As a veterinarian with a dog that has pancreatitis, I understand the need to know how to properly comfort your dog with pancreatitis if they are having a flare-up or are suffering from the illness for the first time.
Per a study published in the Journal of Small Animal Practitioners, the main goals of comforting your dog with pancreatitis are:
- replacing fluid losses
- maintaining hydrostatic pressure
- controlling nausea
- providing pain relief
Some aspects of treating and comforting a dog with pancreatitis have to do with the type of pancreatitis they present with.
There are two types of pancreatitis acute and chronic, many times your action plan will depend on which type your pup presents with. Both types can cause a lot of pain and if not treated can be life-threatening. Let’s look at the major differences between the two
- Symptoms come on suddenly, read this article to learn more about the symptoms of pancreatitis in dogs
- No signs of pancreatitis before
- A dog that has suffered from pancreatitis in the past
- The condition develops over time
- Dogs can have repeated bouts of pancreatitis or flare-ups
- You may have to feed a low-fat diet for life or an extended period of time
If your dog has an acute case of pancreatitis and this is the first episode you will want to get them to the veterinarian as soon as possible. There they can get the necessary treatment. They will receive intravenous fluids, anti-emetics to help them with any vomiting, and round-the-clock observation.
If your pup has chronic pancreatitis and is having an episode I would still recommend contacting your veterinarian to see if they recommend bringing them in. Many times vets will want you to come in for blood work and possible overnight monitoring with fluids, once you have your pup home make sure you follow these tips if you are wondering how to comfort a dog with pancreatitis.
10 ways to comfort your dog with pancreatitis
1. Go NPO
While there are some vets that are moving away from the practice of going NPO or simply put not feeding for the first 24 hours after a flare-up, it is still something that I do with my little guy because it is what works. If I feed him too soon after a pancreatitis flare-up he doesn’t do as well. There are scientists starting to do more research on the subject as they found it is beneficial to feed earlier than waiting as it helps decrease inflammation. However, the jury is still out.
So, the first thing you want to think about is comforting your pet’s pancreas and giving it a chance to rest and slow the production of digestive enzymes. Many vets will tell you to feed at the 12-hour mark as you don’t want them to remain on an empty stomach for too long which is fine. Every dog is different, so make sure you speak with your vet about when to start feeding again.
2. Feed Less But More Often
Once your pup is able to eat again you want to feed smaller, more frequent meals instead of one to two large ones. This should look like 4-6 small meals throughout the day. This may be something you want to do long-term as well.
3. Feed Low Fat
Once they do start to eat again, no matter how sad your pup looks or how much they beg do not feed them any table scraps. Instead, opt for a very bland diet that will be easy on their stomachs. To read more about how to make a bland diet and how much to feed read this article.
Ensure that the foods you give are very low in fat once you do start feeding. Aim for 8% fat or less. Many times if your pup has chronic pancreatitis your veterinarian will place your dog on a prescription diet or a low-fat weight-loss diet. While these usually cost substantially more, they are many times what will save your pet’s life.
4. Pamper them
Make sure they have somewhere to lay as your pet will probably want to rest and retreat to somewhere quiet. This also means if you have little ones in the house or other pets keep them separated as much as possible so that they can rest
They may be in some pain and unable to walk long distances so bring their bowls closer to them and if necessary (and if possible) carry them outside to use the bathroom.
5. Watch Their Stomachs
Ensure not to place undue pressure on your pup’s abdomen when carrying him or her or picking them up. If you can, refrain from picking your pup up while they are going through an episode if it means touching their stomachs. Many times dogs that have pancreatitis also have extremely sore abdomens. If you have to pick them up use a towel or the bed they are laying on to do so.
6. Use Puppy Pads
While not often, if my pup has flare-ups of his chronic pancreatitis it almost always comes with accidents, usually diarrhea. Although your pup may be a potty-trained adult, at this time they may have some accidents.
Have a puppy pad somewhere in close proximity for them to go to if need be. Never chastise them for doing so in the house, they simply can’t help it
7. Monitor for worsening symptoms
Keep a close eye on your pup if your veterinarian doesn’t recommend hospitalization. Dogs with chronic pancreatitis often have lethargy, a poor appetite, and diarrhea. By keeping a close eye on your pup you can make sure to get your pup to the vet as soon as possible. Mild cases usually resolve within 48 hours
- Check the gums: to ensure they remain pink, if they are pale or white get your pup to the veterinarian immediately
- Unresolved clinical signs: if the signs fail to resolve within 48 hours such as vomiting and lack of appetite call your vet
- Blood in stool: While it is fairly common to see blood in the stool, you may want to call your vet if bloody diarrhea begins
8. Have water readily available
While you should refrain from feeding for at least 24-hours make sure your dog has water readily available. You may want to include a capful of clear Pedialyte in the water as well.
9. Get your dog the right medication
Your vet will be able to give you medications for pain, and vomiting if needed. Your pup may also have to spend some time at the vet clinic getting IV fluids, so bringing a bag of his or her things to remind them of being at home will probably be very comforting as well.
My recommendation is to put together an emergency kit for cases when your pup has a flare-up, that way you will have everything you need, like antiemetics on hand from your vet. I created a list of thing things you may want to have which you can download here.
10. Reduce your dog’s activity
Even if they want to get up and run around outside (which they probably won’t) try to keep them calm at least for the next 24 hours if possible.
If you know someone that has a dog with pancreatitis, consider sharing this article with them