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Tuesday, November 12, 2013

‘Tis the season for pancreatitis

            As we begin to prepare to enter the holiday season, it is important to begin to address potential problems that may exist for our four-legged family members during this time of the year.  Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners are a tempting time for pet parents to want to involve their pet in the festivities and give them a “treat” for the holiday season.  It is very important for parents and visiting relatives/friends to remember that not everything can be fed to pets, as some foods are toxic, and an abundance of high-fat foods or food they do not typically receive can lead to development of a serious illness called pancreatitis. 
            Pancreatitis is simply inflammation of the pancreas. It can affect both dogs and cats, but is more common in dogs.  Typically, the most common inciting cause of pancreatitis in dogs is a history of dietary indiscretion, often from ingesting high-fat foods; however, a true cause is rarely identified. Other potential causes include abdominal trauma, certain medications, or a severely high triglyceride level.  Owners will typically notice the pet exhibiting a decrease in their appetite and vomiting (the two most common clinical signs seen).  They may also experience abdominal pain, which may be noted as increased lethargy (tiredness), panting, vocalizing, or acting painful if touched in that region.  Diarrhea may also be seen in some pets.  If left untreated, pets can become very dehydrated, and surrounding organs can also become affected (i.e. liver).
            Pancreatitis is diagnosed via appropriate clinical signs and blood work.  A SNAP cPL test can be performed at the veterinary clinic and provide a quick “positive-negative” result for pancreatitis.  Routine blood work (complete blood count, serum chemistry) is also performed to assess for dehydration, infection, and abnormalities with the liver or kidneys (elevation in liver values).  Radiographs and ultrasound of the abdomen are also performed to rule-out other diseases.  Treatment for pancreatitis depends on how severe the pet is affected, and can involve IV (intravenous) fluids, pain medications, anti-nausea medications, and antibiotics if infection is present.  Some pets recover quickly, while others may require days of hospitalization; in rare cases, pancreatitis can be fatal.

Upcoming blog: Common food toxicities in pets