URBANA, Ill. — With the holiday season upon us, many people want to include their pets in the festivities. As tempting as it may be to give your pet a feast of roasts, gravy, and stuffing, these and other high-fat people foods can be harmful to dogs and cats and could lead to a condition called pancreatitis.
Dr. David Williams, a faculty member at the University of Illinois Veterinary Teaching Hospital in Urbana, is an international expert in the gastrointestinal diseases of dogs and cats.
He explains the cause of pancreatitis, which is the inflammation of the pancreas, an organ that secretes digestive enzymes used to help break down food in the gastrointestinal tract.
When a pet ingests a high-fat meal, the pancreas starts working overtime and begins to secrete too many of these enzymes. Due to the high volume, these digestive enzymes are “turned on” before they reach the GI tract, causing irritation and inflammation of the pancreas.
This injury and inflammation causes more enzymes to leak out prematurely, continuing the cycle.
Common signs of pancreatitis include lethargy, loss of appetite, vomiting or diarrhea.
“To diagnose pancreatitis, a veterinarian may run a blood test for serum pancreatic lipase, ultrasound the pancreas to look for damage or inflammation, and go by clues from the patient’s history,” notes Williams. For example, has the dog been getting fatty meats and gravy on top of his regular food?
The treatment for pancreatitis includes supportive therapy, such as fluids, anti-vomiting medicine, analgesic medication for abdominal pain, and possibly feeding by tube.
The overall outcome depends on whether the pancreatitis is acute or chronic. In other words, did the damage occur after one giant fatty meal or was it a constant diet of mildly fatty food that caused the problem?
“Most pets make a full recovery from acute pancreatitis,” Williams said. Chronic pancreatitis is more of a problem because the pancreas has been slowly damaged over time.
This may result in permanent damage and the pet may experience recurrent bouts of pancreatitis, or may end up with secondary conditions, such as diabetes.
Williams points out that miniature schnauzers are more prone to getting pancreatitis than other dog breeds.
The best way to prevent pancreatitis is to limit the amount of fatty food, especially people food, you give to your dog or cat.
“If you want to give your pet a holiday treat, give a treat from reputable pet brand sources, and only in moderation,” Williams advises.
No matter how cute the puppy eyes or how pitiful the meows, keep your pets happy and healthy by keeping the fancy people food on the table and away from your furry friends.
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