Chronic pancreatitis can kill the cells in the pancreas that make insulin, thus leading to diabetes (for which obesity is a risk factor).
Once a dog has had an attack of pancreatitis, there’s no option but to feed a diet that is very low in fat. In fact, before dogs can even tolerate this, they may require intravenous fluids and antibiotics.
The veterinarian will give strict instructions to provide only water in small amounts once the dog is home. The reason for this is simple: the inflamed pancreas cannot tolerate any stimulus. Hydration is critical. A well-hydrated dog experiences better blood flow to the pancreas and faster healing. Dehydration slows healing.
The reduction of inflammation is an individual response. Some dogs tend to heal faster than others. Some cases of pancreatitis become chronic, and the dog must consume a low-fat diet for life, while in other cases, the dog may resume a normal diet within a few weeks.
The pancreas will not produce too many enzymes when very small meals are consumed, so, feeding tiny amounts a few times per day is less likely to cause vomiting. This in turn will cause the dog to feel better and her/his appetite to improve maintain normal electrolyte levels.
Since the pancreas is most stimulated to produce enzymes by foods that are high in protein and fat, a diet for pancreatitis needs to be lower in protein and much more restricted in fat than the dog’s original one. This diet would be too low in calories unless they are supplied through additional carbohydrates. The goal is to provide carbohydrates that are easily digested and provide plenty of calories without having to feed a great volume of food.
Raw or Cooked Diet?
We formulate diet plans for dogs eating raw, cooked, and combination diets, and as a rule don’t try and sway someone to a certain method of feeding. However, our experience over the years has been that healing is fastest on a cooked diet. Although we can choose raw foods that are lean, we can skim even more fat from the same food if we cook it. While this may seem like a small difference to us, it translates to a very big one for the dog.
In many cases, this same dog can eat a raw diet down the road, but initially, the pancreas needs every bit of help it can get.