Beware those fatty treats which can cause pancreatitis

Pancreatitis in dogs can be serious. I received a salutary tale from 
reader and regular correspondent Arthur Moore, who had just returned from walking Hadrian’s Wall with his 
wife Ann and daughter Jocasta, plus 
two English springers, Ella, aged 10, 
and Nina, aged two.

“We walked the wall, day on day. 
As snacks to help us on our way we 
had sausage rolls, pork pie, cheese and falafel. Dogs and humans had a share. 
On the day we finished our walk it was 
clear Nina wasn’t well. She was vomiting and suffering from an upset stomach. 
By the following morning, a Sunday — 
the day we were due to drive home — 
she was almost unresponsive. We took her to an emergency vet in Windermere, who diagnosed pancreatitis.”

Arthur reports that the vet thought her illness had been brought on by the fatty snacks. She was dosed up and Arthur drove non-stop back to Hertfordshire, where she went into veterinary hospital for two nights. When she came out she was eating again and back to 50% of her old self. Ella, the old springer, on exactly the same diet and snacks, was fine.

What breeds of dog are prone to pancreatitis?

What Arthur learned was that all spaniels — but particularly cockers — 
are susceptible to pancreatitis and that it can be brought on by even very modest amounts of fat — particularly pork fat.

He added: “Of course, sausages, pork pies and similar foods are common fare on shoots, and invariably shared with dogs. As this is once a week, usually no harm ensues. But as we were snacking every day for a week, it was clearly too much for Nina, though not Ella. In all the years I have been working Ella no one has ever warned me not to feed a dog pork fat. So be careful what you feed your spaniel. A sausage a week, when we are working, 
is fine. But every day, no.”

Not surprisingly, Arthur’s advice is to cut out the sausage, which seems sensible, especially as Nina’s illness 
cost £1,000 in vet’s fees. However, 
I do recall the kennel-huntsman of the Belvoir telling me that his pack were fed on offcuts from a Melton Mowbray pork-pie factory, but foxhounds do have notoriously tough constitutions.

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What you should know about pancreatitis in dogs

  • Symptoms can include a hunched back, repeated vomiting, pain, dehydration, weakness
  • Contact a vet quickly as the dog could become dangerously dehydrated
  • A high-fat diet can be a major cause of pancreatitis
  • Dogs that eat anything they can find are at risk
  • There can be a genetic predisposition
  • Christmas and Easter are classic times for a dog to develop pancreatitis, after being given extra treats and table scraps