Home Opinion Columns URBANANIMAL: Pancreatitis can be fatal in dogs and...
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Feb 16, 2010  |  Vote 0    0

URBANANIMAL: Pancreatitis can be fatal in dogs and cats

Etobicoke Guardian

Dear UrbanAnimal,

My miniature schnauzer, Doogan, had a second attack of pancreatitis following a family dinner at my home. After his first attack last year we vowed to feed him only his regular meals, which are low fat and high fibre. On the day of his second attack, we had been cooking since early morning. Doogan spent most of his time in the kitchen that day, but he wasn't allowed any "people food." Just before midnight, we rushed him to the emergency clinic when it became obvious he was suffering another attack of pancreatitis. A dog who has had pancreatitis in the past is susceptible not only to the food he eats, but also to the smells generated by cooking, especially fatty foods.

Scott P.

Thank you for your letter, Scott. I'm not a veterinarian nor have I had personal experience with pancreatitis in a dog, but I'm familiar with your theory that simply being in the same area where food is cooking can be a trigger.

I researched pancreatitis to find any mention of cooking smells and, although it wasn't included as fact by online veterinarians, there is enough anecdotal evidence by owners to suggest you are correct.

A dog's pancreas is located beneath the stomach and small intestine. It produces enzymes required for the digestion process plus hormones that create storage of glucose (sugar) and amino acids (proteins).

If this organ had hands, it would be wearing kid gloves. It needs to handle the enzymes delicately in order to prevent damage to itself. To put it simply, if its kid gloves break, the enzymes leak, which cause damage to the pancreas itself as well as any surrounding tissue. When that happens, it's called pancreatitis.

Pancreatitis can occur for many reasons, but it's believed a combination of factors are at work including a high-fat diet, obesity, lack of exercise or possibly contaminated food or water. Some diseases, such as Cushings and diabetes can also contribute, as well as some drugs (for example, some types of antibiotics) and toxins (insecticides).

Some breeds of dogs, such as miniature schnauzers, appear to be predisposed and although I could find no statistics, it's thought female dogs of any breed are more at risk. Cats can also be susceptible.

This was a difficult subject to research because diagnosis can be difficult. A non-speaking patient can't tell us where it hurts and many symptoms of pancreatitis are similar to many other health problems. Some symptoms can include dehydration, rapid heartbeat, rapid breathing, a "hunched" posture (indicative of abdominal pain), vomiting, diarrhea, depression, and lack of appetite.

Whenever a dog is experiencing unexplained pain, a veterinarian might consider pancreatitis. A blood test may show elevated amylase and lipase, but these levels can be slow in making an appearance, which means they're not always high enough to create an early diagnosis.

According to www.vetinfo.com pancreatitis can occur once in a dog's lifetime or it can become chronic. It can be rapidly fatal or a mild attack of pain that resolves in a few hours or a day. It can cause tremendous side effects including shock, blood clotting disorders, heart arrhythmias, liver or kidney damage and death. Veterinarians will commonly use protocols to manage pain, medication to control vomiting and fluid therapy.

Scott, it appears you're on the right track with a low-fat, high-fibre diet for Doogan and avoiding "people food" is a good plan. Unless someone fed Doogan at your dinner party or he managed a score from a kitchen countertop, I'd have to agree cooking smells may have played a role. Your veterinarian may be able to determine if any other factor was involved.

Readers, pancreatitis is indeed quite common, but because its symptoms are so varied, any sign your dog is in pain requires a trip to the veterinarian. If your regular vet has closed for the day, check your local phone directory for after-hours emergency clinics in your own community.

Email jacque-newman@rogers.com with a question, comment or suggestion.

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