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Pancreatitis, A Common Holiday Danger for Pets

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November 7, 2012

Thanksgiving is traditionally a holiday of giving – giving thanks for all we have, giving turkey, gravy, pies and other goodies to family and friends. With the abundance of food, it’s natural to want to show our love towards our cats and dogs by sharing some of the bounty. What better way to indulge our beloved pets than by sharing our food?

Most “people” food is not harmful to our four-legged friends, but moderation is the key! Small amounts of turkey, gravy, sweet potatoes and green beans are fine – large amounts can cause anything from stomach upset and vomiting, to diarrhea or worse. What can be worse?


Pancreatitis is the inflammation of the pancreas and is very painful. If not treated promptly, it can even be fatal. There are a number of factors that can increase the likelihood of your pet developing pancreatitis, but during the holiday season, the typical reason is being too generous with the holiday feast, as high levels of fat are a trigger. Other factors include: age – middle-aged animals are more prone, obesity, a high-fat diet, some medications, and past cases of Pancreatitis.

Symptoms to look for:

  • Refusal to eat
  • Dehydration
  • Lethargy
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea (often yellow)
  • Distended stomach
  • A hunched posture when standing or walking

If you suspect Pancreatitis, rush your pet to the vet, don’t wait. It is extremely painful and can be fatal.

If it’s suspected your dog is suffering from Pancreatitis, your vet will diagnose by doing blood work, an ultrasound and/or x-rays and a physical examination. Typically, liver enzymes are elevated. Treatment includes I.V. fluids, withholding food, and pain medications. Expect your pet to have to stay at least overnight, and possibly for a couple of days. Once recovered, future prognosis is fairly good, but there may be further complications – diabetes can develop as a result, and your pet will now be more prone to developing Pancreatitis, so will need to be on a low-fat diet for the rest of its life.

It’s up to us to protect our pets, even from our own kindness. It’s fine to share the goodies – just do it in moderation and spread it out over a few days rather than giving a huge feast at once. Mix it with your pet’s normal food instead of giving a bowlful of food your pet is not accustomed to eating. Your pet will appreciate the change of pace, and you can rest assured that your pet will get through the holidays without a medical emergency.

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