If your dog ate butter, greasy bacon drippings or some other source of fatty food, vomiting is a not so uncommon sequela. The vomiting may be simply due to the sudden dietary change considering that dogs in general aren’t used to eating such fatty foods on a daily basis. This abrupt dietary change can trigger the inflammation of the dog’s stomach and intestines, which is known as gastro-enteritis. However, one concern in a dog who is vomiting after a fatty meal is pancreatitis, a condition that warrants immediately veterinary attention.
Understanding the Pancreas
The dog’s pancreas is a v-shaped gland that’s tucked deep within the abdominal cavity behind the stomach which makes it challenging to be examined whether physically and radiologically (by x-ray). The pancreas is both an exocrine gland (a gland that secretes substances outside the body through s duct) and an endocrine gland (a gland that dumps hormones directly into the bloodstream).
As an exocrine gland, the pancreas secretes pancreatic juices containing important enzymes (amylase, proteases, lipase) that aid in digestion as well as large amounts of bicarbonate to buffer stomach acid; whereas, as an endocrine gland, the dog’s pancreas secretes the hormones insulin and glucagon in the bloodstream to regulate blood glucose levels from food that has been digested.
When Things go Wrong
In a healthy dog, the pancreas normally secretes its pancreatic juices and off they go to the small intestine so to help the dog break down proteins, complex carbohydrates and lipids (fats). In a dog with an inflamed pancreas, the secretion of such juices decreases. Instead of being secreted outside the pancreas, these juices are retained inside the pancreas where they wreak havoc as they begin to digest the pancreas itself causing loads of inflammation and even substantial damage.
Certain dog breeds are particularly prone to pancreatitis such as Yorkshire terriers, miniature schnauzers, miniature poodles and cocker spaniels.
Symptoms of Pancreatitis in Dogs
Because the pancreas is supplied by a network of nerves, pain is not uncommon when this gland becomes inflamed. The pain may cause the dog to assume a hunched-up position and the dog may have a hard time lying down and getting comfortable. Affected dogs may also show loss of appetite, vomiting, dehydration, weakness and diarrhea. Symptoms generally show up 24 to 72 hours after the dog consumes a high fat meal, explains veterinarian Dr. Fiona.
Because pancreatitis can be quite severe and even life threatening, it’s important to see the vet promptly for supportive care. Early intervention can help prevent complications, according to Merck Manual for Pet Health. The goal of treatment is to provide pain relief, control the dog’s repeated vomiting, correct the dehydration and provide nutritional support as feasible. Resting the pancreas for 3 to 4 days by fasting is often recommended in dogs who are vomiting continuously. In dogs who are not vomiting relentlessly, aggressive fasting may not be needed, and veterinarians may opt to provide a diet low in fat instead, explains Jorg M. Steiner, a board-certified veterinarian specializing in internal medicine. Aggressive fluid therapy is imperative to prevent serious dehydration If your dog ate a fatty meal whether it’s butter, bacon grease or fat drippings from pork or turkey and is showing signs of pancreatitis, play it safe and see your vet. For simple dog upset due to dietary changes, see our dog upset stomach remedies section and start by reading the article “start here” When in doubt, consult with your vet.