Dogs Appetitie Down After Pancreatitis

Lack of appetite is common with pancreatitis.
Lack of appetite is common with pancreatitis. (Image: dog image by Michal Tudek from

If your pooch is suffering from pancreatitis, or has had a recent bout and is refusing to eat, this is normal. Pancreatitis can be extremely painful and lead to digestive and other discomforts. It is important to understand basic elements of pancreatitis and the proper way to get your dog on the road to recovery. Make sure fluids are in balance, pain is under control, and fresh water and sensible food are available.

The Basics

Pancreatitis is a painful inflammation of the pancreas, caused by leaking, active digestive enzymes into the organ's tissues. Miniature Schnauzers are more likely to suffer from it than any other breed. Cases vary from mild and occasional, to chronic and severe. Low appetite or outright refusal to eat are some of the most common symptoms, but other signs include pain, depression, diarrhea and vomiting. Severe cases also may be accompanied by shock, collapse and diabetes. It is important to visit your veterinarian if your dog displays any of these symptoms; other conditions can cause similar symptoms.

Even after an acute pancreatitis episode has passed, your dog may have trouble eating. Visit your veterinarian for a consultation to determine precisely what's going on. His fluids may be off, causing malaise. Common solutions to this are pain medications, fluids and encouragement.

Pain Medications

Few animals or humans have much of a desire to eat when in pain. One of the best ways to get your pooch's appetite up is to reduce her discomfort. She may still be in pain, even if the worst part of the episode has passed. Your veterinarian may be able to prescribe pain medications, such as meperidine, fentanyl patches or morphine. In severe cases, intravenous fluids or local anesthetics may be administered.

Digestive Enzymes

Some dogs have experienced pain reduction when taking supplemental enzymes with pancreatitis. It is not quite clear yet why, but it is believed introducing enzymes in the intestines shuts down the production of enzymes by the pancreas. Viokase is a commonly prescribed enzyme, but pancreatic tissue also can be supplemented. The sooner pain levels go down, the sooner appetite picks up.

Fluid Therapy

Intravenous fluid therapy also may be important in getting your pooch on the road to recovery and back to his food bowl. Fluid therapies designed to keep electrolytes in balance seem to be helpful, as potassium levels often go out of whack during pancreatitis episodes. Hydration will also keep your dog more comfortable and in less pain; if your dog refused to drink for some time during the attack, she may be dehydrated. In severe cases, plasma may have to be introduced in the IV to prevent a severe form of shock.

Proper Feeding

Once thought introducing food at any stage of a pancreatitis attack was ill-advised, it is now believed giving the right foods in the early stages of recovery can increase survival rates and recovery times. Once vomiting stops, you can give your pooch oral fluids and small amounts of low-fat, low (or no) salt foods. He may need a little encouragement to get his appetite moving.

It may be necessary to use a feeding tube if your dog absolutely refuses to eat after extended periods of time. It is important to keep in close contact with your vet about when this may be necessary.

Long-Term Diet Plan

Dogs that suffer from pancreatitis need to have a low-fat, moderate fiber, nutritionally balanced diet--and not too much of it. Overweight dogs are more prone to frequent attacks and those with hyperlipidemia problems (high cholesterol) may need statin medications like Lipitor help stave them off.

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