Every organ in our pet’s body serves a necessary function, but too often we ignore the importance of the pancreas by feeding inappropriate foods to our dogs and cats. It is commonly reported that overconsumption of fats is the main cause of pancreatitis, and that is most likely true of sudden, acute attacks of pancreatitis. However, feeding high carbohydrate diets for multiple years, to dogs and cats who are carnivores, undoubtedly weakens the pancreas, creating an inflammatory response and damaging to the organ.
Foods & Function
The pancreas performs two main functions:
- Produces the hormone insulin and stores glucose to regulate blood sugar.
- Produces pancreatic enzymes amylase, lipase, and protease that digest carbohydrates, fats and proteins in the digestive tract.
Without a properly functioning pancreas, it is impossible to utilize the foods that are eaten. If the pancreas is severely compromised, even if we feed our pets large amounts of food, we could be watching them waste away, as the food passes through them undigested.
Healthy diets for our dogs and cats consist mainly of raw meats, along with their naturally occurring animal fats. Often, for dogs, a limited number of low-starch vegetables and fruits are added for extra nutritional benefits. Yet today many pet parents exclusively feed their pets kibble diets, high in carbohydrates, which puts an incredible strain on their pet’s pancreas. After years of inappropriate foods, and sometimes in a much shorter time, the pancreas loses its ability to successfully perform its functions.
Stress, Inflammation, & Damage
When the pancreas is stressed, the inflammatory response can be to activate the digestive enzymes before they are sent to the intestines, causing the pancreas to begin self-digestion. No this isn’t a horror movie scenario; it actually may happen in your cat or dog’s body. Eventually those digestive enzymes can leak into the abdomen, damaging the abdominal lining and other nearby organs. This would result in a very serious case of pancreatitis.
The pancreas is a sensitive organ, easily damaged, slow to heal and absolutely necessary for your pet’s life. Therefore, preventing problems is much smarter than creating pancreatic stress and dealing with the consequences. Here are a few things to avoid:
- diets high in carbohydrates
- poor quality fats and oils used in pet foods
- lack of trace minerals
- sudden consumption of large amounts of fat
- sulfa drugs, seizure drugs, chemotherapy
Does Your Pet Have Other Disorders?
Pets with metabolic disorders such as diabetes, hypothyroidism and Cushing’s disease are especially susceptible to pancreatic stress. Also certain breeds of dogs are more prone to this condition than others: Yorkshire Terriers, Miniature Schnauzers, Miniature Poodles, Cocker Spaniels, Cavalier King Charles Spaniels, Collies, and Boxers. In the cat world Siamese cats are at greater risk.
How To Prevent Pancreatitis in Your Pet?
Pancreatitis is a serious disease and should always be evaluated by a veterinarian. Your pet may need hospitalization or be treated at home, but your vet will be your first line of defense.
Here are a few ways you can provide on-going pancreas support:
- Billberry acts as a powerful antioxidant
- Dandelion Root supports both the liver and the pancreas
- Slippery Elm and Milk Thistle both aid in gastrointestinal function and the addition of digestive enzymes through probiotics will all be helpful
- Getting the proper amount of exercise is also good for your pet’s digestive system and aids in preventing obesity
- One of the most influential change for pancreatic support will be the gradual transition to a raw food diet, high in protein, medium in animal fat and very low in carbohydrates. This is the diet your pet was designed to eat, the diet that will reduce inflammation and keep all systems functioning correctly.
Pancreatitis is a painful and difficult to control disease in dogs and cats that can ultimately be life threatening. If you take your pet’s health seriously, please make every effort to support his or her healthy digestion by providing a complete and balanced raw food diet for your best friend.