Guest Blog: Canine Pancreatitis

No no no. Of course dogs can’t be alcoholic, but human alcoholism can tell us a lot about pancreatitis in dogs. 


Why the sudden interest in pancreatitis? Well, it’s been troubling me for the last few years that we’re seeing more and more pancreatitis in our cats and dogs. One study I saw found evidence of damage to the pancreatic tissue of all cats examined. When I was a young vet, a long time ago now, pancreatitis was a once-in-a-blue-moon diagnosis. Nowadays I hear about cases weekly. Some vets say there’s no more pancreatitis about these days, we’re just better at diagnosing it. I don’t buy this and nor would any owner who’s had a dog with pancreatitis, I assure you. 


What is pancreatitis? Well, it’s an inflammation of the pancreas (just as inflammation of the skin is dermatitis or inflammation of the appendix is appendicitis). It comes in two types, acute and chronic. Acute pancreatitis is where you get a sudden, horrendous flare up with incredible pain and your pancreas begins to dissolve itself. It can be fatal. Chronic pancreatitis is similar, but milder and can come on more slowly. Symptoms typically include vomiting, going off food, abdominal cramps, diarrhoea, dullness and a temperature. Treatment is basically pain relief, fluid therapy and sometimes antibiotics. There is a lot of just waiting until it sorts itself out, in most cases. After that pets are usually put onto a low fat (aka high carb/grain) kibble. And pancreatitis is often recurrent; surprise surprise. 


People get pancreatitis. Most notably it is associated with alcoholism, with the stats saying that two-thirds of pancreatitis cases in humans are related to long term excessive alcohol consumption. How does this relate to dogs and cats? Well, my theory is that the upsurge in pancreatitis in pets is associated with feeding excessive grains/carbs in processed kibble foods. Its impossible to make a kibble without using 30-60% carbs/grains to bind the food together into little biscuits. Long term exposure to grain/carb causes long term over-secretion of insulin by the pancreas which might predispose to pancreatitis (strain any organ long enough and something will give). 


It’s interesting that in the alcoholic population, only 5% of alcoholics get pancreatitis. This suggests that it’s not just the alcohol/carbs that do it, there are other factors. I think this is likely to be diet, stress and genetics of the person concerned. 


A lot of vets will say it is fat that causes pancreatitis in dogs and cats. Yes it can, but as most dogs and cats are on fairly low fat foods (55% of them are obese, after all), then this is unlikely to be the cause of all the acute and chronic pancreatitis we’re seeing in the last few years. The only other culprit I can see, because my dog certainly doesn’t do a bottle of scotch a night, is excessive carbs.


What can we learn from this? Well, if you’re feeding a balanced and complete raw diet with little or no grain, then well done you. I think you likelihood of not getting pancreatitis is high. If you’re reading this blog because you are raw-curious, then maybe this might be the push you need to take the plunge to get a good raw food diet sorted. 


Go on. Do it. Then you can enjoy that glass of wine this evening in the knowledge that your pet is that much less likely than you to get pancreatitis. Cheers! 


 Canine Pancreatitis, diet, raw feeding, vet blog