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Latest health and behavior news and advice from the veterinarians at Tufts University.

Features December 2014 Issue

When the pancreatitis is chronic

Most cases of pancreatitis in dogs are acute. They come, and then they go. But sometimes, “instead of an acute presentation, it develops into a more chronic presentation,” says Linda Ross, DVM, a Tufts veterinarian who specializes in diseases of the gastrointestinal tract.

“That doesn’t mean the dog is sick chronically,” she says. Rather, “there are intermittent on-and-off signs. A dog will be okay, then experience some episodes with loss of appetite and vomiting, maybe some diarrhea, and then it goes away again. It means the dog never returned completely to normal even though the outward signs have disappeared.“ On an ultrasound, some inflammation would still show up.

Diagnosis in such cases is a little trickier, comments Dr. Ross, because an ultrasound wouldn’t normally be ordered just for some vomiting, and a lot of the lab work won’t come back abnormal. So it’s hard to know if it’s from a previous bout of pancreatitis or some other irritant that’s causing the GI upset.

The treatment involves putting the dog on a lower-fat diet and, Dr. Ross says, “taking care of any other disease that might be causing an elevated level of lipid in the blood.” That usually does the trick.

But if the dog keeps getting bouts frequently, say, on the order of every month, sometimes the chronic inflammation of the pancreas can lead to diabetes. The pancreatitis, not kept well controlled for such a long time, finally destroys the cells in the pancreas that release the insulin which keeps blood sugar on an even keel.

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