Pancreatitis

Overview

Pancreatitis in UK dogs is a condition that primarily affects the pancreas and more specifically, the pancreas’ ability to function properly.

The pancreas is both a hormone gland (endocrine) and a digestive organ rolled into one. The pancreas has the ability to secrete hormones such as insulin into the bloodstream It also helps by producing enzymes into the intestines to help in digestion for a dog.

Much like in humans, the pancreas is a very sensitive and important organ.

The pancreas in dogs also sits in a similar position as it does in humans: located in-between the stomach and the intestines.

Swelling of the pancreas, it’s inability to function correctly and the associated side effects are what would be labelled as pancreatitis.

The main side effect that can ultimately be fatal for a UK dog is when the pancreas inflames and fails to release the enzymes needed for your dog to efficiently digest food eaten.

Instead of enzymes being released, the stomach is forced to digest alone which can cause the dog’s digestive system to begin digesting it’s own tissue. This process is called “auto-digestion” and once it occurs it is in all likelihood fatal for the dog who develops it.

In cases where the pancreas is in an extreme state of inflation with low functionality (20% or less), diabetes can also occur.

Diabetes specifically occurs as mentioned above because a healthy pancreas releases insulin regulating blood sugar levels whereas an inflamed pancreas does not.

Pancreatitis in UK dogs and humans is thought to have hereditary origins but nothing has been definitively proven as of 2020.

Symptoms

Correctly diagnosing pancreatitis in dogs has been a difficult task for UK veterinarians for some time.

It is no surprise then that pancreatitis ranks as one of the highest underdiagnosed issues in small to medium UK dogs.

The main difficulty faced in the diagnosis of pancreatitis is the complexity and seemingly unrelated symptoms that are generally presented by dogs suffering from the condition.

Whilst there are many symptoms of the disease, the main bulk can be narrowed down to a list of:

  • Anorexia or severe weight loss.
  • Vomiting or gagging regularly.
  • Weakness or fatigue.
  • Abdominal pain or reluctance of chest being touched.
  • Dehydration or extreme appetite for water.
  • Diarrhea that persists.

It is important to note that these symptoms are highly linked to many other conditions and not all dogs suffering from pancreatitis will exhibit all of these symptoms listed above.

If your dog is exhibiting a combination of these symptoms then time is of the essence when it comes to seeking medical advice.

A simple blood test by your vet will check if your dog is suffering from pancreatitis or if the symptoms have a different root cause.

Affected Breeds

Pancreatitis as mentioned, is believed to be heavily reliant on hereditary means of transmission. Dogs with parents that suffer from diabetes or pancreatitis are far more likely to also suffer from the condition at some point in their life.

Whilst this is true, there are, like many other conditions, some dog breeds who are more likely to develop pancreatitis irrelevant of whether their parents have had the condition.

UK dog breeds more likely to suffer from pancreatitis are:

It is important to be aware that pancreatitis can occur in any dog and hereditary issues are a factor. Keeping your dog at a healthy weight is key to fighting off any future problems.

Treatment

Treatment of pancreatitis involves a host of medications and medical intervention.

An aggressive treatment plan is required to treat the condition mainly due to it’s speed and potentially fatal repercussions.

A typical treatment plan for pancreatitis will normally involve a combination of:

  • 2-3 days of no oral food or water.
  • Intravenous fluids.
  • Antibiotics.
  • Anti-nausea drugs.
  • Pain relief medication.
  • Nutrient suppliments

Dogs that successfully reverse pancreatitis will then be advised to stick to a strict healthy low fat diet for the rest of their life in a bid to keep pancreatitis inflammation to a minimum.

Whilst the treatment for the condition is normally set, it is by no means definitive and other options are available.

Unfortunately severe cases of pancreatitis are untreatable and in the vast majority of these cases, the condition does end up being fatal to the dog.

Treatment Success Rate

As mentioned above, this condition is highly reliant on how inflamed the pancreas is and how far along it has gone.

If caught early enough then it is believed that most dogs (around 60%) will beat the condition.

In extreme cases and in cases that are not diagnosed early enough, it is unfortunate that 85% of these dogs will unfortunately find pancreatitis to be fatal.

Treatment Cost

Pancreatitis is ranked as one of the most expensive conditions that a dog can have in the UK.

As of 2020 it is thought that the average vet bill for treating the condition stands at around £3500 for treatment and aftercare.

This is significantly higher than most other conditions or ailments and the fatal nature of pancreatitis means that intervention is needed almost instantly after diagnosis.

Further Reading

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