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CANINE: Pancreatitis

 

 Canine%20pancreatitis

What is pancreatitis?

The pancreas is a vital organ that lies on the right side of the abdomen adjacent to the stomach. The pancreas produces enzymes to assist in food digestion and hormones such as insulin, which regulates blood sugar or glucose metabolism.  

 

When the pancreas becomes inflamed, the condition is called pancreatitis. Pancreatitis occurs commonly in the dog. There is no age, sex, or breed predisposition.

 

"Acute pancreatitis may either take a mild, edematous form or a more severe, hemorrhagic form."

 

Acute pancreatitis may either take a mild, edematous form  or a more severe, hemorrhagic form. The associated inflammation allows digestive enzymes from the pancreas to spill into the abdominal cavity resulting in secondary damage to the liver, bile ducts, gall bladder, and intestines. A few dogs that recover from an acute episode of pancreatitis may continue to have recurrent bouts of the disease, which is then called chronic or relapsing pancreatitis.

 

What causes pancreatitis?

 

"Normally, pancreatic enzymes are produced in an inactive state..."

 

Normally, pancreatic enzymes are produced in an inactive state and travel through the pancreatic duct to the duodenum, part of the small intestine. Once they reach the small intestine, they are activated to begin digestion. With pancreatitis, these enzymes are activated prematurely in the pancreas instead of later in the small intestine. Think of this as if a time-release capsule that suddenly bursts before it reaches its intended target; in this case, the pancreatic enzymes start to digest before they should. This results in digestion of the pancreas itself. The clinical signs of pancreatitis are often variable, and the intensity of the disease will depend on the amount of enzymes that were prematurely activated.

 

"...although it may be triggered in some cases by a fatty meal or corticosteroid administration."The exact cause of pancreatitis is not known, although it may be triggered in some cases by a fatty meal or corticosteroid administration. However, in many cases it appears to occur spontaneously. 

 

What are the clinical signs of pancreatitis?

The most common clinical signs include nausea, vomiting, fever, lethargy, abdominal pain, diarrhea and decreased appetite. During an attack, dogs may take a "praying position", with their rear end up in the air while their front legs and head are lowered onto the floor. If the attack is severe, acute shock, severe depression, and even death may occur.

 

How is pancreatitis diagnosed?

Laboratory tests usually reveal an elevated white blood cell count; however, an elevated white blood cell count may also be caused by many other diseases besides pancreatitis. The elevation of pancreatic enzymes in the blood is probably the most helpful criteria in detecting pancreatic disease, but some dogs with pancreatitis will have normal enzyme levels. In recent years, a new pancreatic test has become available that can accurately diagnose pancreatitis, even if pancreatic enzymes are normal. Radiographs may show changes associated with inflammation, especially in the severe hemorrhagic form. Ultrasound studies often provide a diagnosis of pancreatic inflammation or local peritonitis caused by this condition. Unfortunately, some dogs with pancreatitis, especially chronic pancreatitis, will elude detection with many of these tests.

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