Pancreatitis in Pups

Last night, I didn't want to stay up and write. I worked closing shift, and the day went by fairly quickly. All owners were really great, and there were a few Doodles who were spunky to keep me laughing at their antics.


One patient in particular that I was going to mention has been in several times. He was diagnosed with pancreatitis last week.


The owner wants to do everything she can for her pup, because he is her baby. She does not have children, so he is her child. She told me last night, in a non-offensive way, that the reason she chose to feed her dog the diet she chose was because when she looks at the ingredients, she sees "chicken" versus "chicken meal", and chicken sounds a lot better. I told her I understood her concerns. I only mention to owners that they choose a diet that has been formulated by a veterinary nutritionist. There are SO many options for pet foods, it's insane. Pet owners are left to do what they would do for themselves, read the labels. Foods that are label "whole ingredients" "organic" "raw" "no by-products" are what peak owner's interest. Dogs and cats do not have the same nutritional requirements as humans. In Canada, there are very little regulations on pet foods. But it's true, when you look at the ingredients of a veterinary prescribed diet versus one of these "locally made" dog foods, the ingredients look better on that locally made diet. So my question to owners is... "Is that diet nutritionally sound?".


Some pet owners will take my advice and they listen. They do everything that I recommend, which I highly commend them for because it makes my job easier. But, I would say the majority of pet owners come in with "Dr. Google says..." leaving us a little bit frustrated. So, my way of wiping my hands on the topic of diets is directing owners to the Pet Nutritional Alliance website - 'Dare to Ask' Survey. We get tired of arguing with owners. With the new 'Boutique, Exotic, Grain-free' dieting trend, also comes new groups of patients developing heart disease (see the FDA warnings on grain-free diet associated dilated cardiomyopathy), so you [the owners] choose! I can only inform and direct owners to the resources that are reputable.


Pups with pancreatitis: a few of my pancreatitis cases this past month were offered human grade meat (beef - steak or tendon, and ham-hock), then developed pancreatitis. I could go on about the selective breeding of dogs from wolves, that no longer makes your 'dog' a 'wolf', but I digress. What do you feed a dog who has acute pancreatitis? Most veterinarians reach for prescription low-fat diets. There are a few go-to, easily digestible diets - and note, I have no monetary gains by my recommendations - Royal Canin low fat gastrointestinal, Hill's i/d low fat, and Purina's ProPlan EN low fat. For dogs who ate a steak, got pancreatitis and are managed well after their episode, they may not have additional flare-ups, however, dogs with acute pancreatitis are susceptible to getting chronic pancreatitis - whether intermittent or on-going. Chronic pancreatitis likely requires one of the above low-fat diets lifelong.


Clinical signs for my patient were 'shaking after a walk' and 'not himself' but this patient was still eating, no vomiting, no diarrhea - which are the classic signs of pancreatitis. So, since there is no one medication to treat pancreatitis, we rely on symptomatic treatment. For this pup, he had a painful abdomen, which while on pain medications seemed to be well controlled with each subsequent visit. The owner, she is going to do some homework to ensure that the diet she chose is formulated by a nutritionist. She found one that has 8% fat (I think between 6-8% is fine for a kibble). If the diet is not formulated by a nutritionist, then she will come in to try one of the prescription diets. In my eyes, that is a great compromise. I just can't spend my whole evening arguing with pet owners about food, there are other things I can put my energy into.

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