Treatment and Prognosis for Pancreatitis in Dogs
Goals of Treating Pancreatitis
Pancreatitis is a serious and painful disease of domestic dogs. Owners play an important role in their dog’s successful recovery, as special diets and feeding protocols must be followed at home after the dog’s hospital stay. The treatment choices for dogs with pancreatitis will vary depending upon whether the condition is chronic or acute. The guiding therapeutic goals are to treat any identifiable underlying causes of the condition, relieve the dog’s pain, provide sound dietary support and address any complications that may arise.
Dogs suffering from acute pancreatitis are normally treated on an in-patient basis to immediately address dehydration and shock. Aggressive intravenous fluid therapy and supportive nursing care are key components of the treatment protocol. Other important therapies include pain management (typically with intravenous or intramuscular analgesic medications) and administration of medication to address vomiting and/or diarrhea.
Historically, one of the most common treatment protocols for canine pancreatitis was to withhold food for several days, purportedly to give the pancreas time to rest and repair. This is called “nothing per os” (NPO), which means “nothing by mouth.” Current thought is that NPO therapy should only be used when a dog is vomiting severely and persistently. Obviously, this must be done under the strict supervision of a veterinarian, as fluid, electrolyte and nutritional support must be managed and maintained intravenously at a veterinary clinic. If the dog is not actively vomiting and is willing to eat on its own, many veterinarians will recommend feeding a low-fat, low-protein, high-fiber diet, in small amounts, multiple times a day. Blood transfusions may also be necessary in certain cases.
Dogs with chronic pancreatitis typically will be placed on a low-fat, high-fiber diet for life. Owners can also supplement their dog with pancreatic enzymes to help provide relief from abdominal pain. Unfortunately, pancreatic enzyme supplementation probably will not alter the course of the disease.
Pancreatitis can have a prognosis ranging from good to guarded to grave. Dogs with acute onset of pancreatitis usually have a better prognosis than those with chronic forms of the disease. Unfortunately, there is no reliable way to predict the outcome of pancreatitis in any given animal.