflammatories, antibiotics, and complete rest from eating and drinking.
1] The non-steroidal anti-inflammatories are given to reduce the fever, stop the pain and to stop the pancreas digesting itself.
2] The antibiotics are given to stop any bacteria moving in to the damaged pancreas and causing an infection.
3] No food is to be fed. The idea of this is to stop all stimulation of the pancreas. This is because every time food is fed, the pancreas starts to digest itself and the problem starts all over again. That means no water for twelve hours and no food for 48 hours or possibly longer. The length of time food and water is withheld depends on the severity of the attack. Food may be withheld for up to 6 days with a very bad attack. In this case, water would also be withheld for several days and the dog would be hospitalized and fed with an intravenous drip.
Finally -- REDUCE YOUR DOG'S STRESS TO A MINIMUM. Stress is a major cause of pancreatitis, as are big fatty meals and the drug cortisone.