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What causes pancreatitis in dogs and what you can do

What causes pancreatitis in dogs and what you can do

How to protect your dog from this serious disease

A healthy pancreas has several crucial functions in the body:

  1. It produces protein, carbohydrate and fat digesting enzymes such as protease, lipase and amylase.

  2. It also has an absolutely crucial function in regulating sugars in the body by producing insulin. Insulin is a hormone that helps the cells store and utilize carbohydrates

Pancreatitis can be divided into two forms.

1. Chronicmore common, less serious, but often latent for months. This condition is not as dangerous and often doesn’t cause any visible symptoms. It is likely that chronic pancreatitis will eventually turn into an acute flare up if unattended.

2. Acute - it is less common but much more serious.   Digestive enzymes get activated inside of the pancreas and may affect and start “digesting” the internal abdominal lining – peritoneum. This can lead to serious life threatening complications.

What predisposes dogs to pancreatitis?

  1. Processed food kibble.
  2. Food that is too fatty.
  3. Too frequent feeding and treats.
  4. Nutrient deficiencies – minerals, vitamins and amino acids.
  5. Injury in the region of thoracic lumbar spine junction.
1. Processed food

is one of the biggest causes of pancreatitis. Grain based, imbalanced, cheap food is the most common culprit, however, do not be mistaken. Even the so-called natural high-quality kibble is hard on the pancreas. For many thousands of years, dogs evolved eating meat and some plant material like grass and fruit. Their pancreas is not designed to digest large quantities of grain such as wheat, corn or rice. It gets stressed, overburdened and finally inflamed.

2. Too much fat

is another common reason. Fat is a cheap food ingredient and manufacturers often reach for it to reduce the manufacturing costs. Surprisingly, even some special digestive or hypoallergenic diet formulas have fat and corn as their main ingredients. Fat too stresses the pancreas as it has to produce more lipase, which is the enzyme helping with fat processing,

3. Too frequent feeding and treats

This predisposing factor is often forgotten. Many people fall for the sad puppy eyes when a dog begs for food or believe that dogs need to eat as frequently as people. If you look at how dogs evolved over the millennia, they would often fast for a long period of time when food was not available. This was a great opportunity for the pancreas to rest.

Usually I suggest not feeding more than twice a day but once a day with a day a week of fasting is perfect. If your dog has elevated pancreas enzymes, you also need to look at treats and how often you give them. Grain is often in treats and frequent “treating” gives the pancreas no rest which may make it more prone to inflammation.

4. Nutrient deficiencies

are one of the most troublesome problems in medicine and commonly completely unaddressed by health care practitioners. Minerals are essential for proper function of every organ. Without them, the pancreas becomes weaker and more prone to inflammation.

Just to give an example, magnesium participates in more than 300 metabolic reactions in the body and there are other minerals needed.

Agricultural soils have not been replenished and food transportation and lack of composting and recycling leads to deficiencies that transfer to the whole food chain including our dogs.

The same applies to some vitamins, amino acids and essential fatty acids. Most of these building blocks cannot be made by the body and need to be supplemented.

What supplements does your dog need?

This is what my dog Pax gets and you may want to consider for your dog

  • GreenMin (plant based essential minerals)
  • SoulFood (organic naturally cultured multivitamin)
  • FeelGood Omega all-natural, mercury and toxin free 
  • GutSense to balance the digestive tract.
  • Dogs with pancreatitis also need Pancreatrophin PMG - a pancreas glandular support that nourishes and protects this important gland.

5. Back injuries 

On the surface, most people do not see the connection between back injuries and pancreatitis. In reality, they play a significant role. The space between the last thoracic and the first lumbar vertebra supplies energy flow to the pancreas. When the back gets injured or tight in this region, the pancreas gets weaker. It may also get inflamed. That is why I recommend that every dog with pancreatitis gets checked by an experienced animal chiropractor, physiotherapist or an osteopath to treat the muscle spasm.

For more information on pancreatitis, click here for another article or click below to watch our Facebook Live presentation on this topic.


About the author

Dr. Peter Dobias, DVM is an Integrative veterinarian, nutritionist and creator of natural supplements for dogs and people. Helping you and your dog prevent disease, treat nutritional deficiencies, and enjoy happier, healthier, and longer lives together.

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