Tips for Managing Pancreatitis in Dogs

Posted by Michael Peterson on

I’ll never forget the day that our toy poodle, Angel, was struck down by acute pancreatitis when she had just turned seven years old. She became so violently ill that we thought we were going to lose her. With blood coming out of both ends, our vet at the time, did nothing to coat her stomach or intestines.  Due to her small size (6 1/2 lbs) she ended up spending two nights in the hospital and needing a blood transfusion in order to survive. Since then I’ve gained as much knowledge as possible from both holistic and non-holistic vets. I’ve also helped thousands of pet owners in the same situation since creating GastroElm Plus in the spring of 2013. I share much of what I’ve learned below in hopes that it can help others.

There is Hope! Angel lived 8 1/2 years with chronic pancreatitis, which was several years longer than the original prognosis of 2-3. The most important aspects of caring for a dog with pancreatitis are Diet, Exercise and Caring for the digestive tract and affected organs.


Angel - The Original GastroElm Customer

My first tip: Do not fast small animals.  Fasting might work for large dogs who have plenty of bodyweight.  If you choose to do this, never withhold water.  Dehydration is very detrimental to the recovery of the animal.  Angel’s second vet taught us to divide a normal meal in thirds and feed small meals every couple hours instead of fasting.  If you have some GastroElm Plus give them 1/2 of a normal dose with each small meal.  This will get them through an acute attack as quickly and painlessly as possible.

Diet – Rule #1 is Very Low Fat, especially in the beginning. Excess fat causes major problems for dogs struggling with pancreatitis. In the wild, dogs tend to eat birds, rabbits and other wild game that is quite low in fat. In fact, dogs don’t need nearly as much fat as what is present in most commercial dog foods. Fat is cheap and tasty, so it makes an enticing filler. I almost exclusively used chicken breast for Angel after her diagnosis. Remove all visible fat, but you don’t have to boil it. Grill it or slow cook it in the oven. If your dog doesn’t tolerate chicken well, then my next choice would be the leanest cuts of beef you can find at the grocery store or meat counter. If in doubt, ask someone at the meat counter or a butcher. If you have access to lean cuts of buffalo or venison those are also great choices.

Veggies – There are several veggies that work well as they provide some extra fiber to keep them regular. I have found pumpkin to be the most beneficial, because it contains lots of fiber and is also soothing if the animal has tendencies toward diarrhea. Angel also enjoyed green beans, peas, sweet potato, and squash. Angel was very allergic to carrots which is why we didn’t use them, but most dogs enjoy them. Using any of these in rotation to make up about 1/3 of a meal works well.

Avoid Excess Grains.  When dogs are first diagnosed with pancreatitis most vets recommend boiled chicken and rice. Rice is not a good long term solution because like other grains it can cause inflammation in the digestive tract and dogs with pancreatitis are already dealing with too much inflammation. My vet recommends using overcooked quinoa instead of rice. She overcooks it by doubling the amount of water and cooking for a longer period of time so it’s mushy and easy to digest. Angel really enjoyed pasta so as an occasional treat we would give her some Barilla Plus which is a combination of durum and legumes. She loved it and it never caused any problems for her.

Calcium is a very important component of a dog’s diet and is often overlooked when owners begin home cooking. This can cause kidney issues, because meat is high in phosphorous and needs to be balanced out by calcium. In the wild, dogs eat the meat and most of the bones from a kill. In fact, if you do any research on raw food diets they always recommend 10-15% of their diet being raw bones. If you use a calcium supplement, my holistic vet recommends calcium lactate in the powder form added to the meal. One thing that Angel liked much better than calcium powder was sodium free dry curd cottage cheese.

Westby - Low Sodium Dry Curd Cottage Cheese
Westby Dry Curd Cottage Cheese - Nutritional Label

This version has virtually no sodium, is fat free and is high in calcium and protein.

Bone Broth – Another source of beneficial nutrients for dogs is bone broth.  Bone broth does not contain much calcium, but is a great source of collagen to help their joints and muscles as well as tighten up a leaky gut. Since many dogs with pancreatitis also have problems with colitis, IBD and other digestive issues this could be very beneficial, especially when combined with GastroElm Plus.  I make it at home and skim off all of the fat.

Exercise is very important for dogs with pancreatitis. In fact, when Angel was having a bad morning, I would always take her out for a short walk and more often than not she made a dramatic improvement as a result. You should give them at least a short ten minute walk each day to help them keep everything flowing through their system. It’s important for all dogs, but especially those with pancreatitis.

Healing – The third thing that’s incredibly important is protecting and healing their digestive tract. That’s why I developed GastroElm Plus for Angel, because I knew she needed something that she could take on a daily basis. Things like sucralafate or Carafate were not intended for long term use.   As stated on the GastroElm home page, each herb was chosen not only to soothe the digestive tract and allow it to heal but to also support the vital organs as well.  I intentionally left out herbs like licorice which may be beneficial in the short term but should not be used longer term.

Note:  If you live outside the United States you will not have access to GastroElm Plus at this time.  You should be able to find Slippery Elm Bark Powder (avoid product from China) which will help to coat the stomach in a similar way.

Some people may suggest that long term use of Slippery Elm or milk thistle is not in the best interest of the animal, but I strongly disagree. An animal diagnosed with pancreatitis is suffering from a very debilitating and deadly disease. Others think that using slippery elm might reduce the ability of an animal to properly digest their food and utilize the nutrients from it. Again, I don’t agree. I’ve seen dogs, cats and horses who resembled a bag of bones before going on GastroElm Plus who began to fill out and gain weight after implementing this product. A dog with pancreatitis or a horse with ulcers is already having tremendous difficulty assimilating food properly, so the number one goal is to heal the digestive tract. That’s exactly why GastroElm Plus improves the quality of life for so many animals.

Supercharging GastroElm Plus

GastroElm Plus by itself is usually enough to help your animal regain good quality of life.  But if you have a dog who has been sick for long time or has multiple issues that don’t respond fully to GastroElm Plus, there is an easy way to super charge it. Try using fat free bone broth as mentioned above, instead of water to mix with the GastroElm Plus powder. Bone broth and GastroElm are both wonderful for tightening up a leaky gut which is an underlying issue with many sick animals. Since many commercial bone broths are made with onion or added sodium, it’s best to do it from scratch at home. It’s incredibly easy, just use this recipe.

If you have any questions simply reply in the comments below!


To a healthier pet!

Michael Peterson

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