Westbury Animal Hospital
713.723.3666 · 4917 S. Willow Dr. Houston, Texas 77035 

A rapid onset of non-specific gastrointestinal signs (vomiting, diarrhea, lethargy, decreased appetite) is one of the most common presenting complaints seen by all veterinarians (both general practice and emergency medicine alike).  Acute pancreatitis is often an important rule out for these cases.  The pancreas is an organ that sits near the stomach and the liver in the upper abdomen.  

Acute pancreatitis (inflammation of the pancreas) warrants in depth client communication, as well as specific diagnostics (tests) and treatments to be started- often on an emergency basis.

Pancreatitis is an inflammatory condition that can be mild and self-limiting in most cases, but can also lead to severe life-threatening complications. Therefore, early identification of at risk patients is essential. Risk factors include history of previous pancreatitis, abdominal trauma, dietary indiscretion, breed predispositions (Miniature Schnauzer, Yorkshire Terriers), obesity, concurrent endocrine disease, previous surgeries, as well as toxicities and certain medications (azathioprine, L-asp).   A history of getting into the trash a week before admission and regular feeding of table scraps were found to increase the odds of pancreatitis.

Table-scraps and human food is NOT recommended for any pet.  Any type of human food could put your pet at risk of developing pancreatitis.

Foods that should specifically be avoided are:

-Chocolate

-Grapes/raisins

-Onions/garlic

-Seeds/pits

-Coffee

-Bones (cooked or raw)

-Macadamia nuts/walnuts

-any greasy/fatty food

-any sweet food/candy/gum

Common signs you may see in your dog from pancreatitis including vomiting, weakness, depression, painful belly, decreased appetite and diarrhea.

Tests that your vet may recommend include baseline labwork (complete blood count, chemistry profile, urinalysis). It is important to remember that there may be no abnormalities identified on baseline bloodwork even with severe cases of pancreatitis.

Additional tests may be indicated and can be discussed with your vet on a case by case basis.   

It is very important to understand that even if your pet is still bright and alert/active, they are considered an emergency once pancreatitis is diagnosed.  Once pancreatitis is diagnosed, your pet may be at risk of developing very serious complications.  Therefore, emergency treatments and supportive care should be initiated immediately without delay.

Treatment is often focused on supportive care and close in hospital monitoring. Aggressive IV fluid therapy, electrolyte correction, pain control, gastro-protectants, anti-nausea medications are the mainstay of emergency medical management.  Hospitalization is often required for a minimum of 24-48 hours, but patients may require upwards of 5-7 days or weeks in hospital based on individual response. During this time, aggressive medical management and close monitoring of patient vitals and bloodwork are essential to monitor for the development of serious, life-threatening complications.

Cats can also get pancreatitis although they may have a more chronic form and may present with more vague signs such as hiding or not eating.   A very important point to remember for cats is that any length of anorexia (especially prolonged, > 24 hours) can lead to a life-threatening complication called hepatic lipidosis (fatty liver syndrome).  This can happen to any cat that stops eating, for any reason.  Therefore, if your cat stops eating, please contact a veterinarian as soon as possible.

Should you have questions regarding diagnostics and or treatment for patient you suspect has AP, please do not hesitate to contact our staff for assistance.

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