Inflammation of the Pancreas in Dogs

Inflammation of the pancreas is known as pancreatitis. It can be acute (sudden) or chronic (recurring or persistent). Pancreas is a thin, V-shaped, pale pink-green digestive and endocrine gland located just between the stomach and small intestine. It is both an endocrine gland producing different important hormones including insulin, glucagon, somatostatin, and pancreatic polypeptide, and a digestive organ, secreting pancreatic juice containing digestive enzymes that assist the absorption of nutrients and the digestion in the small intestine.  It has two different tissue-type areas inter-dispersed. One tissue-type is known as the pancreatic acini which aids in the digestion process while the other tissue-type is called the islets of Langerhans which produces endocrine hormones.

An inflammed pancreas leakes digestive enzymes which can trigger the process of pancreas “self digestion”. The digestive enzymes are released prematurely and they begin digesting the pancreas instead of the normal food. This may result in digestive enzymes being leaked into abdominal cavity. The digestive enzymes can also affect the liver, stomach and small intestines that lie near the pancreas and can even cause widespread damage throughout the abdomen. If bleeding occurs in the pancreas, shock, and even death can follow. 

The cause of inflammation can be fatty meals, toxins, drugs, trauma, high calcium level in blood, high fat level in blood and obesity.

Pancreatitis can occur in dogs of all breeds and ages. However, middle-aged dogs, overweight dogs and certain breeds, such as schnauzers, Cocker spaniels, and miniature poodles, are more commonly affected. Also, the female dogs are more affected than male dogs.

Common symptoms of an inflammed pancreas include fever, vomiting, diarrhea, weight loss, anorexia, dehydration, fatigue and sluggishness and mild to severe abdomina pain. In severe conditions, increased heart rate, sepsis (body-wide infection), difficulty breathing, and a life-threatening condition called disseminated intravascular coagulation (DIC), which results in multiple hemorrhages, may be present. 

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