Hey there, it’s me—your pet’s pancreas. You may not think about me often, but I’m here, and I’m kind of a big deal. I usually sit quietly near my friends, the small intestines and the stomach, tucked neatly along their curves. We’re a pretty tight trio, but we all have our own unique qualities. Our favorite team hobby is digestion. I help by making different enzymes that I send to my friends via pancreatic ducts, to help break down food after a meal. We’re well-known around town for our skills, but I’m also pretty independent. On my own, I love to produce insulin and glucagon—maintaining proper blood glucose is my jam.
Most of the time, I’m pretty quiet. Some call me a wallflower, and I guess that’s true, since I don’t usually make a big racket, and I like to hang on the edge. But, ask anyone who knows me—you don’t want to witness my bad side. When something upsets me, I become sensitive, inflammatory, and can cause a lot of pain. This condition is widely known as pancreatitis. When this happens, my ducts often become clogged, and I stop communicating with my friends. I also tend to spew out things I shouldn’t, like premature digestive enzymes, which end up harming myself and others. While pet parents can do some things, pancreatitis is sometimes unavoidable. Here are some helpful facts and tips to help you better understand my condition, and how you can help me stay happy and productive.
#1: Get familiar with pancreatitis signs in pets
My flare-ups can cause a variety of different signs in your pet. Since I’m closely associated with my digestive tract friends, you’ll likely see vomiting, inappetence, diarrhea, fever, or lethargy. Pancreatitis is extremely painful, so you may see your pet exhibiting signs of upper abdominal pain, such as restlessness, pacing, or assuming the “prayer” position with their elbows on the ground and their rear legs standing straight. While not common initially, severe pancreatitis can eventually cause shock-like symptoms, if not treated.
#2: Pancreatitis is no fun for your pet—or your wallet
Since pancreatitis signs are often similar to other gastrointestinal conditions, and no single test can prove its diagnosis, a workup is usually necessary. This can include different blood tests, X-rays, or abdominal ultrasound to rule out other disorders. Depending on the severity of my inflammation, your pet likely will require a hospital stay. While pancreatitis has no cure, many pets become dehydrated and require nutritional support, in addition to ancillary medications to help calm me down and keep your pet comfortable. This is obviously not a walk in the park for your pet, and can be costly if extensive diagnostics and treatments are necessary.
#3: Know the pancreatitis risk factors
In some cases, pancreatitis is avoidable. Since I am a big player in fat digestion, the more high-fat foods your pet eats, the harder I have to work—and I don’t like to work that hard. If you feed your pet a high-fat, unbalanced diet, you may end up paying for it later—literally and figuratively. Additionally, conditions like obesity can contribute to pancreatic flare-ups, or insulin resistance, and potentially diabetes. Some pets, however, may be susceptible to pancreatitis for other reasons, such as breed (i.e., schnauzers), older age, certain medications, or other primary or hereditary disorders.
#4: Prevent a pancreatic pitfall
Pet owners can take an active role in minimizing pancreatitis risk by feeding their pets a healthy, nutritionally balanced diet. Avoid the temptation of giving your pets table scraps or other fat-laden treats, and opt for healthy snacks like carrots, apples, or the occasional lean slice of bland meat. If your pet is already susceptible to pancreatitis, or they have had past episodes, talk to the Westerville Veterinary Clinic team about a prescription, low-fat diet tailored to at-risk pets. Also, ensure your pets get daily exercise to keep them trim and healthy. While pet owners can’t totally prevent pancreatitis, I certainly appreciate the effort to keep me calm, happy, and quiet.
If you have questions, or would like further information about pancreatic health in pets, contact our Westerville Veterinary Clinic team.