Kay Drake, DVM, Residency Trained in Internal Medicine
Veterinary Specialty Hospital
It is not uncommon for our four-legged family members to enjoy the same rich holiday foods we crave. Whether or not our pets are exposed to these foods intentionally, it is important to be aware of the dangers to this sudden change in the diet. One of the most common conditions I treat at this time of year is pancreatitis, an inflammation of the pancreas. The pancreas is a small organ that lives near the stomach and small intestine. Pancreatitis can occur for a variety of reasons and sometimes we never determine the underlying cause. However, one of the more common causes is a sudden diet change, especially an exposure to fatty food. Some breeds are at higher risk than others (e.g. Miniature Schnauzers) and other conditions, like Cushing’s or obesity, can increase the risk of pancreatitis.
The most common signs/symptoms of pancreatitis include a lack of appetite, vomiting, weakness, abdominal pain, and possible diarrhea. Diagnosing pancreatitis can be frustrating, but there are a variety of blood tests/results that may suggest the condition. Additionally, an abdominal ultrasound may show pancreatic inflammation and injury which is strongly suggestive of the disease.
We don’t have a direct treatment for pancreatitis, such as an anti-pancreatitis pill. Despite this we are able to successfully treat the majority (>70%) of cases with supportive care. This includes fluids for hydration, anti-nausea medications, and pain medications (when necessary). Providing nutrition (via appetite stimulants, or even a feeding tube) will likely hasten recovery. Sometimes effective treatment also means staying the hospital for a few days.
In order to avoid danger, do all that you can to minimize your pets’ exposure to holiday leftovers. If you are planning a diet change, consult your veterinarian about the safest way to do so. We all want our pets to remain happy and healthy so they can enjoy the holidays as much as we do.