Pancreatitis in dogs is a condition where the pancreas of a dog gets inflamed. The issue may seem casual because of the small size of the organ but, it’s quite serious. It’s an essential organ for dogs as it helps with digestion and hormone production.
The pancreas is inflamed and the dog suffers from severe pain. The dog suffers some serious organ damage and also goes through septic shock. So, in severe conditions, dogs also end up dead. So, many dog owners often wonder – should I put my dog down with pancreatitis?
Well, it’s a difficult question and an extensive one. You must not make a rash decision to euthanize your dog who is suffering from pancreatitis. Keep reading, as I share some valuable information which may help you understand this condition better and possibly provide you with clarity.
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Pancreatitis In Dogs
The pancreas in dogs releases an enzyme which helps in digestion. In normal working conditions, the enzymes released by the pancreas become active only after reaching the smaller intestine. A dog suffering from pancreatitis will have these enzymes activated before they reach the small intestine.
As a result, it damages the pancreas and causes inflammation. The issue is not limited to the pancreas. The tissues nearby and other organs also suffer some damage. But, what causes pancreatitis in dogs?
What causes pancreatitis in dogs?
The exact cause of pancreatitis in dogs is often unknown. There are many factors which are responsible for triggering the issue in our furry friends. For instance, genetic mutation, toxic substances, or immune reaction. Any of such factors could lead to pancreatitis issues in dogs. Here are some other causes which explain the issue in dogs:
- Eating from the trash can or having a high-fat meal
If your furry friend has eaten their food from a trash can, they are likely to suffer from pancreatitis. The food in the trash can make the pancreas produce more digestive enzymes than usual.
These enzymes can activate prematurely and damage the pancreatic tissues causing pain and inflammation. Likewise, if your dog is having a high-fat meal such as butter, cheese, bones, bacon or any other fatty meat, they will suffer from premature activation of digestive enzymes causing pancreatitis.
- High blood triglyceride levels
The high blood triglyceride levels which are often referred to as hypertriglyceridemia or hyperlipidemia, are responsible for pancreatitis problems in dogs. This happens when there are too much of fat deposits in the pancreas.
Such deposition often causes interference with the functioning and result in inflammation issues. Some breeds are more vulnerable and have high blood triglyceride levels because of their genetics. Miniature Schnauzers are prone to this issue. In addition, obesity, diabetes, or hypothyroidism can cause hyperlipidemia.
- Infection in the abdomen area or trauma
If a dog has an infection in their abdomen area or has trauma because of some injury, then it will suffer from pancreatitis. The reasons are evident – infection brings toxins or bacteria into the pancreas and triggers pain and inflammation. On the other hand, the traumatic experience is initiated when a dog suffers from blunt force injuries, car accidents, or falls from high places.
Infections that often cause pancreatitis in our furry friends are Ieushmaniasis, babesiosis, toxoplasmosis, infectious peritonitis, or parasitic infestations.
- Immune system causing diseases
At times, the immune system begins to inflict attacks on the dog’s own body tissue and cause severe damage and inflammation. Such diseases often have a brutal effect on their pancreas. Breeds like English Cocker spaniels are more susceptible to immune-mediated diseases.
Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), and Autoimmune hemolytic anaemia (AIHA) are some examples of diseases that can cause pancreatitis in dogs.
You shouldn’t be surprised after reading this. There are many medicines that induce toxic or allergic reactions in the pancreas. Antibiotics like tetracycline, chemotherapy medicines such as asparaginase, anti-inflammatory drugs like azathioprine, anticonvulsants such as phenobarbital, and diuretics like thiazide can cause issues in the dog’s pancreas.
These were some of the causes leading to pancreatitis issues in dogs. So, it’s crucial for you to know whether or not your furry friend has this condition or not. So, what are the signs of pancreatitis in dogs?
Symptoms Of Pancreatitis In Dogs
When a dog is suffering from pancreatitis, it will show some unusual behaviour. You may see them hide, hunch their back, avoid touch or collapse. There are many symptoms that can trigger such behaviour. So, let’s have a peek at some symptoms:
- Vomiting – the digestive enzymes can cause irritation in the stomach and in the intestine. Dogs may also suffer from nausea and inflammatory issues. Nausea often makes them vomit continuously.
- Hunched back – the dog may hunker their back and hold their rear end in the air with their front legs. They keep their head low on the floor to relieve the abdominal pain induced because of pancreatitis.
- Diarrhoea – your dog will suffer from this condition as a result of maldigestion and malabsorption of food. This happens because of the lack of pancreatic enzymes and inflammation of the intestines.
- Pain in the abdominal region – the pressure of an inflamed pancreas and the accumulation of fluid in the abdominal cavity leads to swelling. You may see a dog crying, panting, hiding, shaking, or panting. They might also avoid touch in that region.
- Dehydration – vomiting and diarrhoea can decrease the fluid in the body and cause dehydration. The lack of fluid can also cause fever and inflammation. In addition, they may also have dry mouths, poor skin elasticity, or sunken eyes.
- Loss of appetite – while suffering from pancreatitis, nausea, distress, and pain will also make a dog lose their appetite. You may notice signs of weakness, lethargy, or depression in the dog having pancreatitis.
- Fever – dogs can get a fever because of an infection in the pancreas or other organs. Their heart rate is elevated, you may see them shiver, and they might also have respiratory issues.
Pancreatitis in Dogs Treatment at Home
Normally, it’s best to take your furry friend to a vet for treatment. But, there are some ways you can consider treating pancreatitis at home. Following are some of the tips you can consider:
#1. Improve their diet
You must provide your furry friend with low-fat diet food. Dogs can easily digest this and they will not face digestive issues and the work of the pancreas is less. But, for dogs suffering from an acute condition of pancreatitis, this diet is a temporary solution.
A low-fat diet is helpful for dogs who have chronic pancreatitis and helps in improving their condition for longer periods. Here are some examples of low-fat diet food for dogs:
- Home-cooked meal – must retain lean protein sources such as turkey breast, chicken breast, or white fish, cooked rice, or potatoes, and some vegetables in the mix.
- Prescribed dog food – is tailored for dogs who are suffering from pancreatitis or gastrointestinal issues.
- Commercial dog food – contains a low-fat percentage, approximately 10% less and high in quality ingredients.
#2. Keep dog hydrated
Dehydration is a common yet, serious complication of pancreatitis in dogs. The issue occurs because of excessive fluid loss because of diarrhoea and vomiting. The elevated fever and inflammation only worsen the condition and it’s crucial to manage this issue to prevent organ failure, as the dog may die from shock as well.
Here is how you can remedy such a situation:
- Provide plenty of fresh water. This is the simplest method to control their dehydration.
- Offer them water with some low-sodium chicken broth or Pedialyte added to the mix. This helps in refilling electrolytes and helps with recovery.
Sometimes you may have to withhold the supply of water if the dog is exhibiting signs of severe diarrhoea or vomiting. Also, at times, the condition is much more severe and supplying water won’t be enough. The dog may require intravenous fluids to tackle electrolyte imbalance and dehydration. In such cases, they will require treatment from the vet itself.
Your furry friend will need ample rest if you see them exhibiting symptoms suggesting pancreatitis. Set up an environment that helps them relax. Provide a comfortable mat or cushion and make sure they are in a room or place where there is less noise.
The more rest your furry friend gets, the better. In addition, you must also ensure that your furry friend doesn’t engage in physical activities. Because the movements can elevate their pain and inflammation. Lastly, you need to avoid exposing them to objects or situations that may trigger excitement or stress in them.
Pancreatitis In Dogs Treatment
Home treatment can provide results but, at times, your furry friends will not recover and their symptoms might get worse. You will observe the following symptoms or signs in your furry friend:
- Increased diarrhoea or vomiting
- Extreme abdominal pain
- Blood in stool or vomit
- Extreme weakness (collapsing)
- Loss of consciousness
- High fever
- Dehydration (despite feeding excessive water)
So, when you observe these symptoms, make sure you take your furry friend to the clinic. These signs are not good as they indicate internal bleeding, septic shock, or organ failure. A vet will conduct some tests and verify the condition. Following are the tests you can expect to be conducted:
- cPLI or Spec cPL
cPLI i.e. Canine Pancreatic Lipase Immunoreactivity Test or Spec cPL Test is carried out to identify elevated levels of pancreatic enzymes, specifically pancreatic lipase in the blood. If the levels of pancreatic lipase in their blood are high, it suggests pancreatitis in dogs.
- CBC Test
CBC (Complete Blood Count Test) examines the types and number of red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets. A high count of white blood cells suggests inflammation or infection which often points towards the pancreatitis issue. Likewise, a high red blood cell count indicates dehydration and a low count suggests anaemia.
In addition, the low number of platelets highlights the high consumption, sequestration, or destruction of platelets in a dog. This situation occurs while they are suffering from pancreatitis.
- Serum Biochemistry Profile Test or CMP Test
This test assesses the functioning and health of different organs such as kidneys, liver, and pancreas. The abnormal levels of calcium, sodium, glucose, potassium, bicarbonate, blood urea nitrogen, chloride, and creatinine suggest organ damage triggered because of the pancreas.
- Blood Glucose Test or Fasting Plasma Glucose
Glucose levels are checked in this test. If the dog’s blood shows a high level of glucose, it suggests diabetes mellitus. This is one of the significant risk factors for pancreatitis in our furry friends. On the contrary, if the sugar levels are low, it indicates hypoglycemia. This is equally responsible for creating chaos in the pancreas of dogs.
Remember, these tests are not exactly for detecting pancreatitis but, are influenced because of different conditions or factors. So, a vet will normally combine various other tests along with these tests for better accuracy in diagnosis.
For example, co-relating blood results with X-rays or ultrasounds. The X-rays or ultrasound help in showing the shape, size, and texture of the pancreas, and other organs. Co-relating the results with the blood test results helps to identify the specific cause and pick a suitable course of treatment.
Vet’s treatment approach
A vet’s approach on how to treat pancreatitis in dogs will not only depend on the test results but, also on the factor of whether it’s acute or chronic. Acute pancreatitis in dogs is treated using more extensive treatments or approaches because of its severity, whereas, chronic pancreatitis in dogs is easily manageable and some dogs recover at home itself.
- Acute pancreatitis dogs – the treatment options are intense as symptoms are extreme. Intravenous fluids, medications, and surgery are the options for treating acute pancreatitis in canines. The surgical option is considered when medications or fluids are not helpful in dealing with the symptoms or due to the presence of pancreatic tumours.
- Chronic pancreatitis dogs – here the symptoms are not as severe as in acute and hence, the treatment options are more conservative. The treatment includes providing oral medications and fluids. Some dogs may need extra supplements like probiotics or pancreatic enzymes to help with digestion. The treatment goes on for longer periods and continuous monitoring of the dog’s sugar levels and pancreatic functions is necessary as chronic pancreatitis can lead to acute if not treated well.
These were some prospects for acute and chronic pancreatitis treatments in dogs. Here is a general approach that a vet might approach while treating this issue in dogs:
#1. Supportive Care
A vet will use pain relief medications, anti-nausea medication, antibiotics and fluid therapy if necessary to provide sufficient care to the dogs. While they are providing the care, you will see them monitor the dog’s vitals continuously.
The dog’s blood pressure, heart rate, temperature, and hydration status are constantly monitored. The blood tests conducted before will be repeated again and they will examine the difference and see if the condition has improved or not.
#2. Resting the pancreas
Fasting and resisting the pancreas is a crucial part of treatment. Withholding food for roughly 24-48 hours helps in reducing the stimulation of enzyme secretion. Afterwards, the vet will provide them with some food. This is done to analyse the dog’s appetite and capacity to handle the food after the fasting period.
Also, during this period, they will monitor dogs’ weight and analyse their body condition to ensure that there is no significant weight loss. If the dog responds poorly to resting the pancreas, it will show a lack of appetite or intolerance towards water and food. Along with this, they will also exhibit signs of vomiting, or abdominal pain.
#3. Dietary management for pancreatitis in dogs
Reintroducing food after the fasting period is challenging. So, a vet will begin with low-fat food and avoid offering high-fat content food items. A home-cooked diet is the most suitable option and they will insist on low-fat and high-protein combinations. A dog showing a positive response to this adjustment will not show any distress like abdominal pain or vomiting issues.
#4. Treating underlying conditions or risk factors for pancreatitis
Underlying conditions or issues such as obesity, immune-mediated diseases, or diabetes mellitus are identified and treated to prevent further damage to the organ. These conditions are needed to be recognised to avoid any catastrophe.
For example, if the dog is already suffering from diabetes mellitus, insulin therapy won’t work. The purpose of insulin therapy is to counter the lack of insulin levels, whereas a dog having diabetes mellitus already has elevated levels of insulin.
Should I Put My Dog Down With Pancreatitis?
The treatments for acute pancreatitis or chronic pancreatitis do not guarantee complete recovery. The dog may die in the process and if not it might not stay in the same shape as before. There are plenty of complications while they are receiving treatments.
Because of such circumstances and complications, there is a common thought in dog owners’ minds – Should I put down my dog with pancreatitis? The concern is legit and here are some complications of treatments that explains the thought process of a dog owner:
- Pancreatic Abscesses or Pseudocyst – refers to the acute fluid collection that can cause infection, rupture or compression of organs in close proximity to the pancreas. Fluid therapy, inappropriate antibiotics, or surgery can cause these complications.
- Diabetes Mellitus – this complication occurs when there is damage to the insulin-producing cells of the pancreas or from ketosis and hyperglycemia. Inadequate insulin therapy, excessive glucose administration, or dietary indiscretion can initiate such complications.
- Extrahepatic Bile Duct Obstruction – this issue is triggered when there is oedema, inflammation, or fibrosis of the pancreatic head compressing the bile duct. This complication can often cause jaundice, cholangitis, or cholestasis. Delayed diagnosis, insufficient anti-inflammatory therapy or surgical intervention can trigger such complications.
- Drug toxicity – the medications used for treating pancreatitis may exhibit negative effects and cause drug toxicity if not provided in a proper dosage. The issue may also be triggered because of a lack of medical assessment of dogs’ health i.e. medical history.
- Hypoglycemia or hypokalemia – this complication can happen on an overdose of insulin, fluid therapy or dietary restriction. There is an overreaction of dehydration and this causes electrolyte imbalances or hypoglycemia.
- Sepsis or infection – bacterial relocation from the gastrointestinal tract or pancreas into the bloodstream can trigger a systemic inflammatory response (SIRS) or multiple organ dysfunction syndrome (MODS). These issues also occur because of secondary infection of the pancreas or other organs. Delayed antibiotic therapy, improper fluid therapy or immunosuppression can cause these complications.
These are some of the complications which worsen the health condition of dogs. They are in utter distress and even after recovery scope for a normal life is slim. So, it’s normal for dog owners to consider euthanizing their dogs.
When to euthanize a dog with pancreatitis?
It’s difficult to such a big decision, so, being a professional vet myself, I can highlight some of the possible instances when a vet will suggest euthanising the dog. Here are they:
- Severe pancreatitis – when a dog will show multiple organ failure, DIC (disseminated intravascular coagulation), or septic shock.
- Chronic pancreatitis – while it’s manageable if the pain and distress in continuous and the dog is not responding to treatments, the quality of life is compromised.
- Incurable underlying condition – if the dog is suffering from an incurable condition such as immune-mediated disease, or drug-induced pancreatitis.
- Pancreatic tumour – the tumours are removable but, at times, these tumours are at such a location that it’s not possible for vets to operate. Operating on those tumours can cause risks and not operating will surely trouble the dog.
These are the most likely instances where a vet will suggest euthanising the dog. In addition, there are some other constraints involved from dog owners’ perspectives as well. These prospects involve reasons why dog owners don’t euthanize and why they choose to:
Reasons why dog owners don’t euthanize:
- They are not willing to kill their dog because of ethical dilemmas.
- There is hope in their conscience suggesting their furry friend will recover from the condition.
- A strong bond with the dog. This is one of the main reasons, they think of it like this- spending some more time with their dog is better than killing them, regardless of their health condition.
Reasons why dog owners euthanize:
- A dog owner may not have the financial capacity to afford the treatment, especially if it’s a long-term treatment for chronic pancreatitis.
- Treatment options are limited. For instance, the surgical option is out of the equation when the tumour is inaccessible.
- They wish to end their dog’s pain.
Toxins such as zinc, organophosphates, and some medications or drugs can cause pancreatitis issues in dogs. Medications or drugs such as diuretics, steroids, antibiotics, chemotherapy drugs, or anti-inflammatory drugs can damage pancreatic cells, alter blood flow in a dog’s body, or interfere with enzyme regulation if not provided in proper dosage. Zinc is toxic if ingested in large amounts. Organophosphates are insecticides that are found in fleas and tick products or herbicides. Other toxins are scorpion venom, salmonella bacteria, blue-green algae, xylitol, leishmania parasites, and so on.
The timeframe relies on the type of pancreatitis the dog has. So, a dog having acute pancreatitis will suffer from the symptoms for a few days and recover well. The reason is simple, the treatment is immediately started for such pancreatitis to avoid deterioration of the condition. The dog who is transitioning from moderate symptoms to acute may suffer from one to two weeks from the issues. Chronic pancreatitis can last for days, weeks, or months and the treatment is also conservative.
Treating pancreatitis in dogs UK, can cost you roughly between £350 to £750 and can go beyond the £2000 mark. The cost of treatment varies as per their diagnosis. This means, if they are having acute pancreatitis you can expect your expenses to cross the threshold of £1000, if it’s chronic, you may need somewhere around £360 to £720.
Food items such as pork, chicken, beef, skin, bacon, cheese, butter, and table scraps can trigger pancreatitis issues in dogs. These food items have high-fat proportions and are not good because they can prematurely cause the release of enzymes in the pancreas and damage the organ. In addition, contaminated food for instance, food from the garbage can also cause severe pancreatitis issues for our furry friends.
Pancreatitis can cause severe problems such as pain, discomfort, diarrhoea, loss of appetite, dehydration, fever, and vomiting in dogs. They also suffer from some serious issues like organ failure, diabetes, infection, or even death. You can try some home remedies for treatment, but, if there is no improvement you need to take your dog to the vet itself.
A vet will verify the type of pancreatitis, and decide on treatment. Once the vet verifies the type i.e. acute or chronic, the dog receives treatment. For acute pancreatitis – fluid therapy, medications, or surgery are plausible options. Chronic is progressive and hence, antibiotics, pain medications or other fluid therapy is used for treatment.
However, there is no guarantee of full recovery for dogs suffering from pancreatitis. If the diagnosis is early and treatment is done properly they might recover well but, still won’t live a healthy normal life. There is always the risk of recurrent episodes of pancreatic issues. For such instances, euthanising a dog is one option. You must discuss this with the vet and see whether or not it’s wise to put them down or not.