The winter holiday season is a time when many people indulge in rich foods to celebrate the holidays. It’s also a time when we might let our pets nibble at the special foods we prepare for ourselves, or we might also buy or make special holiday treats just for them.

While an occasional treat is fine, pet owners should be aware that high-fat meals can cause pancreatitis in dogs and cats. The American Animal Hospital Association reports that cases of pancreatitis increase around the holidays.

What is pancreatitis and what can you do to prevent it?

What is pancreatitis?

According to the AAHA, pancreatitis is a painful inflammation of the pancreas. The pancreas produces digestive enzymes that break down food. It also produces insulin, which helps to process glucose.

Pancreatitis occurs when your pet eats fatty foods which cause the pancreas to suddenly release a digestive enzyme called lipase. This can cause internal pancreatic digestion, serious inflammation, and tissue damage.

Toxins from the damaged tissue can be released into the body and cause a system-wide inflammatory response.

Pancreatitis has serious health consequences, including dehydration, organ damage, diabetes, and even death.

What are the signs of pancreatitis?

  • Lethargy
  • Lack of appetite
  • Fever
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Abdominal pain

If your pet has had diarrhea, vomiting, or has not eaten for 24 hours, seek veterinary care right away.

Pancreatitis diagnosis and treatment

Your vet will perform a series of tests for pancreatitis, including blood tests that measure lipase and ultrasound of the pancreas.

Treatment includes in-hospital IV rehydration and anti-vomiting and anti-diarrheal medication. Your vet will recommend a bland, low-fat diet for a few weeks after the incident.

Prevention of pancreatitis

Pancreatitis is most likely to occur when your pet eats high-fat and unfamiliar foods. While an occasional pet-friendly treat is not likely to cause pancreatitis, it’s important to avoid feeding your dog or cat a large amount of rich, fatty food and table scraps during the holidays.


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