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Pancreatitis in dogs.

Species: Dog
Breed: Chihuahua
Age: 2-5 years
A few days ago my little 8 pounds, 2 years old chihuahua was having an upset stomach.  For a day or so he kept throwing up everything he ate or drank.  He appeared depressed and sad and in pain.  He really could not walk and when he did, he could not really extend or flex his belly and it seemed that moving was painful. Typically, he curls up to sleep but could not and had to sleep extend with his belly flat on the couch.

I took him to the vet and after a set of tests (which I have included), she told me he had pancreatitis.  She gave him subcutaneous hydration and an anti-nausea medication.  She instructed me to give him small amounts of water and bland food every 4-6 hours and wait and see if he bounces back.

Since doctor's visit, he has started to eat and drink without throwing up.  However, at times he seems sad and depressed and tired.  There is some lingering pain (less often now).

These are my questions:

Is the diagnostic right?
is the treatment adequate?
What causes pancreatitis?
What can I do to prevent it?
What over the counter supplements should I consider giving him?
Should it happen again and I need to take him to the emergency room, what tests/procedure should I consider performing on him to help diagnose/treat his condition.
What symptoms should I lookout for to know when this is turning form an acute or chronic condition to a lethal?

I will send his medical records to in case that helps

Online vet, Dr. Marie

Dr. Marie replied:

I'm sorry to hear that your little dog has been diagnosed with pancreatitis. Some dogs with pancreatitis can have very mild symptoms of vomiting and diarrhea but others can be extremely sick.

The diagnosis certainly sounds correct. When I read your description of how uncomfortable he was and how he had such severe belly pain the first thing I thought of was pancreatitis. It sounds like the blood tests confirmed this. Most dogs with pancreatitis will have an increase in amylase and lipase (although not always) and usually an increase in something called PLI.

For mild cases of pancreatitis, subcutaneous fluids and the instructions to feed small bland meals frequently can be enough to cure the dog. However, some dogs need more intensive treatment such as staying in the hospital on intravenous fluids and being given injectable pain medication.

If Luiciuos Borinus is starting to eat and drink then this is a great sign. If he is doing so without vomiting then I would be very hopeful for a complete recovery. I would keep doing what you are doing and this should be sufficient.

Regarding the cause of pancreatitis, often it is unknown. Sometimes pancreatitis can be caused by eating something really fatty such as a stick of butter. One of the worst cases of pancreatitis I ever saw was a dog who had eaten bird suet which is basically lard covered in bird seed. However, I have seen dogs get pancreatitis without any knowledge of them eating anything fatty.

As such, you can usually prevent pancreatitis by not giving your dog anything extra fatty. If a dog gets repeated bouts of pancreatitis and we don't have a history of eating fatty food then we may put the dog on a bland diet permanently. But, I wouldn't do this if this is the first time he has had pancreatitis.

I wouldn't recommend any extra supplements.

Regarding tests, the most accurate test that we routinely run now is one called a PLI test. *Most* emergency clinics will have the capability to run this test in their clinic but sometimes the test needs to be sent to an external lab and we don't get results until a day or two later.

You will definitely know if this condition gets worse. If his appetite stops and the vomiting continues then he needs to go back to the hospital again. The cases that are lethal are rare. I have had patients die of pancreatitis but the vast majority of dogs recover and never have a problem with it again. The lethal cases were horribly sick from the start and never did make a recovery. If your little guy is eating again then he is very unlikely to get sick again. Just be sure to continue with the bland food until he is completely recovered and even for a few days longer.

I hope that helps and I hope he continues to recover!

Dr. Marie.

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Disclaimer: Although Dr. Marie is a qualified veterinarian, the information found on this site is not meant to replace the advice of your own veterinarian. and Dr. Marie do not accept any responsibility for any loss, damage, injury, death, or disease which may arise from reliance on information contained on this site. Do not use information found on this site for diagnosing or treating your pet. Anything you read here is for information only.

Customer reply:

Thank you Dr. Marie. Just to two final questions: how long does it take on average to recover? Does is it make sense to setup a follow appointment with his vet to do a sonogram of the pancreas and the PLI test to make sure it is all peachy even if he has no symptoms by then.

Online vet, Dr. Marie

Dr. Marie replied:

Recovery really does vary. I've seen dogs be 100% better in 24 hours. Others can take a week or more.

If he has no symptoms I personally wouldn't recommend followup tests. If he was still vomiting occasionally I might consider repeating a PLI test but if he's totally better there really is no reason to do so.

Hope he is feeling better today!

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Dr. MarieDr. Marie is a veterinarian who practices in a busy animal hospital in Ottawa, Ontario. She created Ask A Vet Question as a resource for good, accurate veterinary advice online. Dr. Marie treats dogs, cats, hamsters, guinea pigs, and rats. She has been a vet since 1999.

Is an online vet visit just as good as a trip to your veterinarian? No! But, many times, asking an online veterinarian a question can help save you money. While Dr. Marie can't officially diagnose your pet or prescribe medications, she can often advise you on whether a vet visit is necessary. You can also ask Dr. Marie for a second opinion on your pet's condition.