Senior dog pancreatitis is a common diagnose in dogs. Do you have a sweet senior dog at home with pancreas issues and inflammation? We hear about pancreatitis a lot. But never about what it is and especially what’s the case with pancreatitis and senior dogs. It doesn’t mean every time your dog goes off their food for a few days or has a stomach upset that it has pancreatitis. However, it is good to know more about it 😉
Instead of being a mysterious gastric condition that threatens your elderly dog, we’re going to take a deep dive and look into what it is and how to treat and manage it.
In this article:
Pancreatitis in senior dogs
What is pancreatitis and why does it affect senior dogs?
The pancreas has two jobs. It produces insulin and secretes digestive enzymes that help your dog to break down their food. Any time you see ‘itis’ at the end of a medical term, it is associated with inflammation. So technically, pancreatitis means the inflammation of the pancreas.
When the pancreas becomes inflamed, the enzymes that are meant to be released into the digestive system. They there become active which can cause swelling and lots of discomfort.
Causes of pancreatitis range from endocrine diseases, reactions to medications, toxins, or even if your dog consumes a high-fat meal that upsets their stomach. Two of the main risk factors for pancreatitis are age and weight.
Pancreatitis in senior dogs occurs more often. It is because older dogs tend to be more inactive, they put on a little weight and their immune system isn’t as good at fighting off illness anymore.
What are pancreatitis symptoms?
The most common signs of senior dog pancreatitis come in the form of discomfort around their abdomen. It can appear swollen and tender to the touch. They can even develop a hunched posture as it can be physically uncomfortable to stand up. They can be restless and struggle to get comfortable.
Symptoms relating to a bad stomach are also linked to pancreatitis in senior dogs. Gagging or vomiting and diarrhea are good signs to look out for as mild cases may not come with the extreme physical discomfort you see in some dogs. Pancreatitis can cause your senior dog to go off their food and become generally lethargic.
If they’ve eaten something they shouldn’t have recently, it’s always best to get them checked out by a vet, even if you think it could just be a stomach bug.
What is the treatment for pancreatitis in senior dogs?
Pancreatitis is diagnosed through your vet and they may need to do some x-rays or bloodwork before they can be certain that it’s the issue causing your dog to feel unwell.
Once diagnosed your vet will recommend a treatment based on how severe the pancreatitis is. A mild case may just need plenty of rest, some pain relief, and anti-sickness medication to treat the symptoms. Mild cases will pass of their own accord while you tempt your dog to eat small amounts of tasty food to keep their energy up and boost their immune system.
A more severe case may require a higher degree of supportive therapy. Some senior dogs especially struggle to overcome the symptoms and may need to be hospitalized for a short period. If they’re kept in the vets they will usually receive intravenous fluids to rehydrate them and give them the nutrients their body is desperate for. If they aren’t eating on their own they may need to be tube fed to make sure they have the strength to fight off the inflammation.
There’s no magic pill that fixes it but your senior dog’s pancreatitis symptoms can at least be treated and relieved while their body does the work of getting back to being fit and fighting again.
What is the best food for senior dogs with pancreatitis?
An acute onset of pancreatitis in your senior dog may not need a vast change in diet to prevent it from reoccurring. Prevention of pancreatitis can come in the form of keeping your dog out of the garbage and not letting them ingest things they’re not supposed to.
If your senior dog has suffered from pancreatitis more than once and if it’s likely to become a chronic issue as older dogs are more susceptible to it, your vet may recommend a change in diet.
The ingredient in commercial dog food that causes the inflammation of pancreatitis is usually a high-fat content. Even diet food that is low fat can still contain too much fat for a dog who is at high risk of reoccurring pancreatitis. You usually have two options: vet food prescription or homemade meals.
Vet prescription food is the easiest route to go down as you can buy a perfectly balanced and nutritionally correct diet for your dog. There’s just one drawback and that’s usually the cost. Some dog insurance companies will cover the cost of prescription diets but if they don’t you always have the option of doing your research and home cooking your senior dog’s tasty low-fat meals and treats to keep them healthy.
Can senior dogs survive pancreatitis?
The vast majority of cases of pancreatitis in senior dogs have a happy outcome. The more severe cases need intense therapy so they can have a full recovery. It’s scary to watch your dog suffer. However, with the right treatment and ongoing prevention, you can keep them fit and healthy.
In rare cases, pancreatitis can affect the production of insulin and cause diabetes. But if treated quickly this is rarely the reality.
The best method to cure pancreatitis in senior dogs is always going to be prevention. Senior dogs switch onto a diet specifically designed for aging dogs. When they get older diet will often contain a lower fat content.
Another way to reduce the chances of your furry friend getting pancreatitis is by keeping them slim and healthy. With reduced exercise, senior dogs are more prone to piling on the pounds which makes the risk of pancreatitis higher.
Hopefully, with this information and advice, pancreatitis won’t feel like such a big, scary thing. Remember dogs can live long and comfortably into their golden years.