Pancreatitis in dogs can be a very serious and life-threatening condition. Prompt treatment is necessary to treat the disease and to avoid further complications. Prognosis for a dog that has developed pancreatitis depends on several factors.
The function of the pancreas is the production of insulin, as well as the production and storage of certain digestive enzymes. Normally, these digestive enzymes are inactive while in the pancreas. Pancreatitis occurs when these enzymes become active for some reason. These enzymes actually start to digest the pancreas itself and begin to damage the tissues of the pancreas. This severe inflammation in this organ is what causes the signs and symptoms that occur in pancreatitis.
The symptoms of pancreatitis can include abdominal pain, decreased appetite, vomiting and diarrhoea. The dog may appear depressed and very lethargic. He may not want to play or engage in his normal activities. In severe cases, diabetes may occur because the dog is no longer able to produce insulin due to the damage of the pancreas.
Pancreatitis can be chronic or acute. The most common cause of pancreatitis is a high-fat diet. When a diet is high in fat and particularly when it is combined with low protein intake, it may cause pancreatitis. Some medications, including seizure medications, may cause pancreatitis. Hypocalcaemia, or too much calcium in the bloodstream, can cause pancreatitis. Some dogs may have a predisposition to the disease. Breeds such as miniature schnauzers have a higher incidence of pancreatitis.
Pancreatitis is diagnosed by a combination of blood tests and the symptoms present. If pancreatitis is suspected, your veterinarian may order a series of blood tests to help confirm the diagnosis. In pancreatitis, white blood cell count will be elevated. Serum amylase, lipase enzymes and liver enzymes may all be elevated. The only definitive test for pancreatitis is a pancreatic biopsy. Veterinarians try avoiding exploratory surgery in cases such as this, so usually this is not done unless absolutely necessary. Treatment of pancreatitis is aimed at controlling pain and fluid and electrolyte levels. It is necessary to avoid feeding the dog until vomiting subsides, which is usually 48 to 72 hours. Once gastrointestinal symptoms subside, a bland diet may be started.
The prognosis of canine pancreatitis depends on a number of factors. Obviously, the severity of the disease is a big factor. This will depend on the amount of time it takes for treatment to begin and the development of any complications. In mild cases where treatment is started right away, the prognosis is good. As long as the dog is denied access to fatty foods and scraps, minimal, if any, recurrence of symptoms will occur. In cases where the disease is severe and secondary complications occur, the prognosis is not as good. According to the Merck Manual for Veterinary Care, the mortality rate can be as high as 50 per cent.