Written By John Burns BVMS MRCVS
Pancreatitis is an inflammation of the pancreas. The pancreas is an organ with two major roles. It produces hormones such as insulin and it is essential for producing and storing the enzymes needed to digest food. This condition can range from mild and chronic to severe with a sudden onset.
Pancreatitis can be a very painful condition. Dogs which are in pain and uncomfortable may adopt a type of stretch called the ‘prayer position’ and show symptoms including vomiting, diarrhoea, dehydration, fever, weakness and collapse.
Scavenging or being given fatty foods can trigger this problem. We get a lot of calls about it after Christmas. We also had a case about a dog with pancreatitis where the dog had managed to eat the whole head of a hog roast! It’s not just a one off fatty meal that can cause it; many dogs on a regular diet high in fat may develop problems.
Other triggers include drugs like steroids, infections and trauma/damage to the pancreas. Research has shown overweight dogs are much more prone to this condition.
Pancreatitis can be life threatening so you must take your dog to the vet as soon as possible so they can diagnose your pet and begin treatment.
A low fat diet which is easy to digest is recommended. We recommend feeding a diet that contains 9% fat or under. Be sure to stick to the correct daily feeding amounts to ensure extra fat is not consumed.
Many people think they are feeding a low fat wet food but because wet foods have a high amount of moisture or water in them you often need to feed 4 times the amount of a wet food than a dry food.
Therefore you need to take this into account before comparing a wet food to other diets as they could be getting more fat in total (for further information into this please see Wet Vs Dry Foods. Small frequent meals spread throughout the day may be tolerated better by your dog than one or two larger meals.
A low fat diet is essential even if your dog has lost weight due to pancreatitis. It is not advisable to try and ‘feed him up’ after being ill as too much food can overwork the pancreas. If your dog is very thin it is important that you speak to your vet or one of our nutritionists for help.