What is Dog Pancreatitis?

Posted by Laura Greenland on

Enzo and Vaneeta have been having a bit of a rough time recently. We wanted to share with you an honest account of what it can be like to live with a dog who suffers with pancreatitis. 

Diary of a Dog Mum

It’s 3.48am on a cold and wet Thursday morning and I’m woken by a panicked and clearly frantic Enzo. He ran up to my side of the bed to nudge me awake, and before I’ve even opened my eyes properly, Enzo’s vomiting.

I shoot out of bed, tell him it’s OK and get to cleaning it up. At that point, I wasn’t too panicked as Enzo sometimes does this, but within 20 minutes, it’s happened again. Then, whilst I am cleaning up round 2, it happens again. Suddenly, I realise…"Hang on, we’ve been here before!" 😳

Rolling back to January 2021, Enzo was diagnosed with both chronic and at that point acute pancreatitis. Subsequently, Enzo was referred to a specialist. After a boat load of tests and scans, we discovered that he had abscesses on his pancreas and needed to undergo surgery to have them removed. He also endured stomach biopsies (related to his IBD) and a gastropexy, a surgical procedure that is sometimes performed in large breed dogs to prevent gastric dilatation and volvulus (GDV), also known as ‘bloat’. Essentially, Enzo had to have his stomach stapled to his abdominal wall to prevent complications further down the line. I mean let’s be honest, if it’s going to happen to anyone, it feels like it’ll happen to Enzo. 😕

So anyhoo, back to the story. After the third round of vomiting, Enzo appeared to knacker himself out and just plonked himself down on his bed and went to sleep for a bit. I tried that too, but couldn’t actually get back to sleep because now I’m replaying 2021 in my head, panicking about what this might turn out to be. 🥺

Enzo showed signs of waking up at around 9.30am. I finally dragged myself out of bed at around 10am and Enzo just watched me, he wasn’t moving but he was alert. This is unlike him because ordinarily he wakes up with me, comes in for good morning kisses, follows me around and we go downstairs together.

I get downstairs and Enzo stays upstairs and I hear it start again! Enzo’s vomiting, this time Brian (Enzo’s dog-dad) has started cleaning up and I am straight on the phone to our vet. Thankfully, we manage to get an appointment for that same evening. 

We coaxed Enzo downstairs but he continued to vomit every 30 minutes or so. He also managed to go for a number two (it’s gross, but it’s important to note down the details of toilet action). It was pale in colour and a mashed potato consistency. 😐 

Brace yourselves for the incoming photo...

I got straight back on the phone to our vet to update him on these movements. Unfortunately, he was dealing with an emergency case but told us to come in anyway and he’d see us as soon as he could. God bless our vet. 💙

At the vets, we go in and Enzo has his temperature taken, it’s 39.9°C. A little FYI, normal body temperatures for dogs and cats is usually about 101.0 to 102.5°F / 38.3 to 39.2°C. If your pet's temperature rises above 104°F / 40.0°C or falls below 99°F / 37.2°C, please take your pet to your vet immediately. 

Enzo gets checked over by the vet who suspects an acute episode of pancreatitis. He gives Enzo an antibiotic injection, along with an anti-sickness injection, sends us home with antacid tablets and advises us to return the following day. 

Once we get home, Enzo is completely lifeless. He really has no energy to move at all. He’s just licking his lips constantly - and lip smacking is usually a sign that Enzo is feeling nauseous and wants to puke 🤢. It can also be a sign for dogs in general, so one to watch out for. He’s also understandably very thirsty. 

We can’t feed Enzo for 24 hours as we need to allow his stomach sometime to rest, but to be fair, he really didn’t appear to have an appetite anyway. So, I put down some Oralade for him instead. 

Oralade provides oral rehydration support for mild to moderate dehydration, caused by vomiting or diarrhoea or other gastrointestinal disorders. The isotonic formula quickly restores balance of electrolytes and fluids. The palatable chicken flavour and smell encourages intake even when nauseous.  

Thankfully for the remainder of the evening Enzo didn’t vomit again. He just lay by the front door on the floor not moving, looking and feeling very sorry for himself. 😕 When we all went up to bed, we invited Enzo up on to the bed. Normally he only lasts about 5-10 mins because he gets too warm and hops down, but instead he slept on the bed with us for most of the night. If we didn’t already know and needed a sign that Enzo was feeling really sick, that was it. Even when he’s unwell, Enzo is all for his own personal space 😬

The next day we went back to the vets but he was even more lifeless than before. Brian came with us to help get Enzo in and out of the car. We’re lucky that he did, because Brian had to physically carry all 48kgs of Enzo’s fluffy-butt from the car into the vets. My poor boy just didn’t have the energy to jump in or out of the car by himself. 🥺 

The vet took Enzo’s temperature again and it had risen to 40.3°C. The vet took Enzo’s blood samples, shaving his fur around his neck and taking the blood samples from there. They ran the tests on the spot, one of which is known as cPLI (canine pancreatic lipase. Tt was confirmed, Enzo was having an acute pancreatitis episode. His bloods showed that he had fatty blood. 😞

Again, the vet administered an antibiotic, an anti-sickness injection and he gave Enzo a B12 injection too. We were told to carry on with the antacids and said to try offering Enzo some food that evening.

When we got home, I put some food down for Enzo but he just wasn’t interested, which is normal as like us, dogs naturally starve themselves too. We even tried to bribe him with treats but he just walked away. In the end, I had to hand feed Enzo, just to get something in him but even then, that was a battle because he really didn’t want it – he didn’t even want his favourite Lily’s Kitchen Woofbrushes. 😔

That night, when we went up to bed, Enzo just couldn’t settle. He was panting and pacing. He was up in bed with us one minute and then getting down, moving from the bedroom to the bathroom, back to the bedroom and then nudging me to let me know he wasn’t feeling great. He even started chewing his paws again; I am guessing his skin allergies had decided to play up at this time too. 🤯 

His stomach was rock hard to touch and he was radiating heat. At 3.30am, all I could think was that he had a fever so I stuck him in the shower to cool him down. I opened up the windows, turned on the ceiling fan and lay on the floor with him, stroking him in an attempt to help him settle, thankfully it worked! Finally, Enzo fell asleep. 

Returning to the vets for a third day in a row, Enzo still had a high temperature of 40.2°C. We had no choice but to have Enzo admitted into hospital so that they could administer fluids intravenously. Let me tell you, that is the worst scenario ever for Enzo, he hates the vets. He hates being away from home almost as much as I hate not having Enzo at home with me. 😞

The next day, we picked Enzo up. He was sent home with steroids and antibiotics. Still appearing very uncomfortable, flopping around the house, not engaging or interacting with us. 

Enzo’s Diet 

Enzo is ordinarily fed a super low fat, single protein, raw diet from Honey’s Real Dog Food but after speaking with the vet and the health team at Honey’s, we’ve all agreed that given he was starting antibiotics and steroids, I should feed him a cooked diet whilst he’s on meds. If I’m honest, this isn’t ideal as Enzo can’t tolerate cooked food for long, but at this point, I’ll try anything to help him.

So, off to the kitchen I go to make something up for him. Quinoa, pheasant breast and 2 scoops of psyllium husk. Psyllium Husk contains 70% soluble fibre which means it can slow down the process of digestion leaving more time for your dog to absorb essential nutrients. This soluble fibre can also help with bouts of diarrhoea and anal gland issues. Just add a small amount to their food to help firm stools. And 100ml a day of Karnlea’s New Chicken Bone Broth which has a number of health benefits which you can read all about in the product description, he’s now being fed a small amount throughout the day. 

Quinoa contains potassium, magnesium, vitamin B1 & E, and amino acids. This very nutrient-dense seed has a lot to offer your dog. Potassium does a few things for your dog's body. It keeps a good balance of fluid and electrolytes and helps normal heart functions, as well as nervous system functions. 

I also ordered Enzo a box of food from Different Dog, for us to test out.  One of the things that’s started since Enzo’s episode is that he’s actually started to try and eat his own poo. 🤢 It’s actually commonly associated with pancreatitis. It’s called coprophagia - poo eating as a result of nutrient deficiency. 

I’m hoping by feeding Enzo complete cooked meals whilst he’s on meds will compensate for everything he’s missing through quinoa and protein alone. According to Different Dog, their Health+ range is the UK's only freshly cooked dog food range designed to support common health conditions. I’m keeping my fingers crossed and looking forward to reporting back on how that goes. 

Turning a corner

🙂 As if by magic at midnight on the dot, Enzo gets up off the floor, walks over to his toy box and gets out a ball to bring to me. An invitation to start playing catch with him, midnight or not, I obviously I obliged 🥳🎉 We spent 2 hours playing catch, piggy in the middle (Enzo was the piggy 🐷). Since then, there have been constant improvements and we naively thought we were out the woods. 

My brother came to visit at the weekend. Enzo was happy to see him, engaged and playing and then as suddenly as Enzo got better, he just as suddenly became sick again. Beginning with the shits! 🤦🏽‍♀️

So on Monday, we returned to see our vet again, who was just as baffled as I was. Given I was told back in 2021 that there would be a high possibility Enzo will go on to develop EPI (Exocrine Pancreatic Insufficiency), I asked our vet to test Enzo to see if this could be the start of it. He did the blood tests which have now been sent off and he will call me once the results are in. 

Exocrine Pancreatic Insufficiency (EPI) basically means there is a progressive loss of digestive enzymes needed for your dog to break down and absorb their food properly.

The progressive loss of pancreatic cells that produce these enzymes is most commonly caused by pancreatic acinar atrophy.

Also, whilst we wait for the test results, I have decided to test out my own theory! I know Enzo and I know that he can’t tolerate a cooked diet for very long. I got to thinking - could the recent cooked food and Different Dog food have triggered his current bout of diarrhoea? I’m not saying there is anything wrong with either the Different Dog or the food I had lovingly cooked him, but I know Enzo and his gut 😐 

I proposed to our vet that we’re not going to give Enzo any more antibiotics. I will stick with the anti-inflammatories and half a steroid a day, restart Enzo’s daily walks and switch Enzo back to his raw food to see if that makes a difference. Our ever-faithful vet agreed. 

So, I starved Enzo for 24 hours, again, and then fed him his Honey’s Real Dog Food and added our usual potions (BioFunction 8, YuMove Skin & Coat Care, Itchy Dog and Higher Nature Supergest Digestive Enzymes) and now I’m waiting to see if it works… We have also restarted our walks and I have to say, there was a noticeable spark in Enzo. He was happy to be back in the park, sniffing everything and loving life again. The plan is for us to start slow this week with short walks and work our way back up to longer ones. 

It’s now been two weeks to the day since Enzo got ill. We're due to go back to the vets once his test results come back (unless of course something else goes wrong). Typically, an acute episode of pancreatitis can last between 1-2 weeks depending on the severity of it.

What exactly is pancreatitis, I hear you ask? 

Well, there are 2 types! Acute pancreatitis is defined as reversible pancreatic inflammation, while chronic pancreatitis refers to permanent changes in the pancreatic tissue. And guess what? Enzo suffers from chronic and is currently getting over an acute episode.

Acute pancreatitis is sudden and curable and chronic pancreatitis is long-lasting and not always curable. Acute pancreatitis occurs suddenly like it did in Enzo recently.

Dogs with severe pancreatitis are likely to suffer from symptoms including a loss of appetite, sickness, diarrhoea and lethargy. They may also show signs of abdominal pain and dehydration. In milder forms, symptoms aren't quite as obvious but may still include loss of appetite, lethargy, and diarrhoea but that could also be a sign of something else, so it’s always worth seeing your vet.

This is my own personal account of our recent experience, of an acute episode of pancreatitis but if you want to know more about Pancreatitis, Dr Conor Brady has written some brilliant and more in-depth articles on the topic which can be found below: 

Pancreatitis in Dogs Part 1 – Cause

Pancreatitis in Dogs Part 2 – Feed Low Fat Dog Food

Please note, I am just providing an honest account of what it’s been like to live with a dog that is having an acute pancreatitis episode and trying to help and empathise with anyone else going through the same thing as us. 

This blog is not monetised. We’re not getting paid for any of the endorsements or links in this post. We just know how heartbreaking living with a sick dog is and if this article and any of the links in it can help even one dog family then that’s a win for us. 


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