Pancreatitis in dogs can range in severity from mild flare ups that are relatively easy to manage to severe episodes that can land your dog in the emergency clinic, and many pet parents will feel at a loss for how to support their best friend through these flare ups. In this article, I will discuss at-home approaches that you can implement for managing your pup’s pancreatitis, as well as understanding when it’s time for hospital intervention.
Diagnosing pancreatitis in dogs.
Because signs and symptoms of pancreatitis are similar to that of many other medical conditions, it is important to have your pup examined by a veterinarian to ensure that other conditions are not causing or contributing to your dog’s illness.
Signs of pancreatitis in dogs include:
- Nausea and vomiting
- Low or lack of appetite
- Abdominal pain
Diagnosing pancreatitis in dogs often includes ruling out other conditions with the above symptoms. Your veterinarian may want to run blood work or perform abdominal radiographs. An abdominal ultrasound may also be recommended. Depending on the severity of your pup’s case, your veterinarian may consider adding on medications (either oral, intravenous or subcutaneous). The medications prescribed may be for pain control, nausea or fever control. Fluid therapy prior to discharge may also be recommended. We will discuss more about when hospitalization is recommended below.
It’s important to understand that pancreatitis in dogs can be acute or chronic.
Cases of acute pancreatitis in dogs are those that have a sudden onset, and symptoms in these cases are often more severe. A common trigger for acute pancreatitis is when your pup finds their way to an all-inclusive trash buffet or is fed a very high-fat treat or meal. This often occurs around the holidays!
Chronic cases of pancreatitis in dogs are, you guessed it, chronic and long-lasting. Symptoms in these cases are often less severe, but more persistent, than those in acute cases. However, dogs who suffer with chronic pancreatitis may experience worsening symptoms over time and may have periods of more severe, acute flare ups.
At-home management and care for your pup’s pancreatitis may vary depending on whether they are experiencing the acute or chronic version of this condition.
Managing pancreatitis in dogs at-home may include:
- Diet. The best diets for managing either acute or chronic pancreatitis in dogs are low fat diets. These diets tend to be highly digestible, allowing for less work on the pancreas. For dogs with acute cases of pancreatitis, a low-fat diet may be temporary. Dogs with chronic pancreatitis will likely maintain a low-fat diet indefinitely. There are many low fat prescription and commercial diets available, or you can home cook a low fat diet using BalanceIt.
- Small, frequent meals. Feeding small, frequent meals during the initial recovery of pancreatitis can be a great way to reintroduce food into your pup’s body while assessing how they respond to it. For example, breaking up your dog’s regular 2 meals a day into 4 meals. After 1-2 days of success with this, consolidate the meals into 3 meals and continue slowly adjusting back to their normal diet as you see improvement. You can also mix warm water into their meal to boost hydration. If your dog is continuing to have vomiting or diarrhea, consult with your local veterinarian about what next steps would be appropriate.
- Keeping your dog’s pharmacy up to date. If your dog has a history of pancreatitis, it will be essential to keep their at-home pharmacy up-to-date. Medications that may be included in your dog’s regimen include anti-nausea, anti-diarrheal and pain medications. Make sure that you are still communicating with your veterinarian before beginning a new round of medications. At the very least, having an at-home pharmacy stocked and ready will ensure that your pup receives important medications faster, and will avoid needing prescriptions called in and filled (which can take time, especially in our current workforce climate).
- Supplements. There are many supplements that can help promote good gut health for all dogs and especially dogs with pancreatitis. My number one gut healing supplement for dogs with pancreatitis is a quality probiotic. My favorites are either RxBiotic or Thorne Bacillus Coagulans, both of which are included in my Gut Healing Bundle. Whatever supplements you start your pup on, make sure to start them one at a time andonly after their pancreatitis flare up has resolved.
When pancreatitis is an emergency.
Not all cases of pancreatitis in dogs can be treated at home and it’s important to remember that severe cases can be life threatening to your dog. Do not hesitate to take your pup to an emergency veterinarian if they are experiencing a fever, bloody diarrhea, or persistent vomiting/diarrhea or lack of appetite. If you feel concerned at all, call your veterinarian. It is never wrong and that is what we are here for!
Management of pancreatitis in dogs can be tricky, and feel really overwhelming. By empowering yourself with tools at home, as well as working with a veterinary team that you trust, you can often make the recovery process smoother and easier for both you and your dog. This is not easy, and you’re doing a great job!
What at-home remedies have worked for your pup?