Lew Olson's newly revised edition is filled with an abundance of new topics and information. Whether you are new to home feeding or a seasoned raw feeder, have a senior dog or a new puppy, a pregnant mom or a toy breed, this book presents all the information you need to make the best nutritional decisions for your dog.

Pancreatitis and Dogs: Diagnosis, Treatment and Diet

Pancreatitis is an inflammation of the pancreas. One of the functions of the pancreas is to release enzymes to help digest food. When the pancreas becomes inflamed, it releases enzymes in excess and begins to digest its own tissue. This creates great trauma and pain to the dog. Symptoms of pancreatitis include loss of appetite, vomiting, arching of the back with stomach pain, diarrhea, dehydration, and in some cases jaundice.

Blood Panel Results

While pancreatitis is hard to diagnose, blood laboratory panels will often show elevated amylase and lipase, increased glucose, high cholesterol and triglyceride levels, and high liver enzymes, including ALT and ALP. If pancreatitis is suspected due to the above symptoms, a trip to the veterinarian is recommended immediately. The first stage of treatment is hospitalization for several days with IV fluid therapy, treatment of pain, and withholding food and water.

For more information on symptoms and early treatment:

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Causes of Pancreatitis

Fat is usually blamed when a dog develops pancreatitis. However, this isn’t quite true. High fat diets can aggravate a diseased pancreas, but fat itself does not usually cause pancreatitis. The exact reasons for pancreatitis are not known, but research shows the following factors may contribute to pancreatitis:

  • A genetic condition called hyperlipidemia (high cholesterol and/or triglycerides), often found in Miniature Schnauzers, Briards and Shetland Sheepdogs.
  • Hypercalcemia, caused by parathyroid conditions or over supplementing with calcium
  • Drug induced pancreatitis. Some of the drugs that are known or suspected to cause pancreatitis include steroids (such as prednisone), tetracyclines and other sulfonamide antibiotics, metronidazole (flagyl), azothiaprin (imuran), estrogen, long-acting antacids (cimetidine/Tagament, ranitidine/Zantac) and Tylenol. Also included are diuretics (thiazides and frusemide) and some chemotherapy drugs including l-asparaginase.
  • While it has been indicated that disc disease or spinal cord injuries may cause pancreatitis, it may be more likely that steroids are the real cause, as this is the most common drug used for these conditions.
  • Cushing’s Disease (hyperadrenocorticism), hypothyroidism, liver disease and diabetes can cause a tendency to develop pancreatitis.

Types of Pancreatitis

Please note that pancreatitis comes in two forms, acute and chronic.

Acute is usually restricted to one incident, and often the cause can be discovered (such as a certain drug reaction or illness). Most pancreatic incidents occur only once.

Chronic pancreatitis is when several acute occurrences happen over time. This may be due to factors such as hyperlipidemia, hypothyroidism or other underlying disease conditions, or when the pancreas suffers substantial damage during an acute pancreatitis attack.

Obese dogs are more prone to this condition, so it is important to keep dogs lean and give them physical exercise daily.

Diet Factors of Pancreatitis

While fat is often not the initial cause of pancreatitis, it is necessary to reduce the amounts of fat in the diet for a dog recovering from pancreatitis so as not to over stimulate the pancreas. The pancreas is in control of insulin production, which controls blood glucose regulation. Often dogs with diabetes can be prone to pancreatitis, and pancreatitis can lead to diabetes. In cases like these, it would also be a good idea to watch the amount of sugar in the diet. This would include high glycemic vegetables, fruits and honey.

To reduce the work-load on the pancreas following an attack of pancreatitis, a low fat diet is recommended, preferably spread over several small meals a day. Smaller, more frequent meals help glucose levels to remain more stable and reduce the load of foods at one serving to decrease the enzyme activity of the pancreas.

In acute cases of pancreatitis, once supportive care is given and the dog recovers fully, they can usually gradually return to their normal diet. In some chronic cases, pancreatin enzymes and the Bertes Digestion Blend may need to be given for life so that food can be digested properly.

The diet recommendations I have listed below are for after the dog has recovered from a pancreatic attack, and in most cases are only needed for a few days or weeks. If the dog is prone to chronic pancreatitis, they may well need to be kept on a low fat all their life and fed several small frequent meals a day. In that event, calcium will need to be added to the home-made diets given here, at 800 mg per pound of food served. For short term use (less than two weeks) this is not necessary. Please remember to follow up with your veterinarian for advice on your dog’s recovery and health needs. Periodic check-ups and blood panel levels are recommended to monitor health.

75% of the diet should include low fat animal proteins such as:

  • White meat chicken (which is lower in fat than dark meat), with skin and excess fat removed.
  • Lean or low fat hamburger, and if cooked, drain excess fat (boiling will remove most of the fat).
  • Beef heart or roast, with excess fat removed.
  • Beef kidney and liver (small amounts).
  • Egg whites
  • Low fat or nonfat plain yogurt or cottage cheese

25% of the diet should be low glycemic vegetables, such as:

  • Broccoli or cauliflower
  • Summer squash, such as yellow crookneck or zucchini
  • Dark leafy greens, such as romaine lettuce, collard greens, mustard greens, spinach
  • Cabbage

If the dog starts to lose weight, you can replace half of the low glycemic vegetables with starches such as potatoes, yams and carrots. These contain more calories but remember they are high in sugar.

These foods (vegetables and starches) must be cooked for digestibility!

Recipe Examples
(for a fifty-pound dog, to be fed in three or four portions daily)

Recipe #1:

2 cups of cooked beef heart ground or in chunks, fat drained
½ cup non-fat cottage cheese
1/2 cup steamed or cooked zucchini
1/2 cup cooked broccoli
1/4 teaspoon of Berte’s Digestion Blend twice daily

Recipe #2
2 cup of cooked chicken breast
3/4 cup of low or nonfat plain yogurt
1/4 cup cooked cabbage
1/2 cup cooked zucchini
1/2 teaspoon of Berte’s Digestion Blend twice daily

Recipe #3
2 cup of boiled lean hamburger, fat drained
1/2 cup low fat or non-fat yogurt
1/2 cup of cooked kale
1/2 cup of yellow crookneck squash
1/4 teaspoon of Berte’s Digestion Blend twice daily

Recipe #4
2 cup cooked stew meat or cut up lean roast, fat drained
1/2 cup low or nonfat cottage cheese
1/2 cup cooked Broccoli
1/2 cup cooked zucchini
1/4 teaspoon of Berte’s Digestion Blend twice daily

As your dog improves, you may add vitamins A, B, C D3 and E OR use the Bertes Immune Blend and the EPA fish oil. This may take from a few days to a couple of weeks, depending on the severity of the condition. Add EPA fish oil at 1,000 mg per 20 lbs of body weight daily, plus half a teaspoon of Bertes Immune Blend.

If these recipes are to be fed longer than 2 weeks, then add 800-1000 mg of calcium per pound of food served (2 cups is approximately one pound). You can use ground eggshell at the rate of 1/2 teaspoon per pound of food

Supplements that B-Naturals carry that are recommended for dogs with pancreatitis include Berte’s Digestion Blend, and the EPA Fish Oil.