Pancreatitis

Pancreatitis is a condition that is often diagnosed in veterinary medicine, in cats, as well as in dogs, although there are number of differences between feline and canine pancreatitis. The condition in both cases is characterized by an inflammation of the pancreas. The severity and the intensity of the inflammatory reaction vary from one patient to the other. Some animals will simply present a loss of appetite while others will suffer from vomiting, diarrhea and abdominal pain, etc…

The pancreas is a small organ found in the abdomen, close to the stomach and the liver and communicates with the duodenum (first part of the intestine (grele)). The pancreas possesses 2 major roles; an endocrine role (controls glycemia using different hormones like insulin and glucagon) and a digestive role (produces enzymes for the digestion of proteins and fats).

When suffering from pancreatitis, the digestive function is affected. Inflammation of the organ provokes the release of digestive enzymes directly into the abdominal cavity rather than into the digestive tube. The release of enzymes into the wrong area causes pain and is responsible for the animal’s ailment. The condition can be acute or chronic.

Symptoms

During the acute episodes, the symptoms can appear suddenly and be quite intense. Where as when chronic illness is involved, the symptoms are sometimes less intense. However, the dog with a chronic episode lasting a few weeks or months may be followed with an acute attack.

Typically, dogs will have acute pancreatitis more often than cats which have more often chronic pancreatitis. We will discuss the two species separately (feline pancreatitis can be found in the cat section), to facilitate understanding.

The classic clinical signs of their condition in the dog are; loss of appetite, vomiting, diarrhea and generalized weakness. If your dog presents these symptoms, it would be best to consult as quickly as possible. During the general examination, the veterinarian may discover physical anomalies, signs of nausea, abdominal pain,dehydration and possibly a fever. The signs that your dog presents at home and during the physical exam will obviously make us suspect pancreatitis although, many other medical conditions may cause similar problems.

Diagnosis

Medical tests will be performed so that we may know exactly what disease your dog suffers from. Different tests may be proposed depending of the dog’s general condition. A specific test for the pancreas is available. Results for this test are available in about 45 minutes. It will confirm whether or not the pancreas is implicated in the occurring condition, though it cannot inform us of the severity of the pancreatitis. If the results of the test are positive, then a blood sample would be sent to a laboratory so that we may know at what point the pancreas is injured.

A general blood work profile (hematology/biochemistry/electrolyes) is also routinely recommended. The hematology informs us of the red blood cells and platelets, where as the biochemistry informs us of the function of the internal organs, such as, the renal function, hepatic enzymes, glucose level etc…

Also, abdominal x-rays are indicated so that all other abnormalities concerning all of the other abdominal organs are eliminated (foreign body, gastric torsion, hepatic or renal problems…)