Chronic Pancreatitis in Dogs: The House Is On Fire! Bridget’s Pancreatitis

A symptom is what we see and what we want to address. Unfortunately, that leads to missing the point—getting to the bottom of the problem.

There is a dialog from one of the episodes of House M.D. that has been on my mind lately.

House: You wake up in the morning, your paint’s peeling, your curtains are gone, and the water is boiling. Which problem do you deal with first?

Foreman: House!

House: None of them! The building’s on fire!

What is pancreatitis?

Pancreatitis is inflammation of the pancreas. It is a painful and potentially life-threatening condition. A well-known trigger is the ingestion of a fatty meal. However, there are many lesser-known triggers such as:

  • obesity
  • stress
  • trauma
  • infections
  • breed predisposition
  • metabolic disorders
  • certain drugs and toxins
  • and more

Further reading: Canine Pancreatitis: What Causes It?

Acute pancreatitis

Acute pancreatitis comes with severe symptoms, and it a medical emergency. Not only it is a severely painful condition, but it can lead to:

  • irreversible damage of the pancreas
  • organ failure
  • septic shock
  • death

Chronic pancreatitis

Chronic pancreatitis is trickier. The pancreas is smoldering rather burning leading to intermittent signs such as:

  • vomiting
  • diarrhea
  • lack of appetite

Because chronic pancreatitis has less violent symptoms, it is more likely to go on undiagnosed.

Further reading: Pancreatitis In Dogs: When It’s An Emergency

Chronic Pancreatitis in Dogs: The House Is On Fire! Bridget's Pancreatitis

Bridget’s story

Bridget began throwing up when she was 3 and ½ years old. I use the term throwing up lightly: the noises coming from her were the most awful sounds I had ever heard, and I was beside myself when there seemed no end.

After-hours trips were made to the vet for injection to make her quit being sick. The sounds were only part and parcel of the ordeal, which I imagine was just as intolerable to Bridget. Also was the reflexive gagging, with mouth drawn back in wrinkles as well as: pacing, licking lips, obsessively licking paws, and the floor.

Bridget’s pica

The worst, though, was her behavior of eating anything not nailed down to make herself throw up, as dogs do. If allowed, she would have eaten enough grass to kill herself!

Really, I marvel that she is still alive, as she ran out to the garden at the onset of an episode, gobbling down an entire corn cob from the compost and then coming back to the house to throw it up, along with her stomach contents. I ended up removing the corn crop with a scythe, chopping it all down, and raking it all up. No more compost. All this was on the hottest day of the summer.

Bridget’s treatments

Dog Conditions: Bridget's Pancreatitis

Bridget was treated symptomatically with meds for GI upset, nausea, and vomiting….many times. These episodes went on all…..summer…..long. Most of them occurred after clinic hours on the weekend or evenings. Or so it seemed. Sitting with her was gut-wrenching. She was a danger to herself, and it wasn’t easy to keep her safe.

Sometimes I had to crate her, with nothing at all in the crate. At times she even tried to eat a blanket. The stress was awful. I felt awful for Bridget and felt helpless. I began to sit bolt upright from a dead sleep, thinking I had heard of her being sick.

The diagnosis

Finally, in the fall of that year, blood work was taken, on a visit to a vet kind enough to take her in, while ours was on vacation.

The digestive enzymes, the lipases, were out of whack, which along with her other symptoms, was conclusive for pancreatitis.

Finally a relief

Bridget has been stable on a low fat (8 %) low protein diet (16 %), which I found in Natural Balance Senior. I am afraid to experiment with any other diet. She is also daily on Pepcid, and I give her plain yogurt with live cultures.

Bridget had several recurring episodes but without the earlier severe symptoms, and they resolved quickly. I believe it may have been triggered when she chewed on a stick. She loves to carry a prize stick home from the pond; it is up to me to remove them from the yard and prevent chewing on them. I don`t know if I could go through again what I ( we) went through that summer. I would not wish it on any dog.

Related articles:
The Perplexities of Pancreatitis
Canine Pancreatitis: What Causes It?

Further reading:
Inflammation of the Pancreas in Dogs

Categories: ConditionsPancreatitisReal-life StoriesSymptoms

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Jana Rade

I am a graphic designer, dog health advocate, writer, and author. Jasmine, the Rottweiler of my life, was the largest female from her litter. We thought we were getting a healthy dog. Getting a puppy from a backyard breeder was our first mistake. Countless veterinary visits without a diagnosis or useful treatment later, I realized that I had to take Jasmine's health care in my own hands. I learned the hard way that merely seeing a vet is not always enough. There is more to finding a good vet than finding the closest clinic down the street. And, sadly, there is more to advocating for your dog's health than visiting a veterinarian. It should be enough, but it often is not. With Jasmine, it took five years to get a diagnosis. Unfortunately, other problems had snowballed for that in the meantime. Jasmine's health challenges became a crash course in understanding dog health issues and how to go about getting a proper diagnosis and treatment. I had to learn, and I had to learn fast. Helping others through my challenges and experience has become my mission and Jasmine's legacy. I now try to help people how to recognize and understand signs of illness in their dogs, how to work with their veterinarian, and when to seek a second opinion. My goal is to save others the steep curve of having to learn things the hard way as I did. That is the mission behind my blog and behind my writing. That is why I wrote Symptoms to Watch for in Your Dog, which has turned out being an award-winning guide to dog owners. What I'm trying to share encompasses 20 years of experience.

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