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Did you know that Autoimmune pancreatitis (AIP) might be linked with grain dog food?


large-dog In this article, we consider a controversial, however very plausible hidden cause of chronic Autoimmune pancreatitis – the use of high carbohydrate dog food.  The reason this is controversial is not because it is not possible, but because grain diets are so wide spread and so many people make money off feeding dogs inappropriate diets.

But first a few definitions: Pancreatitis – when dogs have severe adnominal pain, vomiting, weakness, depression  (when poison has been ruled out) these are often symptoms of (acute or chronic) pancreatitis.

Pancreatitis means the inflammation of the pancreas in dogs, and that it has stopped functioning normally – producing enzymes to help with the digestion of food.  Usually it is the early release of the enzymes that begin to digest the pancreas itself that causes the pain and inflammation in the dog.

There are acute (sudden) and chronic (long term inflammation) of the pancreas. The immediate acute form is life threatening and should have a vet treating the dog immediately.


Left unchecked, chronic pancreatitis can lead to the destruction of the pancreas, surrounding organs, and diabetes.  Treatments for acute include rehydration, anti-vomiting medication, powerful pain relief medication. and even antibiotics to control secondary infections.  ” Medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs) are a form of fat that does not require pancreatic enzymes for digestion, so it is well tolerated by dogs with pancreatitis”  Omega 3 and omega 6 are forms of MCTChronic pancreatitis usually is dealt with by a LOW fat diet.


” The pancreas is an elongated gland located adjacent to your dog’s stomach and tucked alongside the small intestine. The exocrine portion of the pancreas produces enzymes that aid the digestion of proteins, carbohydrates, and fats.” ref 2  (however not all types of food areas easily digested).

HOW a properly functioning pancreas works

The “passing of partially digested foods into the small intestine and distention of the stomach stimulate a dog’s pancreas to produce enzymes, as does external factors like the sight and smell of food. Different mechanisms produce different enzymes; for example, eating fat stimulates a different enzyme than eating protein.” ref 2

Autoimmune pancreatitis (AIP) – The elephant in the dog food industry room

Firstly let’s consider what the experts say a thought to be a moderately rare form of pancreatitis is: Autoimmune pancreatitis (AIP). Then we will look at how ‘off the shelf’ carbohydrate food might be a major cause of this ‘NEW’, fast rising, disease.

Over the last two decades,autoimmune pancreatitis (AIP) has been described as a rising cause of pancreatitis in humans.  The presentation of humans with AIP can vary, but there are several key features: lymphocytic-plasmacytic inflammation that is centred around pancreatic ducts, pancreatic mass formation, IgG4-positive lymphocytes, and response to corticosteroid therapy. It has also been postulated that some cases of chronic pancreatitis in dogs may also be immune mediated,  , several dogs with chronic pancreatitis have responded to corticosteroid therapy. Also, dogs with chronic pancreatitis usually have lymphocytic-plasmacytic infiltration. It should be recognized that AIP, though it may exist in dogs, may show significant differences to this disease in humans.”  (ref 1)

Immune-mediated lymphocytic pancreatitis, which predisposes them to pancreatic atrophy has been studied in German Shepherds. “Pancreatitis has been associated with immune-mediated diseases, which may include Irritable bowel Disease ( IBD) , though the cause-and-effect relationship is not understood.”  ref 2

” Some doctors have suggested that food allergies could be a rare cause of recurrent or chronic pancreatitis. (one vet suggests that) IBD could possibly be both a cause and an effect of pancreatitis, or that an underlying autoimmune disease or food allergy could cause both.”  ref 2

NOTE – while immune-mediated pancreatitis has been shown to respond well to corticosteroids such as prednisone, it is also the drug that is thought to cause acute pancreatitis.

Now while breed types, obesity, trauma to the pancreas from accidents, surgery, and the use of a host of drugs as shown below are linked to chronic pancreatitis in dogs, very few of the journal research or even consider the food that dogs eat, except the fat levels.


This is from one brave vet: ” As a holistic veterinarian, I don’t think it’s a fluke or happenstance that the pancreas has become more and more attacked as an organ. We know that the high carbohydrate-based diets that most dogs and cats eat are extremely taxing to pets’ insulin levels, which are, in turn, taxing to the pancreas”.  Ref 4

In addition, the foods that we feed our dogs and cats are entirely processed and devoid of natural enzymes, which help supplement your pet’s diet and reduce pancreatic stress.  So, the pancreas really may live in a state of chronic inflammation and stress because the average American pet diet is dead (processed at high temperatures to create an extensive shelf life) and is therefore devoid of any naturally occurring amylase, lipase and protease enzymes that would naturally be found in raw foods.

The canned or kibble (dry food) diet that you feed your pet causes the pancreas to have to secrete an abundance of digestive enzymes. If the pancreas fails to perform adequately, pancreatitis results.”  ref 4

” There are also two pancreatic enzymes, lipase and amylase, that can be elevated on traditional blood work when animals have pancreatitis, but most veterinarians rely on the PLI test for an accurate and quick diagnostic test  to determine  if  your pet has pancreatic inflammation. ” ref 4

” We know that dogs’ and cats’ pancreases cannot secrete enough digestive enzymes to adequately process their foods. Dogs and cats were meant to acquire supplemental enzymes from the foods they consumed: living foods that contained abundant enzymes. Historically dogs and cats consumed parts of their preys’ GI tracts which provided adequate enzymes for them to process their food. Carnivores also consumed their preys’ glands, including pancreatic tissue, which was a rich source of naturally occurring enzymes.”  REF 4

Causes of Autoimmune Pancreatitis – CONCLUSIONS

97% of dogs are fed a commercial dog food diet. This diet is usually 70% grain or vegetable based. This is one of the reasons why researchers usually don’t consider the food source. They like to keep their jobs.

Domestic Dogs evolved from wolves (an alpha predator carnivore) and dogs still have mainly a wolves digestive system.

In the multi hundred billion dollar grain based commercial dog food industry, there are many lobbyists to convince owners that grain is good for their dog. The only alternative they like to offer is ‘grain free’ versions, which usually means potato based, another major carb source.

What if “autoimmune pancreatitis (AIP)” is caused by grains or carbs in general?

As you read from one vet above, they suggest that IBD  (irritable bowel disease) might be a potential cause of pancreatitis. IBD is often classified as an ” autoimmune disease”.

Until there is money in solving a disease, it will go neglected in media, governments and pharmaceutical testing FOREVER.  Did you know that only 20 years ago it was thought that celiac disease in humans affected only 1 in 500 people. Twenty years ago, it was reduced to 1 in 200.  Currently it is believed that it could affect up to 2% of the human population.

Celiac disease is an autoimmune disease in the intestine, and its a reaction to the gluten protein in wheat and proteins in a few other common grains.  The dispersal of the knowledge of this disease has led to a lot of money being diverted to gluten free foods. And like many ‘allergy related’ diseases, there is no cure, just avoidance.

You should also know that while medical rates of celiac disease in humans are on the rise, there are maybe many more people who are gluten intolerant.  These people just feel sick but don’t have the malnutrition and full cramping that a celiac experiences with exposure to gluten.

The point is, that there are still many doctors and governments who are unwilling to recognise the validity of celiac disease, they prefer to think that its a mental issue. Try telling that to someone who has the physical symptoms. Celiac people also find that their immune systems are often severally compromised as their bodies try and attack and rid themselves of gluten.

HOW did the gluten epidemic occur ?

Conspiracy theorists (that’s what governments and pharmaceutical companies call anyone they cant make money out ) think that the three fold increase in gluten in wheat crops, to keep bread together (the glue) in the baking process might be the cause.  What if our human systems didn’t evolve fast enough to cope with that UNNATURAL level of gluten?

NOW consider animals that evolved to eat meat being forced to not only eat grain, but grain that has a massive increase in the gluten protein?  Yes our domestic dogs, that were never really omnivores daily eat unbelievable levels of carbohydrates, because its cheap, not because its good

Domestic dogs are still 90% carnivore, but ‘seemingly’ tolerate massive doses of grains and vegetables.  Especially if the taste is disguised by roasting grains, and covering them in fats, sugar and salt.  But what if their systems are failing because they are overloaded too?

DID you know that wheat is one of the major ingredients in dog food?

Now if celiac disease, has spiked in humans (true omnivores), why wouldn’t the same happen to a animal hunting specialist that is essentially a carnivore still, OUR domestic dogs?  What if dogs had gluten intolerance if not full blown celiac disease, how taxing would that be on their pancreas?

If you read the above statement from a vet they also suggest  grains in dog food are “ entirely processed and devoid of natural enzymes, which help supplement your pet’s diet and reduce pancreatic stress.  .. therefore they are  devoid of any naturally occurring amylase, lipase and protease enzymes that would naturally be found in raw foods”, (which) can cause major pancreas stress as it has to increase its enzyme output dramtically“.

Couple this with the regular texts saying dogs need a high source of quality protein  (that non bio available grains can’t deliver) to reduce the likelihood of pancreatitis,  and you have a perfect storm that MIGHT just lead to this massive spike in dog pancreatitis cases.  The appendix below goes through some of the data for horrifying high pancreatitis rates we are only now seeing.

FEEDING species inappropriate food eventually has to catch up with that species.

If you have been across the carnivore raw feeder V omnivore (commercial dog food company) debate you would know that much of it hinges on the amylase enzyme that is present in large doses in herbivores, because it helps break down carbs.

You would also know that while dogs have this enzyme in their stomach, they have little of it in their mouths, meaning that it can’t help extract nutrients before it reaches the dog’s stomach, like a herbivore can from grain. And of course dogs don’t grind grains in their mouth (where they could add amylyse like herbivores) before the grain enters their stomach like herbivores do. That’s the reason that grains have to be smashed into powder in dog food pellets,

Why is there no real research with decent funding on why there is so little meat in dog food?

  • dog food companies make a massive profit from using cheap grains rather than meat
  • Vets sell a lot of high end grain dog food in their practices
  • Imagine what would happen to the price of grains and the price of meat if dogs started eating meat again, the food they are supposed to eat?

Dog pancreatitis seems like it might be only one of a few of the major diseases spiking in dog diseases related to feeding dogs inappropriate food.

We acknowledge that IBD. celiac, gluten intolerance or other autoimmune diseases might be currently a small parentage of diagnosed causes of dog autoimmune pancreatitis, but there is a good chance that nobody is looking.

However if the spike in celiac disease cases in humans are anything to go by, it is very possible that this is another hidden disease w humans have unknowingly forced upon our dogs.

Even if you dont ‘believe’ any of this, I personally feed my dog a meat based diet, ‘just in case’.




” The incidence of exocrine pancreatic disorders is quite large in both dogs and cats. In a large retrospective study of necropsy findings 1.5% of 9,342 canine and 1.3% of 6,504 feline pancreata showed significant pathological lesions. ” REF 3

“However, recently, it has been suggested that the true prevalence of pancreatitis is by far greater. In one study 208 dogs undergoing necropsy at the Animal Medical Center in New York City were enrolled and more than 21% had macroscopic lesions suggesting pancreatitis. Pancreata from all dogs were sectioned every 2 cm and a total of 64% had histological lesions of acute and/or chronic pancreatitis.

In another study 25.6% of 200 un-selected dogs submitted to necropsy through a group of first-opinion practices in the UK showed evidence of chronic pancreatitis and 2% showed evidence of acute pancreatitis. These data suggest that pancreatitis is far more common in dogs than previously suspected”   (REF 3, YR 2010)


High-fat diets  are believed to have very little to do with dogs developing pancreatitis, HOWEVER  too much fat (once a dog has pancreatitis), particularly for middle-aged, overweight, relatively inactive dogs, CAN cause problems for dog with chronic pancreatitis.

Low-protein diets have also been shown to predispose dogs to pancreatitis, especially when combined with high fat intake”  Ref 2

NOTE even if a theoretical level of protein is fed to a dog, such as grain or vegetable based pellets, they are not bio-available to a carnivore dog, so if a dog is eating pellets, it is essentially on a much lower protein diet than it would be with a meat based diet.

Pharmaceuticals administered to dogs for dissolving struvite bladder stones, to prevent calcium oxalate, urate, or cystine stones have been linked to pancreatitis.

Dogs with epilepsy are often given potassium bromide and phenobarbital  to control the eplielspy – and these in combination have been found to trigger pancreatitis in dogs.

The following drugs are also linked with dog pancreatitis: “antibiotics (sulfa drugs, tetracycline, metronidazole, nitrofurantoin); chemotherapy agents (azathioprine, L-asparaginase, vinca alkaloids); diuretics (thiazides, furosemide); other antiepileptic drugs (valproic acid, carbamazepine); hormones (estrogen); long-acting antacids (cimetidine, ranitidine); Tylenol (acetaminophen); and aspirin (salicylates).” ref 2

” Certain conditions may predispose a dog to pancreatitis. These include diabetes mellitus (though it is not clear whether pancreatitis precedes diabetes), acute hypercalcemia (high levels of calcium in the blood, usually from a calcium infusion or poisoning rather than diet or supplements), hyperlipidemia (high fat content in the blood, again usually due to metabolic disorder rather than diet), hypothyroidism, and Cushing’s disease (hyperadrenocorticism).” ref 2

Certain conditions may predispose a dog to pancreatitis. These include diabetes mellitus (though it is not clear whether pancreatitis precedes diabetes), acute hypercalcemia (high levels of calcium in the blood, usually from a calcium infusion or poisoning rather than diet or supplements), hyperlipidemia (high fat content in the blood, again usually due to metabolic disorder rather than diet), hypothyroidism, and Cushing’s disease (hyperadrenocorticism).

Breeds predisposed to pancreatitis

Pancreatitis can occur in dogs of any age, breed, or sex.

Most common dog breeds: Cavalier King Charles Spaniels,  Cocker Spaniels   Dachshunds. To a lesser extent: Briard, Shetland Sheepdog, Miniature Poodle, German Shepherd Dog, terriers (especially Yorkies and Silkies), and other non-sporting breeds.

The issue ” Chronic pancreatitis in dogs can lead to progressive destruction of the pancreas, potentially leading to diabetes mellitus and/or exocrine pancreatic insufficiency. Thus, some patients may experience concurrent pancreatic inflammation and diabetes mellitus. ” (ref 2)








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