With the holidays upon us, humans are not the only creatures to be over eating. At Pacific Animal Hospital, we have seen several pets in recent weeks with a common ailment, a pancreatitis.
What is a Pancreatitis:
Pancreatitis means inflammation of the pancreas, an organ that provides digestive enzymes and insulin. Under typical circumstances, the digestive enzymes are kept safely inactive inside the pancreatic cells until they are normally released into the intestines and activated. These powerful chemicals help breakdown proteins, fats and carbohydrates so the body can make use of the food.
However, for some reason, these enzymes are occasionally triggered early and actually start damaging the pancreas itself by causing severe inflammation of the organ and surrounding tissues. This serious condition can appear suddenly (acute) or it may develop slowly over time (chronic).
What does a pancreatitis have to do with the holidays:
It is seen around the holidays because pet lovers just can’t resist and give their pets too much of the fatty foods left over from holiday meals. This fat is thought to trigger the disease. Pet owners first notice their pets are just not normal, then signs may progress to pain, vomiting, and diarrhea.
Although the exact mechanism of pancreatitis is not known, there are risk factors and some things we do know. The biggest of these are pets who’ve recently had a high fat meal. During the holiday season this usually means the greasy turkey, ham trimmings and gravy that are left over from the holiday meal. Certain breeds, some small dogs and obese pets are very prone to quick onset of this disease. We have also seen that pancreatitis can develop alongside other diseases, like Cushing’s disease or diabetes and even occur due to some medications, toxins or bacterial/viral infections.
How to know if you should call the doctor:
Even though symptoms range from mild to life-threatening, acute pancreatitis is a very painful condition. These pets will whine or cry, and often walk with a “hunched up” appearance; a sure sign of pain and that veterinary care is needed immediately! Dehydration, heart arrhythmias or blood clotting issues may occur without quick medical attention. Our doctors will often do blood work and take x-rays in order to check for other causes of abdominal pain, such as an obstruction in the intestines, kidney or liver disease.
What to do if your pet has pancreatitis:
As if your pet’s pain was not bad enough, there is no specific treatment for this problem. By controlling the pain and the main symptoms, it is likely the pancreas will heal itself, but this needs to happen under direct medical supervision. Affected pets cannot have any food or water by mouth for several days, so IV fluids and other medications are essential. And because of a severely painful abdomen, proper pain control measures are a vital part of the treatment.
How to help your pet avoid pancreatitis:
One of the simplest things you can do to avoid this serious disease and a holiday trip to the animal ER is to not feed pets from the table. The skin of the holiday turkey, fatty parts of the ham or even leftovers tossed in the trash can all trigger an episode of pancreatitis. If you notice a change in your pets eating behavior or stance or any signs of abdominal pain, especially with vomiting, call us immediately to get early treatment. This could save your pet’s life.
Much of animal medicine is comprised of “western” medicine. A veterinarian will treat your pet’s symptoms with medications or surgery, and your pet will get better. For some pets and pet owners, the western way is not always the best option or at times may not be effective for one reason or another. So what do you do when your pet does not respond to western practices? We suggest giving acupuncture a try. Acupuncture is part of “eastern” medicine and has been around for over 2000 years. You might be picturing a host of humorous stereotypes in your head, or wondering why we would ever suggest you try anything but western medicine –trust us, we’ve asked ourselves the same thing. Years ago, and trusting the research, Dr. Caskey and Dr. Greer, both independently set out on a quest to become certified in acupuncture. Since then, they have been able to help many pets improve and even recover from ailments that were not responding very well to western medicine. We recently sat down with Dr. Caskey and Dr. Greer to talk about the holistic craze and why they recommend acupuncture for pets.
What drew you to acupuncture?
Dr. Caskey: I was drawn to the basic concepts of eastern medicine which include treating the entire body instead of just treating one sign or symptom. It made sense to me that if your whole body is in balance, you would be less likely to develop disease or pain. I was often frustrated and saddened when my patients would still be sick or in pain after trying all appropriate treatments and medications in the “western” approach. Acupuncture provided a different approach and I have been very pleased, sometimes amazed, by the results for my patients.
Dr. Greer: I became interested in acupuncture after getting alternative treatment for myself. After seeing that chiropractic and acupuncture care helped me, I felt that I should be able to offer alternative care for my patients.
How does acupuncture work?
Dr. Greer: Acupuncture helps the body heal itself by stimulating the nervous system. This helps to relieve pain, increase blood flow and organ function. The peripheral nervous system is stimulated by needling acupoints which can affect small nerves that branch off to larger nerves that lead to the spinal cord segments that can directly affect organ or limb function. Stimulation also reaches key sites in the brain that can help help heal the body by affecting the autonomic nervous system. The body’s own opioid (reduces pain) and cortisol (decreases inflammation) is released which helps the patient feel better. It is also used to release trigger points that can affect major muscle groups.
Are there factors that make a pet ideal for acupuncture? Dr. Caskey: There are certainly some conditions that respond better to acupuncture such as osteoarthritis pain and inflammatory diseases, however acupuncture can be used for any condition and often works best when combined with traditional treatments and medications.
Dr. Greer: Most patients are calm when inserting the very fine acupuncture needles. Some do not even feel the needles. I would say, I think the most dramatic changes are seen with patients that have neurological deficits and arthritis. Since acupuncture affects the nervous system, which is in charge of the function of every organ in the body, it can be used to help most medical problems. However, acupuncture may be much more effective for certain illnesses than others, so checking with your doctor is always the best recommendation.
What can I expect to see from a pet who is receiving acupuncture?
Dr. Caskey: I usually see the best results after approximately 3 treatments, however many of my clients are able to see improvement
after only one treatment. Depending on the condition being treated, I usually recommend treatments once a week until improvement from week to week plateaus, then the time between treatments is gradually lengthened.
Dr. Greer: Every pet is different. I have seen some patients that seem more sleepy and sensitive for the next 72 hours. However, most of the owners tell me that the pet seems happier and are more active the following days after their treatment. Acupuncture is done in a series of treatments, then on a maintenance level to keep the pet in its optimal condition.
From simple heartworm tests to complex, multi-parameter chemistry profiles, blood screenings are a vital tool in our doctors’ arsenal for finding and treating many different diseases. Whether your pet is at Pacific Animal Hospital because he is sick or because she needs surgery, many issues can be assessed in house so that you do not have to wait.
We believe prevention is a key step in the health of your pets. Not only is this type of diagnostic assessment helpful with sick pets, but our healthy animals are benefiting as well. Early signs of many different illnesses will first show up in a blood profile, long before any outward, clinical symptoms are seen
As price is always a concern in the healthcare, we want to ensure that every client is educated as to why we might recommend a blood test for your pet.
Whether your pet is sick, needs some sort of anesthetic procedure or maybe just a senior check up, the most common set of blood work will involve a complete blood count (CBC) and a chemistry profile.
Although these medical terms sound fancy and complicated, in actuality, a CBC is just measuring the different types and numbers of cells in the blood. For instance, Patients who have too few red blood cells are considered anemic and may have difficulty delivering precious oxygen to the body’s tissues. While, white blood cells are the microbial defenders of the pet. These soldier cells patrol the body and attack invading bacteria, viruses and other foreign organisms. When a CBC shows a high white count, your veterinarian may be concerned about some sort of active infection. Conversely, low white blood cell counts could mean the cells are depleted from a chronic infection or, in the case of puppies and kittens, could be a sign of a parvovirus.
The other blood test that is common in our practice is the chemistry panel. This will look at key enzymes and metabolic products to determine the health of internal organs. For instance, a high glucose level on a chemistry panel probably indicates a diabetic animal, but less well known are indicators like Alkaline Phosphatase (ALP), Blood Urea Nitrogen (BUN), Creatinine and about two dozen others. Our doctors can identify kidney disease, liver disease and many issues, including some cancers, from these key components of a pet’s blood work.
Combined with the pet’s symptoms, environment and other factors, our doctors will use the results of blood work run in their clinic to give you an accurate diagnosis.
Your next question might be, “great, what the heck do I do with these test now?” Our suggestion: start asking questions. As your pet’s doctor we love to educate you on what is going on. It is our goal that your pet leaves healthier, and that you leave knowing what procedures were done, why they were recommended, and how it is going to help your pet.