While it’s true that our dogs are carnivores, it’s important to note that they are also very resourceful scavengers and, as such, can survive eating foods that are essentially detrimental to their health and longevity. Yes, your dog can live off of kibble and canned pet foods (which are high in carbohydrates) and they may even appear to be quite healthy and happy on this type of diet for the first few years.
But here’s something important that I must share with you. In my 30+ years experience of formulating and feeding raw food diets for zoo carnivores, racing greyhound, and household dogs and cats, I’ve come in contact with many different breeds, conditions, styles of feeding, and opinions from pet parents, vets, and specialists. Yet one of the things that is constant and remains very clear is the fact that the signs of degenerative disease most often appear in dogs around the age of 5-6 years old that are fed a commercial pet food diet. Unfortunately pancreatitis is one such degenerative disease.
What is Canine Pancreatitis?
Pancreatitis literally means ‘inflammation of the pancreas’. A dog that has been diagnosed with pancreatitis is essentially suffering from an inflamed pancreas that is either damaged or stressed, which prevents it from functioning properly.
The pancreas has two functions: first, it has a major role in the regulation of the metabolism of fats, proteins, and carbohydrates, and secondly, it produces digestive enzymes. When the pancreas releases enzymes prematurely, they begin to digest the pancreas itself. This is what we see in cases of pancreatitis in dogs. Signs of pancreatitis in dogs include vomiting, diarrhea, loss of appetite, and abdominal pain. If pancreatitis is suspected, your veterinarian will most likely conduct a blood test to check to see if your dog’s enzyme levels are elevated. They may also request a CT scan, ultrasound, or MRI for further confirmation of the disease.
Canine pancreatitis can range from mild, moderate, or severe. If left untreated, this disease can cause various health complications – such as damage to the surrounding organs, heart arrhythmias, sepsis, or Malabsorption Syndrome – some of which can be fatal.
What Causes Pancreatitis in Dogs?
Canine pancreatitis is usually seen in middle-aged dogs that have spent a lifetime being fed a diet mainly consisting of cooked and processed foods. Some alternative veterinarians believe it is because high-carbohydrate based pet foods, which are hard for pets to digest, overstress the pancreas, quickly depleting its enzyme reserves.
Pets on steroid treatments (which are commonly used to treat allergies in dogs or canine arthritis) are also susceptible to developing pancreatitis, as are overweight or obese dogs. Dogs that are regularly fed table scraps, which are usually very high in fat, are also susceptible.
The common anti-seizure medication, potassium bromide, taken by epileptic dogs to treat epileptic seizures has also been linked to increased instances of pancreatitis in dogs. However, not all dogs with pancreatitis contract the disease from food or medication. Certain breeds are more prone to contract the disease, such as Yorkshire terriers and Schnauzers.
How to Treat Pancreatitis in Dogs
The common treatment for pancreatitis in dogs is the use of medication to treat the various symptoms, such as vomiting and diarrhea. Conventional veterinarians will usually prescribe a prescription dog food or recommend feeding a bland, low fat dog food. Unfortunately, these diets are high in carbohydrates and not very appetizing for the animal.
It has been my experience that feeding a natural, raw food diet is very beneficial when treating pancreatitis in dogs. Raw, uncooked foods contain an abundance of live, active enzymes. These living enzymes help with the digestion process, and also reduce stress on the pancreas that is forced to produce additional enzymes to break down the food. This makes a raw food diet the best dog food for pancreatitis.
Again, it’s important to remember that dogs with pancreatitis should be fed a low fat dog food in order to reduce further aggravation to the pancreas. Stay away from meat proteins that are high in fat, such as lamb and pork. Instead, feed meats that are lower in fat, like chicken or beef – and if they are raw and uncooked, it is even better.
I’ve seen firsthand how effective it is to feed the BARF Diet (aka biologically appropriate raw food) to dogs suffering from pancreatitis. It improves their appetite, digestion, and absorption of nutrients. Here’s a recent testimonial from one of my clients who decided to feed raw to her pancreatic dog – you’ll be amazed by her story…
I cant thank you all enough for saving Charlie’s life! Our doggie just turned 7 and he became so ill that he almost didn’t recover.
End of July 2013 he was shaky and couldn’t hold his head up or go near water or food. We rushed him to the hospital and discovered he was diabetic with his glucose at 800. The vet said we have 2 choices, to either administer insulin every 12 hours for the rest of his life or have him put down (that was never going to happen). So he stayed in ICU for 7 days and finally came home. Two weeks ago, my mom called and said Charlie is vomiting uncontrollably and has diarrhea also, so I rushed him to his vet and after blood work he was diagnosed with pancreatitis.
The range is to be under 200 and his was 839. The vet gave him tons of injections and sent him home with tons of anti-biotics and many other meds. A week later he started vomiting again and I rushed him back to his vet. Blood work was repeated and his pancreatitis range was now at 1000. The vet called me in with the saddest look on his face and asked what my plan was for Charlie. I began hysterically crying as I couldn’t imagine our life without him.
The vet said he will go home with way more anti-biotics and meds than before and IV’s 2 x a day. He also thought it may be pancreatic cancer. I left there and called Evan at Barf world and all I can say is that call saved our Charlie’s life. He got Robert on the phone right away, who faxed me a protocol for pancreatitis. Charlie’s was one of the worst cases. Robert informed me as to how serious this was and how much I needed to follow this protocol. I was drained from daily vet visits and administering meds/Iv’s. I wasn’t able to sleep or eat all week from worry. Needless to say I was a basket case because Charlie was to repeat labs the following week and I knew it was going be the worst news ever. So I took him in on Monday and went back on Tuesday without him to be read the results.
The vet called me in as the staff looked on holding their breath. I had called them numerous times a day and they really felt my pain but couldn’t help Charlie. When I walked in the room, the vet had a look of confusion on his face. I just knew in my heart that the end for Charlie had come. But it wasn’t the end for him!!! The vet said his pancreatic range was 54. I jumped up and down, screaming with joy! Even his staff rejoiced! I told them all that the folks at Barf World saved his life by sending me crucial info. Had I followed this protocol 2 weeks ago, Charlie wouldn’t have suffered the way he did and I wouldn’t be out thousands of dollars in vet bills. All I can say is these people at Barf world know more than any vet and I will only feed the raw diet to our little guy for the rest of his life.
Barf world, I cant thank you enough for the phone calls and concern. Ive never seen compassion like this before.”
– Lucy Saponjian (Van Nuys, CA)
The opinions and recommendations above are based on my 30+ years of experience feeding a raw diet to many different breeds of dogs suffering from a variety conditions, including pancreatitis. However I recommend that you always consult your own veterinarian when making changes to your dog’s diet, and especially if you suspect pancreatitis in your dog.
Robert Mueller, BSc, Pharm. is a registered pharmacist, author of “Living Enzymes: The World’s Best Kept Pet Food Secret”, and co-developer of BARF World’s BARF diets patties, nuggets and supplements – the first company to make the Biologically Appropriate Raw Foods (BARF) diet conveniently available to animals everywhere. To receive more articles like these in your email inbox,click here to sign up for “The Intelligent Pet” weekly e-zine absolutely FREE!