During the holidays, you can ask any veterinarian in general practice or in the emergency room, and they will tell you they see lots of vomiting dogs! From Thanksgiving through New Year’s, veterinary practices are busy treating pets with a potentially fatal disease called pancreatitis.
Pancreatitis means inflammation of the pancreas, an organ that provides digestive enzymes and insulin. Under typical circumstances, the digestive enzymes are kept safely inactive inside the pancreatic cells until they are normally released into the intestines and activated. These powerful chemicals help break down proteins, fats and carbohydrates so that the body can make use of the food.
However, for some reason, these enzymes are occasionally triggered early and actually start damaging the pancreas itself, causing severe inflammation of the organ and surrounding tissues. This serious condition can appear suddenly (acute), or it may develop slowly over time (chronic).
This is a very painful condition and is more common in dogs than cats. It is seen around the holidays because pet lovers just can’t resist and give their pets too much of the fatty foods left over from holiday meals. This fat is thought to trigger the disease. Pet owners first notice that their pets are just not normal. The pet may seem to have a painful abdomen that gets worse and develop diarrhea. The hallmark symptom is repetitive vomiting. Many times, no food or water will stay in the stomach.
Chronic cases of pancreatitis are more commonly seen in cats and result from long-standing inflammation. This often leads to irreversible damage and could even develop into diabetes.
Although the exact mechanism of pancreatitis is not known, there are risk factors and some things we do know. The biggest of these are pets who’ve recently had a high-fat meal. During the holiday season, this usually means the greasy turkey, ham trimmings and gravy that we don’t want and feed to our pets. Certain breeds, some small dogs and obese pets are very prone to quick onsets of this disease. Veterinarians also report that pancreatitis can develop alongside other diseases, like Cushing’s disease or diabetes and even occur due to some drugs, toxins or bacterial/viral infections.