Increasing episodes of Pancreatitis in dogs over Christmas

Increasing episodes of Pancreatitis in dogs over Christmas

Increasing episodes of Pancreatitis in dogs over Christmas


Pancreatitis is defined as inflammation of the Pancreas. When functioning properly the pancreatic enzymes activate as soon as they reach the small intestine.

When digestive enzymes activate immediately upon release, Pancreatitis occurs causing inflammation and damage to the Pancreas as well as surrounding tissues and organs.

The pancreas is not only part of the digestive system, but also a vital part of the endocrine system. The endocrine system produces and manages hormones and plays a key role in the bodies metabolic balance.

The Pancreas secretes digestive enzymes which are sent into the small intestine to help break down the macronutrients ready for entry into the bloodstream. These enzymes include:

  • Amylase – to aid in the digestion of proteins
  • Lipase – to aid in the digestion of fats
  • Proteases – to aid in the digestion of carbs including sugars

As well as producing these digestive enzymes, the pancreas has the important role of producing insulin and secreting the correct amount into the blood stream – depending on the blood sugar level. Without proper levels of insulin your dog  can become diabetic or prediabetic, therefore it’s important to maintain pancreatic health.

I’ve observed that Pancreatitis has increased in recent years and I’ve read and heard so many other people talking about their dog getting Gut issues especially Pancreatitis. There has been so much discussion around the causes and I guess sometimes it is had to pin point an exact cause or in Marlo’s case, I believe he had a few factors that contributed to flare ups for example, types of food- he always reacted to Chicken, Pork, Turkey, Lamb. He seemed to tolerate Beef yet some say do not feed Beef to dogs with Gut issues. This is why its my opinion that you need to work out what is right for your dog but I do think if you have a dog that has Gut issues then you need to reduce their fat content in their food. That opens a whole new kettle of fish when trying to work out fat content in pet food.

I have added a calculator on the website that may assist you when trying to work out the percentage of fat in a particular pet food brand. I know when I was doing this for Marlo it was difficult as I did not realise that you also need to take into consideration the DMB (Dry Matter Basis). My next blog will discuss different foods and diets for your dog with tummy issues and we can delve abit more into how to remove the water content from foods when you are checking to see what the fat content of a food is or comparing wet food vs dry/Kibble food.

Other causes of Marlo’s Pancreatitis flare ups were anxiety related, raw meat or even bones would cause vomiting and or diarrhoea. I also noticed certain medications would cause a reaction and especially when treating him with tick prevention or flea treatment. It really became a balancing act as especially here in the Mid North Coast NSW, paralysis ticks are very common. Thank fully in the last few years you can get liquid form treatments that you squirt on the back of their neck and that by passes the Gut and is absorbed via the skin so this method worked better for us.

 Marlo’s symptoms when having a flare:

Marlo’s symptoms varied depending on the severity of the flare. Sometimes they were mild and I thought “ Is this a flare?”, maybe abit of vomiting, softer stool then usual. I was always on Poo patrol. Whenever I saw his poo I would check it out, is it soft, softer then usual, is there blood?.

At times, a symptom was a change in behaviour, Marlo would go out the back yard and sit behind a shrub or bush, like he was hiding or he did something wrong. At the time I just thought he needed his space !. It was just me and him so I though he needed “alone time” but looking back I can now see that he did not feel well or it was pain related.

About six months prior to his passing he would pace at night and could not get comfortable. He would arch his back, chew his paw and he went off his food and water.  Being a Labrador and not wanting to eat really hit home and alarm bells rang. Its really important that dogs with pancreatitis keep up their fluids and that too becomes a problem when they just don’t want to drink.

If I could pass on one tip, its really important to be observant and vigilant when your dog has Pancreatitis. Try to find the trigger, what caused the flare, sometimes its trial and error. I used a diary and recorded behaviour changes, diet, medications, vaccination program so it was all there and I could see if there was a pattern and I could take the diary to the vet and that way I never forgot to mention things to the Vet as it was all written down.

I’m working on a customized pet journal that will be available soon. Watch this space !!