Acute Pancreatitis

The pancreas, while being a small organ, delivers a significant impact on digestion of food and blood sugar regulation. This key organ of digestion rests next to the small intestine as it exits from the stomach. Functionally, the pancreas is divided into two sections: 1) the larger exocrine pancreas releases digestive enzymes to breakdown fats, sugars, and proteins in the diet and 2) the smaller endocrine pancreas releases blood sugar regulating hormones. Inflammation of the pancreas causes unregulated release of digestive enzymes. The digestive enzymes begin to uncontrollably digest tissues surrounding the pancreas, creating tremendous inflammation. Dogs with pancreatitis present with vomiting, lethargy, anorexia, and abdominal pain. Common causes of pancreatitis include: high fat meals, concurrent diseases (e.g.: Cushing’s disease, hyperlipidemia), medications, abdominal trauma, and tumors. Diagnosis of pancreatitis involves a thorough history, physical examination, and specialized blood tests; an abdominal ultrasound may be needed to evaluate the area around the pancreas more closely. Treatment for this painful condition requires aggressive intravenous fluid therapy, medications to curtail vomiting, pain management, and withholding of food or water orally for 24-48 hours to rest the pancreas, and pain management.

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