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Inflammation of the Pancreas: Pancreatitis

What is pancreatitis?

"Pancreatitis" is defined as inflammation of the pancreas. The pancreas is the organ that produces and secretes digestive enzymes and the hormone, insulin. The heart, lungs, kidneys, and gastrointestinal system can be affected adversely by pancreatitis.

What causes pancreatitis?

The cause of pancreatitis in dogs and cats usually is unknown. However, the following factors may play a part:

Some breeds of dogs and cats are more likely to develop pancreatitis. They include the miniature schnauzer, miniature poodle, cocker spaniel, and the Siamese.

What are the signs of pancreatitis?

Signs of pancreatitis can be vague and nonspecific. Generally clinical signs in dogs are due to abnormalities in the gastrointestinal tract. The signs may include lethargy, depression, poor appetite, vomiting (common in dogs, less common in cats), diarrhea (more common in dogs), fever, and abdominal pain displayed by abnormal postures.

How is pancreatitis diagnosed?

Pancreatitis is diagnosed upon a good medical history and physical examination. The pet will need a thorough evaluation. Routine blood tests and urinalysis are done. Radiographs (X-rays) of the abdomen may be necessary. Abdominal ultrasound (visualization of deep body structures by recording ultrasonic waves) can help rule out masses, tumors, and organ abnormalities. If the pet has fluid in the abdomen, the fluid may need to be withdrawn. A needle is inserted into the abdominal cavity and fluid is withdrawn into a syringe. This procedure is known as a "paracentesis." A paracentesis is done to make the pet more comfortable by removing the excess abdominal fluid and to obtain fluid for microscopic analysis. Other procedures and radiographs are performed as needed, depending on the veterinarian's assessment of the animal's condition. These can include biopsy (removal and examination of tissue) of the pancreas or exploratory surgery.

How is pancreatitis treated?

Pancreatitis is a serious medical condition. Pets should be hospitalized for initial medical management. Activity is restricted. The pet will be given no food or water for three-to-five days to reduce the work of the pancreas and to decrease pancreatic secretions. The pet will be given fluids through a vein (intravenous fluids) or under the skin (subcutaneous fluids). Dehydrated animals need intravenous fluid therapy. Pets also may receive intravenous nutrition. Medications will be prescribed according to the pet's needs. Medications can be administered to control vomiting or pain. Antibiotics may be needed if infection is present. Surgery may be required to remove diseased pancreatic tissue or to correct obstructions. When the animal has improved, small amounts of water will be offered. If the animal drinks and does not vomit or have abdominal pain, the animal will be offered small, frequent feedings of a carbohydrate (such as boiled rice). Gradually the food intake will be increased. High-fat and high-protein diets should be avoided. The pet may need a special diet following recovery
What is the prognosis for animals with pancreatitis?

The prognosis (outcome) for animals with pancreatitis varies, depending on the type of pancreatitis. A fair prognosis can be expected in many cases; however, in more severe pancreatitis, the prognosis is poor. Relapse or treatment failure is seen most commonly in animals given liquids or food too quickly. Pets with pancreatitis may have complications, such as diabetes.

The information on this page was obtained from the site www.vetmedcenter.com