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Dear Listeners, Viewers, and Readers:
Every holiday season brings with it, unique inherent dangers for our pets. Tonight, I will be talking about one such danger, a potentially deadly disease known as pancreatitis.
While this is not an uncommon disease to encounter in veterinary practice, the veterinary profession sees a significant spike in these cases every holiday season.
Tune in this evening to find out why this is the case, and what steps you can take to prevent your pets from becoming afflicted with pancreatitis, not only this holiday season, but at any time in their lives.
We also have one e-mail question to address this evening, and let's not forget that in our new live format, we are also taking live calls. Please direct all e-mail comments/questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thanks for all your support and for caring about what I have to say! :)
Roger Welton, DVM
Episode talking points:
1) Each year during the holidays, veterinarians will see many more cases of vomiting dogs than normal. These pets are often suffering from a potentially fatal disease called pancreatitis.
2) Pancreatitis is a painful condition caused by inflammation of the pancreas. The pancreas is an organ responsible for providing digestive enzymes as well as insulin in our pets.
3) Typically, the digestive enzymes produced by the pancreas are stored in an inactive form that is released into the intestines. Once outside of the pancreas, the enzymes are activated and begin the process of breaking down proteins, fats and carbohydrates.
4) For reasons that are not understood, occasionally the enzymes are triggered early and start damaging the pancreas and surrounding tissues. Veterinarians recognize that this can appear suddenly (acute pancreatitis) or develop slowly over time (chronic pancreatitis).
5) The two things to remember about acute pancreatitis are that it commonly occurs around the holidays and that it is VERY painful for the pet. This disease is more often seen in dogs than in cats.
6) Pet lovers often want to share some of the holiday dinner with their four legged friends, but it is believed that the fatty nature of the foods prompts the disease.
7) Pets with pancreatitis will seem to act “off” and then proceed to a painful abdomen. Diarrhea often develops and the hallmark symptom is vomiting.
8) Cats are more often afflicted with chronic pancreatitis. This is a result of long-standing inflammation and leads to irreversible damage.
9) Pets that are obese or who recently consumed a high fat meal are at highest risk for pancreatitis. Many of these pets have eaten greasy turkey, ham trimmings or even the holiday gravy.
10) Pancreatitis can also develop concurrently with other diseases like Cushing’s disease or diabetes or can occur due to some drugs, toxins or bacterial/viral infections.
11) Without treatment, pets may become dehydrated and suffer life-threatening heart arrhythmias or blood clotting issues.
12) Although there is no clear cut sign or test for pancreatitis, veterinarians may perform blood tests and x-rays in order to rule out other problems. Obstruction of the GI tract and kidney or liver disease are possible alternative causes for the clinical signs.
13) Sadly, there is no direct treatment for pancreatitis. The mainstay of treatment is to control pain and other symptoms. The pancreas can heal itself, but it is important that the affected pet avoid any food or water by mouth for several days.
14) Hospitalization is indicated along with IV fluids and other medications. Proper pain control is vital.
15) Some pets seem to get recurring bouts of pancreatitis. This could be due to a predisposition to eating the wrong things, genetic factors or even other concurrent diseases.
16) Pet owners should avoid the temptation to feed the pet from the table, especially leftover turkey or ham. Also, be aware of any changes in your pet’s stance or eating behavior. These could be early signs of pancreatitis.
17) Call your veterinarian immediately if any of these symptoms are noted…it could save your pet’s life!
Dr. Roger Welton is the President and chief veterinarian at Maybeck Animal Hospital in West Melbourne Florida, as well as CEO of the veterinary advice and health management website Web-DVM.net.