Pancreatitis in dogs is one of the most common dog health problems. It is reported to strike one in every 67 dogs.
However, because it is usually quite mild, it is often missed by owners so that only one in ten cases are ever confirmed by veterinarians.
So if you are a Miniature Schnauzer owner it makes good sense to familiarize yourself with this disease, and take note of the simple ways you can prevent it from striking your dog.
Pancreatitis in dogs is simply inflammation of the pancreas.
The pancreas is a slim little gland attached to the small intestine. One of its jobs is to produce digestive enzymes to help the body break down fats in the diet.
Normally, the pancreas is stimulated when your dog eats to release the enzymes into the intestine where they become activated and begin the work of fat digestion.
However, in canine pancreatitis these enzymes become active while they are still in the pancreas, and begin to eat away at it. The damage caused may even allow enzymes to leak into surrounding tissues in the abdomen causing further damage.
This is naturally very painful!
Pancreatitis in dogs varies in intensity. It can be acute (sudden, severe onset) or chronic (low level damage continuing over a long period) depending on the amount of enzyme prematurely activated at a time and how often this occurs.
While acute cases seem the most dramatic, with proper care most dogs will survive with no long term effects. Chronic cases, on the other hand, are easily missed until the long term damage to the pancreas and surrounding organs has become irreversible and quite often, fatal.
Chronic canine pancreatitis
When chronic, pancreatitis starts at a mild level progressing over a long period. Symptoms come and go, usually occurring just after the dog has eaten a fatty meal.
So affected dogs will show the following signs… now and then:
• Lose interest in food and look depressed
• Vomiting (if this is bad, they’ll also get dehydrated)
• Tummy is sore and swollen
• The dog may run a high temperature
• Bouts of diarrhea
• The poo will often look yellow and greasy with undigested fat.
Acute canine pancreatitis
Acute pancreatitis in dogs will have a sudden onset of all the above signs. If very severe, canine pancreatitis can be life threatening, and may also show the following signs:
• Labored breathing
• Kidney failure
• Bloody diarrhea
• Irregular heartbeat
If not treated, affected dogs can go into shock and die.
In these cases your veterinarian will need to put your dog on a drip until its condition is stabilized, as well as treat it with anti-pain, anti-blood clot, anti-vomit and antibiotic drugs. Several blood tests, xrays and ultrasound may be necessary to confirm pancreatitis.
Just why pancreatic enzymes can become active before leaving the pancreas is unknown. However, acute cases are often triggered by a high fat meal, especially during holiday festivities when dogs get greater access to ham rind and other fatty leftovers.
Other triggers and risk factors include:
Though it occurs in both sexes, female dogs tend to be more prone to pancreatitis than male dogs.
Overweight dogs are more at risk.
Pancreatitis commonly occurs in middle aged dogs, 7 years and older.
Exposure to organophosphate-based insecticides can trigger pancreatitis in dogs, as can certain medicines.
Such medicines include hormones (estrogen), some antibiotics (metronidazole, tetracycline, nitrofurantoin and sulfonamides), diuretics (furosemide), the anti-inflammatory cortisone, the immune system suppressant azathioprine, calcium supplementation, some long acting antacids, over-supplementation with the non essential amino acid asparagine, and Tylenol (a common cold, allergy and pain relieving drug).
Abdominal damage can set off pancreatitis, so it may be seen after a dog fight or motor vehicle accident.
In dogs with type I diabetes (diabetes mellitus) the pancreas is not producing enough insulin. In such dogs the dysfunctional pancreas is also more susceptible to developing pancreatitis.
Conversely, diabetes can also appear as a side effect of pancreatitis.
Apart from pancreatitis being one of the important Miniature Schnauzer health problems, other breeds also show higher than average risk.
Those breeds particularly prone to this dog health problem are Cocker spaniels, Silky terriers, and Yorkshire terriers.
Dogs with severe or acute pancreatitis
Dogs who become so dehydrated that they go into shock will often die despite your veterinarian’s best efforts. In others, after a day or two on a drip, and once vomiting is under control, they may gradually recover after several days of hospitalization.
While most dogs suffering a single episode of pancreatitis recover without side effects, some develop blood clotting problems. As a result, close veterinary observation is warranted during their initial hospitalization.
During this time they receive regular but small, low fat, low protein meals until they are eating normally again.
Recovered dogs and those with mild pancreatitis
A low fat (5% to 10%) diet is needed to prevent pancreatitis from recurring. Keeping sugar out of the diet is also recommended.
In chronic cases, the pancreas may stop producing digestive enzymes. To avoid long term diarrhea and weight loss, affected dogs need digestive enzymes given as a medication with meals forever after.