Even though symptoms range from mild to life-threatening, acute pancreatitis is a very painful condition. These pets will whine or cry and often walk with a “hunched-up” appearance, a sure sign of pain and that veterinary care is needed immediately! Dehydration, heart arrhythmias or blood-clotting issues may occur without quick medical attention.
Veterinarians will often do blood work or even take X-rays in order to rule out other causes of abdominal pain, such as an obstruction in the intestines, kidney or liver disease.
Your veterinarian can alleviate the pain, vomiting and dehydration, which are side effects of the pancreatic inflammation. By controlling the pain and the main symptoms, it is likely the pancreas will heal itself, but this needs to happen under direct medical supervision. Affected pets cannot have any food or water by mouth for several days, so IV fluids and other medications are essential. And because of a severely painful abdomen, proper pain control measures are a vital part of the treatment.
Many pets who suffer a bout of pancreatitis seem to be prone to develop the disease again. Whether this is due to eating inappropriate things, genetic predisposition or some concurrent disease is not known.
One of the simplest things you can do to avoid this serious disease and a holiday trip to the animal ER is to not feed any pet from the table. The skin of the holiday turkey, fatty parts of the ham or even leftovers tossed in the trash can all trigger an episode of pancreatitis. If you notice a change in your pet’s eating behavior or stance or any signs of abdominal pain, especially with vomiting, call your veterinarian immediately and get early treatment. This could save your pet’s life.
Dr. Elizabeth Bradt is a 1986 graduate of Tufts University Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine and is the owner of All Creatures Veterinary Hospital in Salem (www.creaturehealth.com). She is a member of the American Society of Veterinary Journalists. Email your pet questions to firstname.lastname@example.org. Please title your email “Vet Connection.”