Part 1 and part 2 of this pancreatitis series explained what pancreatitis is and what causes pancreatitis in dogs. This article will explain what to do when your dog has pancreatitis and how the right diet and supplements are vital for this condition. We will be covering the following –
Essential Steps To Take When Your Dog Has Pancreatitis
Some vets recommend a low-fat diet for a dog with pancreatitis. If your dog is right in the middle of an acute bout of pancreatitis, where excess fat has built in the blood, yes, in that case, you would want to feed a low-fat diet.
However, we are talking more long-term here. We are talking about dogs with chronic pancreatitis, the most common sort of pancreatitis or simply dogs living with the threat of pancreatitis following an acute attack. For these dogs, the diet advice is NOT a low-fat diet, but even more important is that you feed LITTLE TO NO CARBS.
1. Feed little and often
As mentioned in part one – fasting was once recommended for pancreatitis in dogs. This is no longer the case. When your dog is recovering from acute pancreatitis, it is best to feed smaller, easily digestible meals, little and often throughout the day. While still recovering, you will want to keep the fat reasonably low. The following proteins (if tolerated by the dog) would be recommended for this period, organic where possible –
- Lean meats such as turkey and chicken
- Wild game such as venison, rabbit and pheasant – highly digestible
- Cottage cheese
- Bone broth – with fat removed, is highly nutritious and delicious!
Consider feeding “DIY” for a while – this way, you know exactly what you are feeding, and there are no “hidden” fats that there may be in cheaper pre-made raw dog food (more on this later)
Once the dog has fully recovered from acute pancreatitis, you can start introducing “fattier” meats – remember, it’s carbs, NOT fat, that causes pancreatitis – yes, fat will cause issues during acute pancreatitis. There will always need to be some vigilance; monitoring your dog is essential, but they do not necessarily have to stay on a low or no-fat diet forever.
2. Remove all aggravating / inflammatory factors
Now that your dog has fully recovered, don’t poke the beehive – you need to address all the causes that may drive inflammation in your dog. The list is long….
- Ultra Processed dry and canned food – This must be the first thing you remove – studies show that dry-fed dogs undergo TEN TIMES more inflammation than dogs fed raw food.
- Avoid treats full of sugars, derivatives, wheat and, glycerine, etc, usually the cheap ones found in supermarkets – 100% meat – always check where the meat was sourced from, even better – make your own
- Ditch the chemicals – this includes unnecessary flea/worm/tick treatments, kennel cough vaccines and most certainly those annual boosters after one year of age. Most definitely do this while your dog is ill, but use it as an opportunity to consider their use in your dog’s future. They are an unnecessary chemical insult; they are all rife with awful side effects and certainly inflame and antagonise the immune system.
- NSAIDs – While your dog is in extreme pain with acute pancreatitis, of course, pain relief is vital. However, these are not drugs that you want your dog to take long-term. NSAID’s for example, have been shown to destroy the gut lining – this can lead to gut issues such as IBD which causes inflammation, putting the pancreas under greater pressure. If your dog is on long terms NSAIDs for a condition such as arthritis, consider looking at more natural remedies for this with the help of a holistic veterinarian.
- Maintain good dental health – when your dog has periodontal disease, bacteria make their way into the body via the capillary-rich gum line; this fuels inflammation and is a constant threat to the immune system – which can aggravate and inflame the pancreas. To achieve a healthy smile naturally, we recommend raw meaty bones or Canident.
- If you suspect a spinal/vertebrae issue may cause your dog’s pancreatitis, please consult with a canine chiropractor/canine massage therapist.
The Ideal Food For Dogs With Pancreatitis Is Good-Quality, Fresh Food.
As mentioned in part 2, the causes of pancreatitis in dogs is from carbohydrates, NOT fat. Now more than ever, your dog needs you to move away from that bag of ultra-processed dry kibble and feed your dog what their body needs – fresh, real food.
You have two options: make it yourself using my guide or buy a good pre-made.
1. DIY raw dog food
Recipe-wise, remaining vigilant with any symptoms, nothing really changes for dogs with chronic pancreatitis… It is the removal of carbohydrates that will fix his blood fat. So I advise you to produce high protein, moderate to low-fat meals.
Even though we know fat is not at fault here, dogs have evolved to eat a lean diet by their very nature. If we take a rabbit as the average dog meal and extract all the water, that rabbit is roughly 80% protein and 10% fat.
- Ease off the fattier meats such as beef and lamb while they are still recovering and if they should suffer any flare-ups in the future
- Feed leans meats such as chicken, turkey, and wild game (venison, rabbit, pheasant etc.)
- Fish is also good – in those early stages, stick to white fish, which is less oily.
- Stick to the 5:1:1:1 ratio – five parts muscle meat, one part organ (a good variety), one part raw bone and one part green leafy vegetables.
- Some raw dog food companies sell plain minces or source from your local supermarket or butcher – be careful with some minces as they can be high in fat)
2. Buy good quality pre-made raw food
When looking at pre-made raw dog food companies, there are a few things that we would recommend –
- Go for organic, pasture-reared, ethically sourced meat – factory farm animals not only endure the most horrific treatment in their short lives but they are also pumped full of various drugs such as antibiotics and chemical parasite treatments and are also fed on grains – all of which will be consumed by your dog, fueling more inflammation and illness.
- Fat content in some pre mades – be careful when buying cheap pre-made raw food… Muscle meat is expensive, meaning that some raw dog foods can contain just fat and bone, and only some companies will be completely honest about this on the label. Pre-made chunky foods are great as you can see lumps of muscle meat, some organs, bones and maybe some green vegetables would be the best bet for a dog with chronic pancreatitis. Again, we know fat is not the enemy here, but a diet of fat and bone is not ideal for any dog.
Consider joining some fantastic raw feeding groups, such as the very knowledgeable and friendly Raw and Holistic Cat and Dog Support Group on Facebook. Ask what good quality food they feed their dogs and see if it suits your budget. There will also be owners who have experienced pancreatitis in their dogs and can offer much-needed support.
Why Feeding Pancreas To A Dog With Pancreatitis is So Important
An important nutritive concept, certainly in dogs, is like feeds like. Dogs are easy animals to feed; they work like lego. Muscle builds muscle; cartilage feeds the cartilage, bone supports the bones, and liver nourishes the liver.
It follows that when an organ is in trouble, you should feed lots of that organ not only to give the dog all it needs to rebuild the organ, but the dog can avail of all the extra bits therein.
A horrible experiment on dogs in the 1920s produced vital information. They were studying diabetes and seeing what effect a new chemical called insulin had on dogs with no pancreas (say no more). They separated the dogs into two groups. One group were fed their normal food and injected with insulin. To the others, they fed raw pig pancreas along with their meal. Incredibly, the second group not only did better, needing significantly less insulin but lived significantly longer.
The dogs did better because the pancreas is not just meat. It contains a natural source of insulin (as it produces it). It also contains digestive enzymes (because it produces them), which the dogs can take and use to reduce the workload of their pancreas. It also contains glucagon and a host of peptides that dogs can use to help heal their pancreas.
Where To Source Raw Pancreas And How Much To Feed
- Your local butcher – You may only be able to source pig pancreas in the UK and Europe, which is fine. Try to find a butcher that slaughters their animals, organic, pasture reared where possible.
- Feed small amounts, around 5%, dropping to 3% after your dog is out of the danger zone of pancreatitis. You can add it to your dog’s food or chop it up and add it to ice cube trays with other organs, such as liver and kidney and pop it into your dog’s bowl.
- Unfortunately, fresh pancreas is proving very hard to find. It’s a fatty organ, often discarded by meat producers. As such, very few producers include it in their mixes or on their websites. I advise you to seek it out on Amazon.
- If you go for a powdered form, ensure it is freeze-dried; Heat will kill those enzymes.
Natural Additions For Pancreatitis In Dogs
There are lots of things that you can include on top of this diet that is sure to help them at this point. As your vet is unlikely to stock most of them, you can try the local health store for some, but I think most are easiest found on Amazon; hence I link to a few products that I recommend below.
1. Digestive Enzymes
I strongly recommend the digestive enzyme mix of lipase, tripase and amylase for a dog with pancreatitis. The human versions are fine though the canine one are tweaked a little for your dog, they say. If your dog is intolerant to pork, stick to vegetarian versions, as most digestive enzymes that are canine-specific may contain pork.
These are particularly important if your dog is suffering from exocrine pancreatic insufficiency (EPI), as they will give the pancreas less work to do and the brand I link to there has some anti-inflammatory additions such as bromelain. Dose him according to size, and sprinkle on food. If feeding some fresh pancreas, you will not need digestive enzymes.
I recommend you include some probiotics in their diet for at least a month while we get him right. They will help reset their digestive system, which will be in disarray. A healthy gut flora is a healthy animal, and it’s not to be forgotten. Full-fat probiotic yoghurt or the likes of kefir are good additions, aiding the digestive process, but we’re unsure just how much gets through the dog’s strong digestive acids. You can go for human versions such as BioKult.
3. Omega 3
Omega 3 fatty acids are excellent at reducing inflammation. The ACVN recommend a therapeutic dose of 700mg of combined EPA and DHA per 10kg of dog to help alleviate some of the more painful symptoms of pancreatitis, I would keep it going in to help avoid its occurrence in the future. Might be best to avoid fish oils for now; in many the fat goes rancid very quickly once it is extracted from the fish.
Algal oil is a a great choice and much more sustainable. Once they are recovered from the acute bout of pancreatitis – feed fresh oily fish like sardines and sprat; they don’t need a lot, and as little as 100g a week for a 15kg dog would be a start.
4. Vitamin E & C
Vitamin E & C. As the previous articles highlighted, EPI will often result in a Vitamin E deficiency as undigested fat builds in their system. Hence, you need to add some in. A 20kg / 50lb dog would need around 400 IU of vitamin E (and around 500mg of vitamin C while you’re at it). Pick it the both up from Amazon while you are shopping for the above. Human types are fine as long as nothing else is added.
Boswellia, or frankincense, is a natural, potent anti-inflammatory without the same harmful side effects of NSAIDs. The phytochemicals that it contains block the production of leukotrienes which cause inflammation.
A study in Switzerland found that 71% of dogs suffering from arthritis, who were given Boswellia extract for six weeks, had a significant reduction in symptoms. When buying pure Boswellia tincture or capsules, dosing can be tricky; contact a holistic vet who can help you with this, or even better, can provide products such as Nutravet, where the hard work is done for you.
6. Golden turmeric paste
As always, one of the most powerful natural anti-inflammatories you can make is GTP. It’s unreal and easy to make at home. Warning: it is so effective you can’t give it with any anti-inflammatories given by the vet. Wait till the unnatural ones are not going in; I fully expect this to work as well. It will help in bad times, but, like omega 3, a very small amount can be given as a maintenance dose to help avoid a bout of pancreatitis in the future.
1. Is chicken and rice suitable for dogs with pancreatitis?
The short answer to this is chicken – yes, rice – absolutely not! Remember, we are avoiding carbohydrates, so rice is a very bad idea for all dogs, especially for dogs with an already inflamed pancreas!
2. Can raw dog food cause pancreatitis?
As discussed in this article, your dog needs to come off the carbs and eat a fresh diet; we highly recommend this diet. However, not all raw dog food is created equally. Higher fat content in some cheaper pre mades may be an issue.
Also, it is essential to be aware of any intolerances your dog may have to certain proteins. This can cause inflammation which will put the pancreas under pressure. Remain vigilant with your dog and any sign of itching, soft stools, vomiting, diarrhoea etc; an elimination diet may be needed here.
3. Will my dog recover from pancreatitis?
Yes, they absolutely can and do, providing you take evasive action now. Our experience shows that the gross amount of pancreatitis dogs and cats are mysteriously suffering today is entirely localised in the dry-fed community.
The issue evaporates once fed an appropriate fresh diet, and all chemical products are eliminated. Enzyme readings return to normal after a few months. The pancreas is expected to recover, and clients have these dogs back eating all the usual foods a normal healthy dog will. So hang in there; you’re giving them the best fighting chance.
Consult for Your Dog with Pancreatitis
If your dog has chronic pancreatitis and you would like to know more on how to help support them with good nutrition or you would simply like some assistance with making that switch to real food, we offer consults, and we’d love to help you and your dogs.