Health and Longevity Course for Dogs Chapter 13
Pancreatitis is a common and sometimes life-threatening disease in dogs that can be successfully treated or prevented by drug-free, natural holistic methods.
In a previous chapter of the Health and Longevity Course for Dogs I wrote about energy channels that lead to the organs and how it affects their function. If you missed this chapter, you can learn more here.
How does the pancreas work?
The pancreas is an exocrine (enzymatic) and an endocrine (hormonal) organ.
Pancreatic secretions contain enzymes for the digestion of all three major types of food – proteins, carbohydrates and fats. Pancreatic juice contains the enzymes trypsinogen, chymotrypsinogen, amylase and lipase. It also contains sodium bicarbonate, which plays an important role in neutralizing the acidic stomach content that is emptied into the small intestines.
The pancreas produces three hormones:
- Glucagon, which raises blood glucose.
- Insulin, which lowers blood glucose.
- Somatostatin, which inhibits the secretion of insulin, glucagon and growth hormone from the anterior pituitary, as well as gastrin from the stomach.
Causes of Pancreatitis
From a holistic point of view, pancreatitis (inflammation of the pancreas) is caused by multiple factors. However, this condition is much more common in dogs fed processed kibble.
Anatomically dogs are designed for digesting meat, bones, organs and some plant material. Nature never intended dogs to eat a heavily-processed, grain-based diet. Processed food overworks the pancreas and it becomes inflamed.
The inflammation can activate the digestive enzymes prematurely, which can trigger the process of pancreas ‘self-digestion.’ This can result in leakage of pancreatic enzymes into the abdominal cavity, damaging the abdominal lining and other organs. Pancreatitis is a serious and often life-threatening condition that needs to be taken seriously.
Acute pancreatitis is the most serious form and the onset happens relatively suddenly. Symptoms include loss of appetite and vomiting, diarrhea (may or may not be present), signs of lethargy, dehydration and the abdomen may appear hardened and sensitive to the touch, especially in the front portion of the abdomen. The pancreas is closely related to the stomach and is in the same area.
Chronic pancreatitis often presents with no symptoms. The only sign is a slight elevation of pancreatic enzymes.
The best way to confirm your dog's diagnosis is by a blood test, which consists of CBC, chemistry panel and pancreas-specific enzyme tests, such as lipase. In recent years, a new test has been introduced called canine-specific lipase, which is usually done separately and is much more reliable than a simple lipase level. An ultrasound examination or x-rays may be helpful to confirm the diagnosis and also help rule out other causes of vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain and lethargy.
In the past few years, I've seen many dogs that were misdiagnosed with pancreatitis, especially very healthy animals on a natural diet. These dogs tend to have higher healthy levels of pancreatic enzymes and do not have pancreatitis. The reason is that most veterinary labs use reference values that are ‘normal’ for animals eating processed food and there is much less understanding of normal values for raw fed dogs.
Pancreas and energy flow
Injuries that result in energy flow congestion at the thoracic-lumbar junction are a lesser known, but very common cause of pancreatitis. The area where the thoracic spine transitions into the lumbar spine energetically supplies the stomach and pancreas. When this segment is injured or congested, the pancreas gets weakened and the chances of pancreatitis are greater.
To determine if there is a problem in the stomach/pancreas association point, you can feel along the region of the spine where the last rib begins to check for any signs of energy flow congestion, such as increased sensitivity, heat or muscle pain. This area can be a predisposing factor for pancreatitis and gastric dilation volvulus, or stomach bloat, in dogs.
Other possible causes of pancreatitis
The ingestion of garbage or gorging on a large amount of aggravating foods can also be a cause of pancreatitis. While some people say that a high-fat diet causes pancreatitis, I see carbohydrates and mainly grain as a more common cause.
Mineral and nutrient deficiencies are a common and frequently underestimated cause. No organ can function properly without the presence of essential minerals and other nutrients and the pancreas is no exception.
Generally, processed food quality is very low and deficiencies are very common. We live in a time when soils are being depleted of minerals because they have been overused and nutrients are not returned to the soil.
Without minerals, the pancreas cannot function and the body cannot heal.
Treatment of pancreatitis
The treatment of pancreatitis must consist of the following steps:
- Stop feeding processed food because it is not species appropriate and is, in fact, the primary cause of pancreatitis. Learn how to feed a wholesome natural diet.
- Detox, cleanse and nourish with GREENMIN.
- Provide a high-quality certified organic multivitamin - SOULFOOD.
- Use a dog-specific probiotic formula - GUTSENSE.
- Give FeelGood Omega, an essential fatty acid supplement.
- Treat back muscle tightness or injury in the thoracic-lumbar junction. Ideally see a chiropractor, physiotherapist, osteopath or experienced massage therapist monthly. Treatment repetition is important.
- Let your dog fast for at least 48 hours in the case of acute pancreatitis to rest the pancreas. Most dogs can fast for much longer than a couple of days. After the fast, start a 50/50 mixture of pumpkin or squash and lean meat, and then introduce a raw or cooked diet.
Frequently asked questions
Is IV therapy necessary?
While most textbooks recommend withdrawing water completely, I've learned that if the pancreatitis case is moderate, the steps above should be sufficient and water deprivation and IV fluid therapy is not needed.
Your vet may state that the situation is critical and that you can’t go wrong with IV therapy. If you agree with this treatment, you should insist that your dog is supervised 24/7 because there are still clinics that leave hospitalized patients unattended at night, which in my opinion is unacceptable.
Are antibiotics necessary?
I mentioned before that the most important part of treating any disease is to eliminate what doesn’t belong in the body and provide the body with what it needs.
As far as I know, pancreatitis is not caused by an antibiotic deficiency. Antibiotics are toxic substances that kill bacteria when necessary, but they are also toxic to the body, including the pancreas. During a bout of pancreatitis, any additional toxic burden can be detrimental to the treatment outcome. Pancreatitis is not caused by bacteria.
Some people advocate that antibiotics have to be used to prevent secondary sepsis or bacterial spread. I find antibiotics are most often detrimental to the outcome of pancreatitis because our goal should be to cleanse and support, not add additional toxins to the body.
How about Metacam?
Drugs that suppress inflammation like steroids and Metacam seriously block the body’s efforts to heal because they put the natural defenses to sleep. It's not any different than taking a sleeping pill after finding out that your house has caught on fire. I feel that many more dogs with pancreatitis could be saved if they weren’t poisoned in the course of treatment.
Is a low protein diet good?
In my opinion, a high-quality protein diet is much better for dogs suffering from pancreatitis than starch, rice or a grain-based diet. I do not recommend low-protein food.
How about low fat?
I do recommend lower fat meats for dogs with pancreatitis. Chicken, turkey, rabbit and eggs are good examples of low-fat foods. I don't recommend fatty meats, such as duck or lamb. I also do not recommend large animal red meat (beef, buffalo or bison) for dogs with pancreatitis.
I hope this article will be the answer to many questions and mainly, that it will save many canine lives. Thank you for sharing this article with others!
If you would like to learn more about natural treatment and prevention of pancreatitis, click the link below to watch our Facebook Live presentation.
Did you know this is only one article from our free Holistic Health & Longevity Course? Check out the entire course...
© Dr. Peter Dobias, DVM