New Mexico's Pet Resource FALL 2006



by Cindy Exelby, D.V.M.

Pancreatic disorders occur frequently in dogs and cats, particularly during the holiday seasons, for reasons which will be explained below. The pancreas is a gland which produces digestive enzymes and also the hormone insulin. If diseased or injured, the digestive enzymes may be released and begin digesting the pancreas itself. This results in a condition called pancreatitis, and is classified as acute (sudden) or hronic (long-term and ongoing).

Symptoms usually occur suddenly and include lack of appetite, vomiting and diarrhea, tenderness or pain in abdominal area and fever. In severe cases the eyes become sunken and the mouth dry, indicating dehydration. Although the exact cause is often unknown, let’s review some of the contributing factors.

Dogs that are overweight are more prone to pancreatitis, particularly after eating a meal high in fat-including table scraps such as turkey with gravy, mashed potatoes, etc. Secondly, hyperlipidemia is a condition in which the amount of fat in the blood is elevated. Normally, after eating, hyperlipidemia occurs for a short period before returning to the correct level; however, in some people and pets, a metabolic disorder can prevent the proper clearing of the fat from the bloodstream. Research has shown hyperlipidemia to contribute to pancreatitis. Thirdly, trauma to the abdomen can contribute to pancreatitis. And lastly, infectious viruses and bacteria can cause pancreatitis.

Diagnosis involved blood work to evaluate levels of cholesterol, digestive enzymes and white blood cells. Symptoms of pancreatic inflammation in cats are often vague, and increases in amylase and lipase (enzymes used to evaluate pancreatic function in dogs) are unreliable markers. The trypsin-like immunoreactivity assay (TLI) uses antibodies against trypsin. TLI assays used in canines cannot be used in cats, but recently an assay has been developed and validated for use in cats.

Although we can sometimes do little to prevent infectious causes or traumatic causes, we can often prevent pancreatitis by controlling diet. Dietary management can help avoid pancreatitis, especially in cases chronic in nature. If your pet is overweight, a weight loss program should be initiated by implementing the prescription foods such as Canine and Feline R/D by Hills. If your pet is hyperlipidemic, a high-fiber, low-fat diet such as Prescription Canine or Feline W/D should be fed. Talk to your veterinarian about the correct diet for your pet(s). PLEASE WATCH WHAT YOU SLIP TO YOUR PET AS A TREAT!!!

Dr. Cindy Exelby runs her own veterinary practice in Santa Fe.

Note: This article first appeared in the Fall/Winter 1998 issue.



By Lola Moonfrog

Last December, my 17-year-old cat, da BooBoo, was diagnosed with pancreatitis by TLI test. (Be warned, results can take two weeks). Diabetic since age two, he had developed inflammatory bowel disease, and had just gotten through a respiratory infection. Vomiting and severely constipated, Boo was anorexic with a painful abdomen. He would only move to use a litter pan. He was in so much pain and so ill, that two of his veterinarians and I agreed--he was dying. It looked like it would be a matter of days.

Grief-stricken, I wasn’t about to give up without trying. I asked for help from my vets and their specialist colleagues. What follows are suggestions and routines that helped.

First came strong action to deal with infection/inflammation indicated by Boo’s elevated white blood cell count. This was also wreaking havoc with his blood glucose levels. Amoxicillin and baytril, both given by injection daily, did the trick.

It was clear that Boo’s fragile digestive system needed more nurturing. His canned W/D was made into a strained mousse (no corn pieces) and a “chicken soup remedy” of pureed organic, boneless, skinless chicken breast, strained for any fat globules, came on board. Warming the soft food made it more aromatic and appetizing, essential to an ill diabetic with no urge to eat, and easier to digest. Feedings were offered at four-hour intervals. Boo also had access to two choices of dry food in between meals-dry W/D and Eukanuba “restricted calorie”, vet-picked for its EFAs.

One of the vets said that limiting the feeding to what Boo ate within ½ hour might be helpful in allowing the pancreas to act once per meal. Continued ingestion of more food at close intervals makes the pancreas work harder, as it is stimulated by stomach distention. The ½-hour suggestion has proved to be very true and helpful.

Another vet suggested using antioxidant supplements. Single ones, not formulas, worked best. Other supplements that have helped are cat-sized doses of zinc, powdered milk thistle, yeast-free GTF chromium, CoQ10, and lots of intestinal flora, especially during antibiotic treatment. Boo also gets vitamin B complex and C shots in supplemental fluids which help his kidneys through times of high glucose, and ease the constipation/dehydration.

Dealing with Boo’s constipation was a major part of getting the pancreatitis to recede. I began by giving more fluids. Boo’s dose of propulsid, which acts on intestinal motility, was increased to ¾-tab three times a day. A tablespoon of canned pumpkin, given twice a day between meals, rounded out the program.

As consistency and perseverance brought all the parts of this treatment together so it began to take effect, Boo Began to eat with vigor, look brighter, walk more, and take an interest in life again. Daily vomiting stopped and the constipation was alleviated.

In two months Boo could walk from one end of the house to the other. A great indication of well-being came when he would play with his fishing pole mouse toy and carry it into other rooms. As the weather warmed, he would go outside.

Boo has had a good season. Whatever comes, I am embraced in immense gratitude for the extra time with him and for my veterinarians and their colleagues for their dedication and caring.

This article is provided for informational purposes only, and is not intended to replace your veterinarian’s suggestions or expertise. Please consult with your veterinarian before implementing any new dietary or supplementation program.

Note: This article first appeared in the Fall/Winter 1998 issue.

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