With the recent rescue boy having the extreme version of  pancreatitis, I learned that table scraps of ham or bacon were one of the biggest causes of an onset of pancreatitis ~ triggering those enzymes to go out of control.

The first question the vet asked when I brought “Bow” in on December 26th was, “Did you feed him any Christmas Dinner?”

She said she asked because “ham and bacon are the number one triggers, turkey the second.”

Also that an over large meal could actually set a dog’s stomach off. We’re so used to our young iron stomached guys that we sometimes forget that their tummies change when they get 5 – 6 – 7 years old and something so simple as eating too much could trigger an episode.

The same H2 antagonists that are in Pepcid A/C or Tagamet (Cimetidine) that humans use for their stomach problems are the same inhibitors used for our furkids.

Note: Any H2 antagonist like famotidine (Pepcid A/C) or Cimetidine (Tagamet) should not be given over a long period of time as the same antagonists actually work against the H2 enzymes which are an important part of the detoxifying function.

I gave Bow 300 mgs twice a day for ten days, then went to once a day for 5 days ; then off. He had one relapse (which I caught by watching his body language and the relapse was caused by me not knowing the information of more small meals vs. a larger meal). I gave him the 300 mgs of the Cimetedine, one time and all was back to normal. The only reason I chose the Cimetidine over the famotadine is: first, the vet had prescribed that when we left the hospital with Bow. Second, I could purchase it at Sam’s club ~ 70 200 mg tabs for $10 .

What I learned from Bow’s extreme state was that if pancreatitis is not treated in the early stages and allowed to “quiet down” it goes into the stage that Bow was in ~ anything that hits the stomach causes the juices to flow and the stomach to contract and thus even water is thrown up. The only solution when it has reached that point is to quit using the stomach (nothing via mouth) until the amylase (digests starches and sugars) and lipase (digests fats) and protease (digests proteins) levels come down in the blood. These go up only because of a blockage or because the pancreas becomes inflamed and starts producing excessive amounts of the enzymes. These enzymes are used to break down food. If they are not properly controlled they actually break down our own tissues.

Some additional information from a report by Michael Richards, DVM in Encyclopedia of Canine Veterinary Medical Information:

Corticosteroids and azathioprine medications may contribute to the tendency to develop pancreatitis. Hyperadrenocorticism, a naturally occurring overproduction of corticosteriods that is fairly common in dogs may also lead to an increased susceptibility to pancreatitis. Anything that interferes with blood supply to the pancreas or release of digestive enzymes by the pancreas may lead to pancreatitis.

The “typical” pancreatitis patient is middle-aged or older and overweight In Bow’s case, it was the anesthesia (which I confirmed with the vet and also read later in another vet’s report) I believe it to be because of the difficulty of cleansing the body of the anasthesia; putting additional stress on the pancreas and kidneys.

Often, the family has just had a party or a big holiday meal when this disease strikes. This is not a disease that restricts itself to any particular scenario, though.

Vomiting is common with pancreatitis. Depression can be severe. Affected pets may seem restless or be reluctant to move, they may seem weak, irritable, have diarrhea or simply refuse to eat. Many owners recognize that their pet is very ill but may be baffled by a lack of symptoms to explain their pet’s discomfort — they just know they don’t feel well.

A pet may be pretty ill before the enzyme levels elevate

Pancreatitis can be acute and only occur once in a dog’s lifetime or it can become chronic and keep returning over and over again


It is very important to remember NOT to feed your dog when it is showing signs of abdominal discomfort or unexplained pain. It is almost painful to think of the number of times dog owners have said to me “she wouldn’t eat, so I gave put a couple of tablespoons of bacon fat on her food…… or gave her a bowl of ice cream…… or a bowl of milk……. or a couple of pieces of ham……. ” This is the worst thing you can do if your dog has pancreatitis. Learn to let them help themselves heal by not eating when their body is telling them it isn’t a good idea! This can be the difference between a 24 hour attack of mild abdominal pain and 5 days in our hospital treating severe pancreatitis.

~~ rusty and crew
Airedale Terrier Rescue – Nevada and Utah
Copyright © 2002 Rusty LaFrance