Acute Pancreatitis

Posted on June 12, 2015

Acute Pancreatitis is occurs when digestive chemicals (enzymes) essential for food digestion are activated inside the pancreas instead of the intestines.  The chemicals are normally inactive inside the pancreas until needed for digestion.  They are released into ducts and then the small intestines and activated into chemicals that help break down food in the digestive process by dissolving it into smaller particles absorbed through the bowel wall and into circulation.  Fifty percent of animals do not survive regardless of treatment.  Many critical pets are referred to a specialized hospital for treatment.

The pancreas is a gland located in the front of the abdomen, below the stomach and beside the upper intestines.  Not only does it produce digestive chemicals, it is responsible for producing hormones that regulate blood sugar.

Acute pancreatitis is statistically predisposed by two factors.

A.      Obesity in dogs and cats

B.      Fatty meals

Other causes of acute pancreatitis

A.       Trauma

B.       Metabolic disease

C.      Drugs

D.      Restricted blood flow to the pancreas

E.       Idiopathic or unknown predisposing conditions

Diagnosing pancreatitis can be difficult.  Diagnosis is tentative and based on several diagnostic tests.

A.      X-rays of the abdomen

B.      Ultrasound of the abdomen

C.      Blood count

D.      Serum biochemistry panel

E.       Levels of pancreatic enzymes

F.       Exploratory surgery

G.      Biopsy of the gland

Symptoms differ in dogs and cats

Dog symptoms

A.      Yellow vomit containing bile

B.      Abdominal discomfort

C.      Loss of appetite

D.      Loose stools

E.       Fever

F.       Dehydration

G.      Depression

Cat Symptoms (similar signs, yet can be more subtle)

A.      Depression

B.      Loss of appetite

C.      Possible vomiting

D.      Marked inactivity

Acute pancreatitis can call a complete collapse with a severe drop in blood pressure resulting in adverse effects on the heart, liver, kidneys and blood vessels.

Possible Treatments

A.      Intensive care treatment

B.      Intravenous fluids (IV)  to restore normal blood pressure

C.      Restricted food usually for five to seven days

D.      Intravenous feedings

E.       Drugs such as antibiotics, insulin, anti-vomiting, anti-ulcer and other specialized drugs

F.       Surgery to remove unhealthy tissue and infection

G.      Placement of J-tube into the bowel for feedings

H.      Long term treatment at a veterinary hospital for as long as 4-5 weeks

Pets are generally released after pet has recovered and 5 consecutive days of ceased vomiting. Medications, such as antibiotics may be prescribed for pet owner to be given orally.  A low fat prescription diet will be prescribed with smaller portions given throughout the day to help thwart future pancreatic occurrences and keep obesity at bay.  Pets of normal weights will be monitored to adjust food intake for unwanted weight loss. Insulin may be prescribed for diabetes mellitus dependent animals.   Pets may suffer exocrine pancreatic insufficiency (EPI) can be treated long term with pancreatic enzymes added to food, facilitating proper digestion.  Recurrent pancreatitis can easily occur by feeding fatty foods.