Our Experience with Canine Pancreatitis

Beau, my 10-year-old Puggle, was recently diagnosed with pancreatitis.  It’s been a tough 2 or 3 weeks for him, and my husband and I, but I think we’re on the mend now.  I’ve learned a great deal about canine pancreatitis from my vet and how to treat it by trial and error, so I wanted to share what seems to be working for us to ease Beau’s symptoms and pain.

Looking back, Beau has always suffered from a grumbly stomach for as long as I can remember.  Now that we have a diagnosis of what was going on with him, I believe he probably started with mild symptoms of pancreatitis several years ago.  He hadn’t suffered from vomiting or diarrhea in the past until it came on with a vengeance two weeks ago.  This went on for three days over a weekend before I took him to see the vet the following Monday.

 

Finding the True Diagnosis

Beau - Canine Pancreatitis

The first vet he saw thought Beau was suffering from food allergies.  The vet didn’t run any tests or bloodwork and just took what I told him at face value.  He gave me a very informative talk about the top food allergens in dogs which are beef, chicken, lamb, soy, corn, and wheat.  They were all of Beau’s favorites.  I was told to feed him a prescribed canned dog food that had controlled ingredients and eliminate all other foods until we notice improvement.  I followed the instructions of the first vet implicitly, but there was no improvement in Beau’s upset stomach.  At this point, he was refusing all food.

I took him back to the vet and fortunately saw a different doctor in the same office.  The second vet approached Beau’s symptoms differently and quickly assumed an obstruction in his intestines.  So, after running some blood work and taking an x-ray, she came to me and said there was no obstruction in his bowels and his blood test was normal.  He obviously wasn’t normal at this point, because he hadn’t eaten for more than 5 days, had lost 4lbs, was suffering from dehydration, and very lethargic.

The next step taken by the vet was to give him IV fluids, and a shot for the nausea.  She also requested a technician to come into their office to administer an ultrasound on Beau.  The ultrasound showed an enlarged pancreas.

 

Beau had pancreatitis.  Finally, we had a diagnosis.

The next three days I continued to give him pain medication, anti-nausea medication, anti-biotic, and took him to the vet for IV fluids.  All the time, Beau would barely eat anything but a few bites of dog food or bread by hand.  He drank a lot of water, but very little food to speak of.

By this time, I’m worried sick about him and desperately trying to figure out how to make this dog eat.  He looked terrible and when I held him, I could feel how much weight he had lost.  I was so afraid that I was going to lose him if something didn’t change soon.

 

Managing the Symptoms

It was Sunday morning about 5am when I woke up dreaming of a plan.  When my girls were babies, I would make them some “rice water” for an upset stomach.  It’s an old school remedy for treating babies with vomiting and diarrhea.  So, I went to the local grocery store and picked up chicken breasts and plain white rice.  I came home and put some rice and part of the chicken in a pot, then covered it with water.  After the rice started to release some of the starch while cooking, I put some of the liquid in a syringe and gave it to Beau.  At first, he was reluctant to take it, but I believe the rice water settled his stomach just enough to encourage him to eat some rice pieces.

Before long, Beau was starting to eat more and more throughout the day and each time I would increase the small bits of chicken and rice for him so that he could gradually tolerate it.

To be frank, caring for a sick dog with pancreatitis is a round the clock job.  I literally made a chart of his medications and feeding schedule to put on the refrigerator, so I wouldn’t forget the timing of everything.  I had to set alarms to remind me of when was the next feeding or medication.  Today, it’s been several days of doing this routine and I believe that it has made a tremendous difference in Beau’s wellbeing.

From what I understand, pancreatitis takes a while to reverse itself and there’s a chance he may have reoccurring episodes in the future.  I’ll keep him on a low-fat diet and offer food in small portions throughout the day going forward.  I love this little guy and will do whatever it takes to help him.  I hope by sharing our experience, it may help someone else experiencing the same thing.

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