Christmas is a truly amazing time of year! It’s time for love, family and sharing… sharing food… sharing food with furbabies! But be very careful what you’re sharing with your furbaby because rich and fatty food we have during this festive Christmas season – ham, fried chicken, sausage, bacon, etc – can cause some serious harm to your dog! It’s a condition called Pancreatitis and in some rare cases, could be fatal.
What does the Pancreas do?
The Pancreas is a squishy, glandular organ cozily sitting between the stomach and the small intestine. The Pancreas has two jobs 1) to secrete digestive juice to help break down the food in the small intestine and 2) to produce hormone called insulin and glucagon – this tells our body how to use the food we just broke down.
What is Pancreatitis?
Acute Pancreatitis is an inflammation of the Pancreas. It causes severe abdominal pain. Dogs who suffer from Pancreatitis are usually off their food and may have vomiting and/or diarrhoea. Severe pancreatitis can develop into a whole body inflammatory condition called Disseminated Intravascular Coagulopathy – yes, it is as scary as it sounds. Dogs can quickly deteriorate and die from this condition.
How Does it Happen?
Normally, digestive enzyme in the pancreas is turned “off” – it is stored in an inactive form. It is only switched on when the enzyme enters the small intestines and needs to digest food. When dogs eat fatty food, pancreas produces TOO MUCH enzymes in attempt to digest everything. This causes inflammation of pancreas. Inflammation causes the enzyme to inappropriately turned on while they’re still in the pancreas!! Enzymes don’t care if it’s our protein or someone else’s protein that it’s digesting. So the pancreas starts digesting itself and everything around it – including fat, stomach, intestines, blood vessels etc. It is literally getting eaten alive from the inside. OUCH!
What can owners do about it?
Just like many other diseases, it’s better to prevent Pancreatitis than to treat it. Once an animal has Pancreatitis, they’re more likely to have it again in the future.
If you’re hosting a party, it is very difficult to control who gives what to the dog – particularly children. So, rather than saying “no fatty food for the pets”, tell the guests “absolutely no human food for the pets – no exceptions!” Your dog has probably mastered the arts of puppy eyes. And I know people want to feed pets. I do too! So why not prepare a dog friendly alternatives?
You can easily make a Christmas themed baked sweet potato for your dogs by simply cutting it with a Christmas shaped cookie cutter and baking it in the oven for 10-20 minutes.
How do I know if they have pancreatitis and what should I do?
The first signs of pancreatitis can be subtle. After having people over, your furbaby may be overly tired and be less interested than normal in their food. If this happens, it should ring alarm bells. Many furbabies with Pancreatitis will also develop vomiting and diarrhoea, lethargy and abdominal discomfort. As mentioned previously, Pancreatitis may be mild or severe and it’s really difficult to tell how bad it is by just looking at them. When in doubt, it’s always best to seek veterinary attention.
We often don’t realise that food that’s so tasty and seems harmless can cause such a devastating outcome. Many veterinary hospitals are closed during the Christmas season. So it’s very important to take notes of emergency hospitals in your area that are open over the festive period.
Remember this Christmas, no human food for your furbabies! Myself and the rest of the My Vet team wish you and your furbaby a Merry Christmas!