Canine Pancreatitis: why high amounts of fat in your dog’s diet is unhealthy

on July 6, 2016
Posted in Dog Liver Disease

It’s summer BBQ season and that means lots of hot dogs, hamburgers, chicken and lots of grease from the grill. Often well-meaning party attenders give dogs hot dogs, hamburgers or whatever else is on their plate. Most of these things are quite high in fat and can trigger a condition called pancreatitis.

When most people think about the pancreas they think about how it regulates blood sugar and produces insulin–too little insulin equals diabetes. But the pancreas has another function.

The pancreas produces digestive enzymes that help to break down food so the body can use it. Sometimes, after a high fat meal,  the pancreas produces too much digestive enzymes and these enzymes can start to digest things that they should not digest–like intestinal lining and the pancreasock itself.  This produces severe pain, inflammation, vomiting and diarrhea.  This condition is called pancreatitis.

There are  2 forms of pancreatitis–acute and chronic. Acute pancreatitis occurs suddenly and is usually caused by a meal that is high in fat—like your BBQ meal.

Signs of acute pancreatitis are: lack of appetite, frequent vomiting and diarrhea which may contain blood, increased water consume ption, weakness, inability to walk and abdominal tenderness or pain.

Generally the dog will be running a fever and the eyes become sunken, and the mouth and eyes may become very dry, indicating dehydration. These signs are more common in dogs. These signs are not unique to pancreatitis; therefore your veterinarian may recommend tests to differentiate it from other causes of illness.

Chronic pancreatitis may present as multiple episodes of vomiting, diarrhea or inappetence.  These bouts tend to get progressively worse. Many dogs with pancreatitis are overweight and have high amounts of fat in their blood.  This can be caused by diet.

Diagnosis of pancreatitis is made usually on blood test but sometimes ultrasound examination is also needed to confirm this finding.  A new test called a CPLi test is now standard for the diagnosis of pancreatitis.

So what is the treatment? In cases of acute pancreatitis, the pet may need to be hospitalized and put on intravenous fluids, antibiotics and other medication. The hospitalization may last a few days until the pet is able to eat again without vomiting.

It is often recommended that dogs who have had pancreatitis be fed diets low in fat to prevent more attacks of pancreatitis.

Pancreatitis may also respond to acupuncture and Chinese herbs, but dietary therapy is key for dogs at least.  A good homemade low fat diet is easy to prepare and will help prevent problems in your canine friend.

Pet Wellbeing Recommendations

We always recommend considering preventative remedies first. 

From a holistic perspective I recommend a homemade low-fat diet, together with the use of digestive enzymes, probiotics, Slippery elm, Omega 3 fatty acids, Co-enzyme Q 10, B12 (usually by injection), Vitamin E and Selenium, Milk Thistle, Immune Sure and SAMe .

Pet Wellbeing has a good Milk Thistle as well as the following two safe and effective herbal remedies to support and detoxify the canine liver, and support immune and digestive systems:

Supports and detoxes the liver

Essential for dogs with liver disease & dogs taking medications such as:

  • Steroids
  • Heartworm prevention
  • Pain or anti-inflammatory medications

Visit product page for Milk Thistle 


Powerful Immune Support

Holistic support for increased immune strength:

  • Boosts immunity with all-natural ingredients
  • Supports against viral & bacterial infections
  • Provides extra support for stubborn infections
  • Helps maintain immunity for prevention

Visit product page for Immune SURE 

Promotes the growth of beneficial intestinal bacteria. Use for occassional diarrhea, gas, constipation, yeast issues including ears.

Beneficial bacteria to keep your dogs intestinal tract healthy.

Visit product page for Ark Gentle Digest

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Read also: Kaci’s victory against dog kidney disease

Our Expert

Dr. Janice Huntingford
Janice Huntingford, DVM, has been in veterinary practice for over 30 years and has founded two veterinary clinics since receiving her Doctor of Veterinary Medicine at the Ontario Veterinary College, University of Guelph. She has studied extensively in both conventional and holistic modalities. Ask Dr. Jan

Related Product

Milk Thistle is a potent herbal supplement for long-term use that supports a wide variety of dog liver issues, and is also helpful for digestive disorders.

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