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dog pancreas

dog pancreas This article is mostly about dog pancreatitis, but you dont have to wait until your dog gets sick or fat to buy low fat dog food treats in Australia !

Pancreatitis is a very serious disease in dogs and humans. This article looks at the causes, symptoms and treatments.  Including what the best low fat dog food options are for your dog to avoid this disease.

Its prevention can be as easy as controlling your dog’s diet, however when chronic pancreatitis takes hold, long term and costly treatment are more probable.

Low fat dog food treats can help

Dog Treats that are naturally low in animal fat can be as good for dogs as ‘specialty’ dog food. Consult your vet by all means, but if you NEED Low fat dog treats then please consider options like our Kangaroo dog treat & Fish dog treat ranges.  The 100% meat options are always best.

You can find Both these LOW FAT dog treat ranges below:

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Fish Low Fat Dog Treat

What does dog pancreatitis do?

The pancreas is a vital organ that is both an exocrine (enzymatic) and an endocrine (hormonal) organ.  When a dog eats food, the pancreas secretes enzymes for the digestion of all three major types of food:  proteins, carbohydrates, and fats.

The pancreas secretion contains the enzymes: trypsinogen, chymotrypsinogen, amylase, and lipase.  Ref 1 These are used in breaking down food for digestion and extraction of nutrients, however unabated secretion, caused by damage to the pancreas (usually causing inflammation) can cause the pancreas to digest itself!

The pancreas also contains sodium bicarbonate that is used to neutralize the acidic stomach content that is emptied into the small intestines.

Besides the enzymes, the pancreas creates three hormones: glucagon (raises blood glucose), insulin (reduces blood glucose); and somatostatin (inhibits the secretion of glucagon, insulin, and the growth hormone from the anterior pituitary, as well as gastrin from the stomach.

As you can see, the pancreas plays a vital, complex, finely balanced role in a dog’s digestions processes. One factor that the manufacturers of dog food will deny, is that pancreatitis is more common in dog fed on processed kibble. The reason for this is that rather having all of the enzymes work on a natural diet of meat, bones, offal and a minute amount of incidental plant material, the dog has to deal with processing a heavy load of processed grains. This leads to it becoming over worked, non functional and inflamed.

Causes of dog pancreatitis

  • Obesity (more about this later)
  • Medications such as azathioprine (Imuran Rx), potassium bromide (used for seizure control), l-asparaginase (a chemotherapeutic agent) and zinc used as a dietary supplement.
  • Infections – particularly after abdominal surgery. Both bacterial or viral infections can cause pancreatitis. Bacterial infections are often caused by a dog eating spoiled or contaminated food or water. Viral infections often are a result of contact with infected animals.
  • Metabolic disorders: Including hyperlipidemia (high amounts of lipid in the blood) and hypercalcemia (high amounts of calcium in the blood). Note Hyperlipemia is a condition where the amount of fat in the blood is constantly elevated instead of  for a short period immediately following eating food
  • Trauma and shock. It has been found that many pets that suffer abdominal injuries in motor vehicle accidents can subsequently develop pancreatitis.
  • The breeds Schnauzers and Yorkshire terriers are also more susceptible to gaining the disease

Dog Pancreatitis Symptoms

Pancreatitis signs can vary depending on how advanced the disease is. Signs can raqnge from mild gastrointestinal upset to collapse and death.

The most common early signs are the same as any gastrointestinal problem, but they are mush more severa and persistent. Signs such as:

  • Not eating or vomiting after eating
  • Painful abdomen, Inflammation of organs that surround the pancreas
  • hunched appearance
  • Fever or below-normal body temperature
  • Regular Diarrhoea (though too much omega 3, or ‘off’ meat can cause this too)
  • Depression
  • Dehydration ( observed by sunken eyes, dry mouth, and decreased skin elasticity.
  • Difficulty in breathing
  • Heart arrhythmias
  • Infection and haemorrhages throughout the body

Preventing dog pancreatitis

Besides avoiding the above list of things (even scorpion stings add an increased risk), DIET is the major aspect that you can control of your dog’s life.

And when we talk diet, we mean making sure that your dog is not obese.

Now here is something that the manufactured pet food companies will attempt to scare you into using their products, as they can control the fat content of the products, but you should be aware that a dog’s digestion is geared towards processing meat, and all its associated meat fats, including saturated fats, not plant fats.

Also because dogs are carnivores they also do not have issues such as high cholesterol, and in fact need meat proteins and fats as the basis of their ENERGY needs and for regulating blood sugar NOT carbohydrates.

What the experts suggest for controlling nutrition is to ensure that the dogs are not fed exclusively a high fat diet. This can happen particularly when people allow their dog to eat out of the trash, or they feed their dog regularly fatty table scraps.

Controlling a dogs fat intake when you feed them a raw meat diet is exceedingly easy. You can trim the fat from meat and restrict how many bones with high saturated fats you feed them.

You can tell when your dog is obese from whether it has a waistline and if you can feel its ribs slightly. A vet will be able to give you a better definition of this.

But just like humans, obesity is a product of the imbalance in the exercise and food intake equation. Your dog needs daily walks, so if you get that right, you may not need to be as careful with the meal sizes than if you have a sedentary dog.

Dog Pancreatitis Treatment

Of course prevention is much better and cheaper than cure. However once your dogs symptoms have been confirmed (along with vet blood work). Treatment is initially typically performed by withholding food and water under extremely close supervision for 24 hours or more.

This will usually bring the vomiting under control and prevents the release of the chemicals that are self digesting the pancreas.

Ironically, since feeding dog pellets can cause pancreatitis, the dog is fed small, bland, easily digestible meals that are high-carbohydrate, low-fat. Over a period of a week, meal size and quantity of food can be increased.

the dog might be able to be reintroduced to its former diet, as long as it is low fat.

Depending on the individual case pain relievers such as meperidine or butorphanol might need to be used regularly. Antibiotics are also often administered to protect against infection caused by the malfunctioning inflamed organ

” The risk of developing fatal pancreatitis is increased in dogs that are overweight, or have diabetes mellitus, hyperadrenocorticism, hypothyroidism, gastrointestinal tract disease, and epilepsy.” ref 2


While pancreatitis may have been contributed to or caused by feeding of high carbohydrate pellet food to your dog, this might be exactly the way that your vet will prescribe for them in the short term to recover.

You should be aware that the most natural dog diet is a raw meat diet, including offal and bones. Wild dogs do not graze on grains and if they eat grains they would be mashed immature wholemeal green grains inside of a prey’s stomach).

If you wish to prevent pancreatitis, a disease that is often deadly to dogs, you should (for a healthy dog at least) consider following a low fat natural raw meat diet. You can provide chicken with skin off, and red meat with the fat trimmed. Some animal meats such as goat, buffalo and kangaroo are naturally low in fat.

The key to avoiding pancreatitis seems to be diet (low fat) and keeping your dog at a sensible weight – which can vastly be helped by daily off lead walks. This, by the way, will socialise your dog and have them with a much better behaviour in general, with potentially less visits to the vet, and lowered chance of contracting pancreatitis.

Article by Bruce Dwyer. If you wish to use any of this information please refer to the article as a reference and provide a link to our WEBSITE.


Ref 1

Ref 2

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