If your dog gets a few mouthfuls of something that he shouldn’t eat, he might develop pancreatitis. This inflammatory disease can cause pain in the stomach, as well as vomiting and lethargy. If your pet gets diagnosed, it can be a scary time for you and him, so you’ll want to learn more about the disease.
So, what is the dog pancreatitis death rate? 40%. Most cases of pancreatitis resolve without ending in death, but in severe and acute or rapid onset cases, studies have shown that as many as 40% of dogs that are affected may die. A more common outcome is diabetes mellitus developing after the dog is affected by pancreatitis.
Pancreatitis in dogs is such a devastating disease because of the location of the pancreas and the enzymes the pancreas contains. When this organ gets inflamed, digestive enzymes, such as proteases, get released into the body cavity rather than into the gastrointestinal tract.
These enzymes cause intense pain and can even start to digest the pancreas. Diabetes can develop because the pancreas is also responsible for blood sugar regulation.
When dogs develop pancreatitis, they usually develop the acute, or sudden onset, form. This is often the most severe form when compared to relapsing or chronic pancreatitis cases.
Some pets develop acute pancreatitis, which then becomes chronic pancreatitis.
Milder cases tend to be less severe, with hemorrhagic or necrotizing pancreatitis associated with poor outcomes.
Research has shown that of severe and acute cases, as many as 40% of patients will die.
The worst prognosis has been associated with pets that also have metabolic acidosis and/or hypothermia when they present.
Pancreatitis wreaks havoc on so much of the body because the pancreas is responsible for making and storing different digestive enzymes.
The pancreas also help the body regulate blood sugar by producing hormones known as insulin and glucagon.
When your dog has pancreatitis, his normal pancreas functions don’t generally occur, and the digestive enzymes being released into the body may digest the surrounding organs.
Who Gets Pancreatitis?
Some dogs are more likely to get pancreatitis than other dogs.
- Miniature Schnauzers tend to be the most commonly affected breed
- Followed closely by Cocker Spaniels
- Terriers, such as the Yorkshire Terrier
While males and females can both easily be affected by the disease process, female dogs tend to be affected more commonly.
Overweight animals are also at a higher risk of getting pancreatitis.
Older pets tend to more commonly get pancreatitis than younger pets, as well.
Pets that have been fed meals that are high in fat are at the highest risk for developing pancreatitis. A common correlation is hyperlipidemia, or high circulating fat in the blood.
Diseases that cause this area also linked to pancreatitis and include hypothyroidism and diabetes mellitus.
Signs of Pancreatitis in Your Dog
The most common sign of pancreatitis in your dog is vomiting or nausea.
They may also be lethargic and not interested in eating because of the discomfort and nausea that they feel. Some dogs have fever, while in other cases their temperature may be low, which is associated with a worse prognosis.
Pancreatitis tends to be associated with intense abdominal pain.
Some dogs arch their backs away from the pain, while others rest in a praying dog position to alleviate the discomfort, especially in an active episode.
While some pets are just affected by nausea and vomiting, which would be associated with a greater likelihood to recover, others may develop shock.
Especially when associated with metabolic acidosis, your dog is at a higher risk of dying than a less severely affected animal.
Treating Pancreatitis in Your Dog
Once your veterinarian has diagnosed pancreatitis in your pup, it’s time to get them treated.
The first step in treatment is letting the pancreas rest.
For a period of several hours to a day, your pet will not be allowed to eat or drink anything, which is called “nothing per os” or NPO.
Meanwhile, your dog will likely be getting fluids given IV or subcutaneously.
Aggressive fluid therapy is needed if your dog is severely affected, and he may be in the hospital for several days. Your dog might be allowed to eat or will have a tube placed so food can be put directly in his gut.
While your dog is being treated for pancreatitis, you can expect him to be on several medications:
- First, he’ll need to receive anti-nausea medications, such as Cerenia or zofran. Cerenia is used most commonly in dogs and cats and can be given as an injection or an oral pill.
- To control your dog’s pain, he will likely be given one or a combination of pain medications. Anti-inflammatory medications are used less commonly than potent opioid medications such as tramadol and buprenorphine. You’ll want to talk to your veterinarian if you have any concerns about those.
- Finally, your dog might receive antibiotics. These are warranted in cases of sepsis or infection. Your pup might receive these by mouth or via injections intravenously.
Diseases Associated With Pancreatitis
Pancreatitis can be devastating to more body systems than just your dog’s gut.
The lungs can develop pleural effusion or pneumonia. From the systemic effects of the disease, your dog’s heart can develop arrhythmias and even pericardial effusion, where fluid develops around the heart.
Pancreatitis can cause shock to develop, and some dogs even develop anemia from either destruction of red blood cells, lack of making cells, or loss through the gut.
Your pup may become septic and need antibiotic therapy, as well.
Some metabolic abnormalities can develop when your dog has pancreatitis. These can include:
- Low calcium in the blood
- High or low blood sugar
- Elevated amounts of fat in the bloodstream
Your dog may also have low protein in his blood, known as hypoproteinemia.
Complications from Pancreatitis in Your Dog
As you can see, pancreatitis can leave your dog with long-lasting complications.
Your dog will likely need to be on a bland diet long-term or for life. Your veterinarian will discuss diet options with you.
Another common consequence of pancreatitis is your dog developing diabetes.
When cells in the pancreas that produce insulin get destroyed, your dog cannot regulate his blood sugar. You usually cannot reverse this disease, requiring your pet to be treated with a specific diet and insulin injections for the rest of his life.
Your dog might also develop exocrine pancreatic insufficiency, or EPI.
Your pup’s pancreas doesn’t produce normal digestive enzyme anymore because those cells were destroyed during the bout of pancreatitis. You’ll have to supplement your dog with special medications that contain digestive enzymes.
How do you know if your dog has pancreatitis? Your dog may exhibit some classic signs if he has pancreatitis. These include nausea or vomiting, as well as pain in the abdomen which may make him hunch forward or arch his back. Weakness and lethargy may also be signs that you see.
What food is best for dogs with pancreatitis? If your dog has pancreatitis, he needs to eat a low fat food. There are prescription diets that are bland, low in fat, such as Hill’s i/d. If you are cooking for your dog, you’ll want to stick with bland foods such as chicken and rice, lean ground beef, non-fat yogurt, and non-fat cottage cheese.