What is it?  Pancreatitis is an inflammation of the pancreas, the organ responsible for producing and secreting digestive enzymes.  In its “acute” form, it is a very painful condition that causes vomiting, diarrhea and dehydration in Dogs and Cats.  Cats and Schnauzers frequently (up to 80%?) develop “chronic”, low grade pancraetitis.

What Happens?   When the pancreas becomes inflamed, its digestive enzymes leak out of their storage cells and start digesting the fats that are present in every surrounding cell.  Sometimes, enough digestive enzymes leak out to start digesting nearby abdomenal fat!  This is the cuase of the intense pain seen in more severe forms of pancreatitis. The most severe form of pancreatitis, called “Acute Necrotizing Pancretitis” can be life threatening if the internal digestion is extreme.

What causes Pancreatitis?   Pancreatitis is associated with many other metabolic conditins that contribute to inflammation:  Cushing’s disease, Hyptothyroidism and Diabetes especially.  Often, we associate pancreatitis with Dietary Indiscretion.  Pets fed  “rich” or fatty foods are at high risk for pancreatitis as these foods stimulate the pancreatitis to over-produce enzymes.  Holiday table scraps are the biggest cause of pancreatitis seen in veterinary medicine!  Sometimes, pancreatitis occurs without any known predisposing cause.

How is it Diagnosed?   Diagnosis for pancreatitis depends on your veterianrian’s exam and some blood tests. 

What to do about it?   Treatment for mild pancreatitis may not require hospitalization, just some loving nursing care at home.  Your veterinarian will likely prescribe some anti-vomiting medication, maybe some antacids, pain medication and a special diet for a few days.  More severe pancreatitis may require hospitalization for IV fluids, IV pain medications and other medications to help reduce the inflammation and support the patient while the inflammation calms down.  This may take several days. 

If your pet has any of the medical conditions mentioned above that are known to predispose to pancreatitis, be sure to have him /her seen by your vet right away if vomiting or diarrhea occur.  Protect your pet from “Dietary Indiscretions”– avoid feeding table scraps/ people food and keep the garbage locked securely away from prying paws– especially during Holidays!

Take your pet in for a veterinary exam if vomiting is frequent or lasts more than 24 hours.  Take your pet to Emergency if he is not able to keep down water because of vomiting as pets can become severely dehydrated within hours!  Remember, it’s better for your pet and less expensive for you to treat disease earlier rather than waiting for worse complications before seeking help!