First things first, what is pancreatitis and how common is it?
Normally, your dog’s pancreas produces enzymes to digest fats (lipase), carbohydrates (amylase) and proteins (protease) and controls blood sugar levels by regulating insulin and glucagon.
On occasion, internal or external factors cause the body to act out of alignment with its normal functioning. Acute pancreatitis occurs when the pancreas becomes inflamed and overproduces, then leaks out, digestive enzymes and juices. These juices can consume the pancreas itself, as well as other tissues and organs, causing pain and discomfort to your fur baby.
What causes pancreatitis?
- High carb/sugar diets – Carbohydrates and starches contain naturally occurring sugars which increase insulin secretions. When consumed in excess, insulin levels can rise, eventually creating metabolic syndromes such as diet-induced diabetes, hypoglycemia, and cancers. Studies indicate increased risks of acute pancreatitis in those with Type 2 Diabetes (Insulin/diet induced)
- Cooked Fats – fats exposed to high temperatures, oxygen and, in some cases, bacteria or fungi, have an increased rate of lipid peroxidation, or rancidity. Oxidized fats enhance NFK-B and augment Tumor Necrosis Factor, thus inducing pancreatitis. Therefore, raw fats and oxidized (cooked or old) fats have vastly differing results on the pancreas. Getting into a trash can of leftovers, grease traps orcooked table scrapsincreases exposure to pancreatitis inducing fats. An already inflamed pancreas, from regular consumption of high carbs and antinutrients, combined with oxidized lipid consumption may result in an acute attack of pancreatitis.
- Some infections–some bacteria (e.g. Leptospirosa), fungi (e.g. aspergillus), viruses (e.g. herpes) and parasites (e.g. toxoplasma).
- High triglycerides–Elevated triglyceride levels are well-known to be associated with acute pancreatitis, and can be caused by diabetes, medications, high-carb diets, high sugar diets, metabolic syndrome, obesity, and hypothyroidism.
- Lupus–acute pancreatitis is a known initial presentation of systemic lupus.
- Trauma– trauma to the pancreas is rarely considered by Veterinarians when determining a cause of acute pancreatitis. The pancreas is highly sensitive to stimulation and a well-placed playful dog tooth canquickly stimulate the production of destructive levels of pancreatic enzymes. However, diagnostic imaging to identify this as a cause of acute pancreatitis is cost prohibitive.
- Surgery–Even gentle manipulation of the pancreas during surgery can irritate it, and some anesthesia medications increase the risk of acute pancreatitis.
- Some medications/vaccinations– a few commonly used drugs associated with acute pancreatitis include metronidazole, gabapentin, NSAIDs, penicillin, propofol (anesthesia), ampicillin, corticosteroids, distemper vaccines, and parvo vaccines.
How common is pancreatitis?
Pancreatitis diagnoses are very common. Often times these diagnoses are made without proper diagnostics. Even in humans, 20-30% of cases of acute pancreatitis are idiopathic (have no known cause). Extensive and expensive diagnostic requirements often leave Vets with little choice but to provide generalized, yet likely insufficient blanket diagnoses such as “pancreatitis” rather than searching for more accurate diagnoses. Other conditions that may manifest as acute pancreatitisinclude, diabetes, gallstones, ulcers, kidney stones, lupus, infections, gestational diabetes, gastritis, and medication side effects.
What’s my pets risk of pancreatitis?
Both acute and chronic pancreatitis present in the presence of high fats. Therefore,ensuring that safe, fresh fat sources are provided in managed dietary protocols is a crucial aspect of administering an effective and safe canine nutritional program. Additionally, it is imperative to control protein and carbohydrates, as both increase insulin secretions from the pancreas, thus increasing the risk of acute pancreatitis if your pup is exposed to oxidized fats sources. It may be the case that feeding higher (fresh, raw) fats in the presence of moderate protein and very low carbohydrates, is an effective means of ensuring that pancreatitis does not impact your doggy.
Pet Parents can observe their best friend for these clues to pancreatitis:
- Loss of appetite
- Abdominal Pain
- Low Body Temperature
What do I do if my doggy has pancreatitis right now?
Your family Veterinarian can diagnose this condition with a blood test called a PLI (Pancreatic Lipase Immunoreactivity). This condition ranges from mild to severe. Severe cases require hospitalization, but most cases are managed as outpatients. The vet may begin by treating your dog with pain medication, and perhaps a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory and intense fluid therapy. A 3-4 day fast may be followed by a very low-fat meal plan, along with increased hydration and electrolytes. Rechecking the PLI test confirms your dog’s acute pancreatitis has resolved. Additional testing should be considered to rule out non-dietary causes of pancreatitis.
Dr. Becker’s Keys to High Fat/Low Carb Success:
- Exercise is Mandatory! Now, I am not expecting you to turn your dog into an Iditarod champion. But, remember, food is fuel and the fuel you feed your dog needs to be efficiently and effectively burnt off. The activity level of your dog will determine the amount of fuel you feed. Watching the Iditarod on TV sitting on the couch does not count!
- No added Kibble! Do not mix a high fat, low net carb raw food with kibble, unless you are transitioning your doggy from kibble to raw, over a few days or weeks. A ketogenic diet is not to be used as a topper you sprinkle on kibble. If your dog doesn’t have a history of having a sensitive stomach you can simply replace one meal of kibble with one meal of her new, ketogenic raw food. After a few days you can replace the other meal. If your dog has a sensitive GI tract you can use the new food as a treat throughout the day for several days, allowing the gut to adapt. Then replace one meal of dry with one meal of raw. After a few more days (or as long as it takes for all adjustment symptoms to subside) discontinue all dry food and use the new raw diet, exclusively. Make sure you discontinue all treats at this time. Use a portion of your dog’s meal as training treats throughout the day, as needed, for rewards.
- Control Calories! Over feeding is a primary culprit in any number of diseases including obesity and diabetes, not to mention pancreatitis. Make sure you keep calories tight for your furry friend, based on their Body Score and level of activity. A lean, muscular dog, whether a Chihuahua or a Mastiff, ensures a long, vibrant life!