Pancreatitis in dogs: What is pancreatitis and what dog food should you be feeding?

Broadcaster, nutrition and behaviour expert, Anna Webb, talks to Poppy’s Picnic about pancreatitis in dogs. Discover what pancreatitis is and what dog food you should be feeding your dog to help prevent and manage the condition.


The pancreas is a vital organ that plays a key role in a dogs’ health, producing key digestive enzymes: amylase, lipase and protease, which aid digestion and absorption of nutrients. The pancreas also produces the vital hormone insulin that’s responsible for regulating blood sugar levels. There is no procedure or specific medication to cure pancreatitis, so treatment is supportive including pain management, intravenous fluids and electrolyte imbalances. With this in mind, it’s important that dog owners do all they can to protect its function. 


How can I protect my dog against pancreatitis? 

Hippocrates stated in 600BC: “Let medicine be thy food, and food be thy medicine”. As primary carnivores, dogs are biologically and physiologically designed to eat meat.


Dogs with a healthy pancreas are predisposed to efficiently digest animal fats and proteins thanks to the natural production of the enzymes lipase (fats) and protease (proteins). 


Unlike humans, dogs do not digest carbohydrates efficiently. Humans begin digesting starch in their mouths with the starch enzyme amylase produced in our saliva. By contrast dogs only secrete a comparatively tiny amount in their pancreas, meaning a heavy grain / carb diet is not species appropriate and impact negatively on your dog’s health.


Processed dry and canned foods become sterile from intense heat-based manufacturing techniques, especially from screw extrusion, which is the manufacturing technique to make kibble. Devoid and depleted of any natural enzymes for the pancreas to absorb naturally, its ability to produce amylase, lipase and protease, vital for nutrient absorption and digestion is compromised. 


I choose to feed my dogs as nature intended on raw, complete and balanced meals from Poppy’s Picnic. For me, it’s peace of mind as I believe prevention is better than cure! The College of Integrated Veterinary Therapies, where I studied, actively recommends a species appropriate diet to prevent disease and optimise health. Dogs are primary carnivores. No one would dream of feeding their herbivore rabbit a steak! 


What are the symptoms of pancreatitis in dogs? 

Pancreatitis develops when the pancreas becomes inflamed, compromising its natural functions. Apart from causing behavioural issues from sugar highs and lows, it’s no surprise that diabetes is often triggered by poor pancreatic function.


As the symptoms of pancreatitis are common to many conditions, it can be difficult to diagnose, but a relatively new cPL blood test for canine-specific immunoreactivity now offers results quickly and effectively in-practice.


The effects of a severely damaged pancreas, known as SIRS (systematic inflammatory response syndrome), can be life threatening from a fever to a rapid heart rate, a drop in blood pressure and at worst, organ failure. 


As the pancreas produces key digestive enzymes, many of the symptoms of pancreatitis are inextricably related like anorexia, vomiting, dehydration, bloating, and abdominal pain.


These debilitating symptoms can be acute, which means dogs suffer extreme flare-ups, enormous pain and it can be life threatening. Or the disease can be chronic which is long-term but with milder symptoms. 


Is pancreatitis a common condition in dogs?

It’s interesting that although some breeds are more congenitally prone to pancreatitis like Miniature Schnauzers, Cocker Spaniels and some Terriers, diagnosed cases of Pancreatitis are rising no matter the breed.


This could be a reflection of more available and accurate tests, or it could suggest that some modern environmental factors like lifestyle, over medication and diet could be contributing factors.


With the majority of Britain’s dogs eating a highly processed kibble diet, which comprises between 30%-60% grains, could this be negatively impacting on dogs’ health? 


Is it a coincidence that the obesity epidemic in dogs is soaring? The PDSA claims that one in two dogs in Britain are now obese. We know that obesity related diseases include arthritis, heart disease and diabetes.


What food should I be feeding if my dog has pancreatitis? 


Avoid poor quality ‘human’ cooked fats like greasy sausages, bacon, ‘roast dinners’ as these can trigger an acute pancreatic reaction, as can any scavenging in the park or raiding the bin.


To help a dog thrive and for all its organs to function as nature intended, I recommend feeding a raw biologically approved diet like Poppy’s Picnic. If you are what you eat, feeding a diet that’s natural for a dog to eat will promote optimum health and over time, can reverse disease by nourishing at a cellular level.


Feed your dog well by opting for Poppy’s Picnic’s lower fat varieties like ENHANCED Chicken Mince, COMPLETE Chicken and Tripe Mince or COMPLETE Chicken Meatballs. These will reduce your dog’s fat intake and nourish them with protein while cutting out the carbs. 


Shop Poppy’s Picnic raw dog food here: https://poppyspicnic.co.uk/collections/raw-dog-food


Anna Webb – Broadcaster, Author, has studied natural nutrition and therapies with the College of Integrated Veterinary Therapies (CIVT). She lives in London and is owned by Prudence a Miniature Bull Terrier and Mr Binks, a re-homed English Toy Terrier.  www.annawebb.co.uk

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