Thursday, January 2, 2014

Condition Spotlight: Pancreatitis

What is Pancreatitis?  This is a condition that happens in both cats and dogs that we see fairly often here at Veterinary Associates of Cape Cod.  The pancreas is a vital organ located in the right side of the abdomen and  it has two functions:
  1. To produce enzymes that assist with digestion of food
  2. To produce hormones such as insulin
When the pancreas becomes inflamed it is known as pancreatitis.  The causes of pancreatitis are not known, however, it is believed that eating a rich, fatty meal can be a contributing factor.  In dogs, the administration of corticosteroids is also considered a contributing factor.  Normally digestive enzymes produced by the pancreas are activated in the small intestine.  With pancreatitis, the enzymes are activated pre-maturely in the pancreas resulting in the digestion of the pancreas itself.

As you can imagine, this can be a very painful condition.  Other symptoms include nausea, vomiting, fever, and diarrhea.  Diagnosis is based on three criteria:  clinical signs, laboratory tests, and x-rays and/or ultrasound.   Successful treatment of pancreatitis will depend on early diagnosis and medical therapy.  The pancreas must be able to "turn off" it's activation of digestive enzymes and this can only be done by withholding food and water.  In this case your pet will need to be hospitalized to receive intravenous fluids and other medications to maintain fluid and electrolyte balance.  The severity of your pet's case will depend on the length of time necessary for hospitalization.

Prognosis for pancreatitis depends on the extent of the disease, but is generally favorable with medical intervention.