Some people dream of a white Christmas or a stress-free holiday family gathering. Veterinarians like me wish for a holiday season free of pets with pancreatitis. This painful, potentially life-threatening inflammation of the pancreas is most often caused when dogs overindulge in particularly rich or fatty foods. And what kitchen isn’t overflowing with decadent goodies this time of year?
When a dog eats, the pancreas releases enzymes into the small intestine where they are activated for digestion. Sometimes—we’re not sure why—enzymes are activated within the pancreas itself, causing pancreatitis. In addition to rich foods, certain drugs, hormonal imbalances and inherited conditions can also cause pancreatitis. Symptoms include vomiting, abdominal pain and decreased appetite and energy.
If you notice these symptoms, please see your vet. Blood tests, physical examinations and ultrasounds of the belly are typically used to diagnose pancreatitis. At least two to three days of hospitalization are typically required for treatment, and so that dogs can be monitored for life-threatening complications such as kidney failure, heart rhythm abnormalities, respiratory distress and bleeding disorders.
To prevent pancreatitis in your pet during the holidays, you could avoid feeding Rover leftovers altogether (this would cause canine mutiny in my household). Or you can heed these suggestions.
- Don’t feed your dog anything you shouldn’t be eating yourself. By all means, give your precious buddy a bit of turkey breast, but without the skin, fat-laden mashed potatoes and creamy gravy.
- Share any new foods sparingly. Whether they’re offered a teaspoon or a tablespoon, most dogs will gulp down a treat in the same amount of time and reap the same psychological benefit.
- Don’t offer tidbits from the table while you are eating. This only encourages begging. Wait until you’ve left the table before sharing.
- Think like your pup. Remember, most dogs are so darned excited about getting a treat, they don’t care what it is!