The pancreas is a small organ with a big job. The role of the pancreas is make enzymes that help break down food that your dog eats so that their body can use it as fuel. It also makes something called ‘insulin’ to help keep the blood sugar normal and avoid diabetes.
Many times we don’t know what causes pancreatitis. Often it happens after a fatty meal or table scraps, and sometimes it can happen for no reason.
Your veterinarian would diagnose pancreatitis based on information that you provide on your dog’s diet, a thorough physical exam, some blood tests, and maybe an x-ray. Pancreatitis can result in higher than normal enzymes in the blood, and there is also a more specific blood test that can be done. These tests can help determine the kind of treatment that needs to happen to help your dog recover.
Treatment for pancreatitis can depend on the how sick your dog is. Most dogs do best if they are hospitalized, with intravenous fluids, medication to stop vomiting, medication to protect the stomach, and medication to stop the pain. Sometimes antibiotics are needed, especially in really bad cases.
Most dogs get better with a few days of treatment. But, sometimes they may have additional problems such as a pancreatic abscess, liver problems, or even cancer. These conditions are diagnosed with an ultrasound, which is like an x-ray but much more specific and in real-time. Since the pancreas also makes insulin, it can get so inflamed that it stops doing this and the dog can get diabetes.
The best way to avoid pancreatitis in your dog is to not give table scraps that could upset their digestion. Dogs aren’t like us and shouldn't eat pizza and ice cream. They do best when consistently fed a high-quality and balanced dog food.
Dr. Gail Cutler