Snacks cause trouble for Tucker (Pancreatitis)

Tucker is a handsome 6 year old Kelpie X who was brought to the clinic after he began vomiting, with bouts of diarrhoea, and seemed depressed. History revealed that Tucker may have been 'treated' to some sausages, steak, and a slice of chocolate cake, during a BBQ earlier that week.

The veterinarian performed a thorough clinical examination, including listening to Tucker's heart rate and rhythm, assessing his respiratory rate and chest sounds, palpating his abdomen, and taking his temperature. Tucker had an elevated temperature of 39.3 c, and was very sore in the abdomen.

A blood test was performed to check Tucker's renal (kidney), hepatic (liver), and pancreatic enzymes. Blood testing revealed Tuckers hepatic enzymes Amylase and Lipase were increased. These results combined with history and clinical signs indicated Tucker was suffering acute pancreatitis.

The pancreas is a V- shaped organ located behind the stomach and the duodenum (first section of the small intestine). It has two main functions:

  1. Exocrine- To produce pancreatic enzymes, essential for digestion of food and nutrients.
  2. Endocrine- To produce hormones, including insulin, that facilitate the uptake and storage of glucose (sugar) and amino acids (protein).

Pancreatitis is an inflammation of the pancreas, causing leakage of the digestive enzymes whereby the pancreas literally starts to "digest itself". Pancreatitis can be acute (sudden) or chronic (happening over a course of time). Both acute and chronic forms are serious and can be life-threatening, especially the acute form.

Many factors can contribute to the development of pancreatitis including:

  • Hyperlipidemia (high fat content in blood)
  • High fat meal (trigger for hyperlipidemia)
  • Obesity (especially dogs)
  • Concurrent disease - i.e. Cushing's disease, Diabetes mellitus
  • Contaminated food or water
  • Certain drugs and toxins - i.e. some types of diuretics, antibiotics, and organophosphate insecticides
  • Bacterial or viral infection

Dogs, usually middle aged, tend to suffer acute bouts of pancreatitis, while cats exhibit chronic signs.

The signs can vary from mild gastrointestinal upset to collapse and death. Most animals present signs such as:

  • Vomiting
  • Innapetance/ anorexia
  • Painful abdomen, hunched appearance (more common in dogs)
  • Fever or below-normal body temperature
  • Diarrhoea
  • Depression
  • Dehydration, evaluated by noting sunken eyes, dry mucous membranes (gums), and increased skin turgor (skin tents when pinched)

These signs are not specific for Pancreatitis, and can be seen with many gastrointestinal diseases and conditions. All or some of the signs may be noted in an individual patient with Pancreatitis.

Tucker was admitted to hospital and placed on intravenous fluids as he had been vomiting, and started on antibiotics to avoid secondary infection. He was also given an injection of pain relief as his abdomen was sore, and lots of TLC by the staff. He was not allowed any food or water for the next 72 hours as his pancreas needed to rest, and the lack of oral intake inhibits the production of digestive enzymes.

After 72 hours on fluid therapy and strict nil per os (nothing by mouth), Tuckers pancreatic enzymes were retested. Results showed they had reduced to only slightly above normal. 12 hours later Tucker was offered some water, and test fed a small amount of a special low fat dog food (Walthams digestive low fat). Tucker was discharged the next day as his clinical signs had improved and he was eating well without vomiting.

Tucker was sent home with some Walthams digestive low fat diet, with his normal diet of advance adult being reintroduced after 3 weeks. (Not including sausages, steak, and cake).

Tucker recently returned to the clinic for his annual vaccination and health check and continues to do well.

Please do not feed your pet fatty table scraps and other 'human food'. Their body's are not designed to digest it, and can cause serious and sometimes fatal health problems.

If your pet exhibits signs of pancreatitis or you would like more information about this condition, please chat to our friendly staff at the clinic.