High Carbohydrate Dry Food Causes The Majority of Pancreatitis in Dogs. The Cure is Removing it in favour of a Simple Raw diet…with some bits…
So you’ve read Part 1 which explains why your dog has likely developed pancreatitis. Now we have to set about fixing it. At this point, 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 to the point he’s nearly poisoning himself, then yes, you might feed a low fat diet (although a long period of starvation would be good advice here too as this reduces the stress on the organ more than anything). However, we are talking more long term here. We are talking about dogs with chronic pancreatitis, by far 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 importantly is that you feed LITTLE TO NO CARBS.
[Below I tell you everything you need to know. How do I benefit? I’m a canine nutritionist that unfortunately sees an awful lot of dogs with this condition. If you need specialised help you can book me for a consultation. I also link to some recommended natural products that are important for his recovery. I track the link. If you buy it I will get tiny, tiny bit of that sale].
Step 1: A Period of Digestive Rest
Fasting is good for dogs. It reduces inflammation which is good news for dogs with inflamed pancreatitis. More than that it gives the pancreas a rest. If your dog is suffering from the condition you need to avoid overstimulating the organ. Don’t poke the bee hive. So, before the new diet is employed he needs a period of digestive rest. You should starve the dog for 24hrs (48 hours in the case of acute pancreatitis). The dog will do this likely himself, it’s that sore. Starvation immediately eases the burden on the pancreas. But into the future we keep this principle in mind and reduce their meal sizes for a time. Meals need to be smaller, more often (3-5 times a day) and easily digestible. This last bit highlights the importance of fresh, unprocessed and thus easily digested food. No dry or canned foods bought in pet shops or vets. Definitely no pet store treats. Nothing with a picture of a dog or cat on it.
Step 2: Remove All Aggravating Factors
Don’t poke the bee hive. You need to address all the things that might drive inflammation in your dog in the background. The list is long. First to go is dry dog food and pet store treats. All that preserved junk. Studies show dry fed dogs undergo TEN TIMES more inflammation that raw fed dogs.
Next up you need to cut out all the unnecessary chemicals (flea treatments, wormers, kennel cough and most certainly annual boosters for viruses after one year of age) if just while your dog is ill but use this as an opportunity to consider their use at all in your pet’s future. They are an unnecessary chemical insult that are rife with side effects and certainly antagonise the immune system.
Even anti-inflammatories and steroids are to be questioned once a week or two into his new diet plan (under the supervision of a natural vet that understands fresh nutrition) as they essentially put the repair process on hold. However, in the case of acute pancreatitis, whatever keeps the poor guy comfy until that bout passes.
[If you suspect a back/vertebrae cause to your dog’s pancreatitis it can be treated by a specialist canine osteopath / chiropractor or experienced massage therapist. You need to do a quick google here].
Step 3: The Ideal Food for a Dog With Pancreatitis is Based on Their Natural, Diet…
Dogs evolved to eat a lean diet. Fat rabbits get eaten quicker. If we take a rat or rabbit as the average dog meal and suck all the water out, these animals are roughly 80% protein, 10% fat. So now more than ever it’s time to feed him as he is supposed to be.
But just to reiterate, it’s not that we think fat is at fault for the pancreatitis here, it wasn’t.
You have two options at this point – make it yourself or buy in a good pre-made.
Best Home Made Recipe for Dog with Pancreatitis is…
If you are familiar with raw dog food then you know the very best you can do for them is to make your own dog food.
Recipe wise, the folk at the top say nothing really changes for the dog with chronic pancreatitis. It is the removal of carbs that will fix his blood fat readings. So, I advise that you aim to produce a high protein, moderate to low-fat meal, like what all dogs should be eating.
This often means easing off the beef and lamb (these meats, when fed to dogs, are usually very fatty) in favour of low-fat meat pieces such as chicken or turkey initially, at least until we get him back to normal. Non-oily fish (whitefish) too is excellent and game meats such as venison if you can source it.
As always, I recommend you make it to a ratio of 5:1:1:1, that is 5 parts meat muscle, 1 part organ (and a good variety of organs here), 1 part raw bone and 1 part veg bits, for reasons that will become clear in the article above should you be new to the raw game. If experienced and are wondering about the veg addition there’s more on why you might feed dogs vegetables here.
You can use plain meat and bone minces from a raw dog food manufacturer (Paleo do these too) or go out and source your own meat the bone from the half-priced aisle of supermarkets or butchers, this way you not only know what’s going in and you can usually save a small fortune (be wary of meat minces from butchers, they’re usually very high in fat but look like mince to the untrained eye…those guys don’t make money throwing lean meat muscle away!).
If going with pre-made raw dog food and should finances allow, Paleo Ridge make the very best lean raw dog food mixes. Their Paleo Plus range (designed by me!) is fantastic, organic, ethical, well-balanced range but most importantly here lots of lean meat and some fantastic organ and plant additions. I would feed any of these products to a dog with chronic pancreatitis (also the only raw dog food to contain a little pancreas which is vital here, as you are about to discover) but if more than knee-high I would either switch to their cheaper mixes or make it myself.
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 their muscle, cartilage feeds their cartilage, bone supports their bones, liver nourishes their 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 1920’s produced a vital piece of information. They were studying diabetes and seeing what effect a new chemical called insulin had on dogs with no pancreases (say no more). They separated the dogs into two groups. To one they fed their normal food and injected them 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.
Sadly, once they understood insulin they threw away such findings, not a whole lot of profit in feeding pancreas.
The reason the dogs did better is that 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 own pancreas. It also contains glucagon and a whole host of peptides that the dog can use to help heal his own pancreas.
So go to your butcher and get some pancreas off them, doesn’t matter which animal. You need to find the butcher who is slaughtering their own animals. This would be a great addition, but only in small amounts, around 5% but dropping to 3% after he’s out of the danger zone.
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 website. I advise you seek it out on Amazon. I found it here. Dose according to body size.
Natural Additions I Strongly Recommend to Help Pancreatitis in Dogs…
There are lots of things that you can include in on top of this diet that are 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 recommended the digestive enzyme mix of lipase, tripase and amylase for a pancreatic dog. The human versions are fine, find them here on Amazon. These are particularly important if your dog is suffering from exocrine pancreatic insufficiency (EPI) as they will give the pancreas less work to do. Dose him according to size, sprinkle on food. If feeding actual pancreas this step is unnecessary.
2. Probiotics. I recommend you include some canine 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 get through the dog’s strong digestive acids. Better again would be specific canine probiotics as they’re not only tailored specifically for dogs (who have different gut flora to us omnivores). Lots more info on canine probiotics here.
3. A Herbal Blend Specifically Designed for Pancreas Support. I have no particularly deep knowledge of herbal usage for this illness but I do know some herbs can really help the pancreas, as well as the kidneys and liver, out (they’re all linked after all, when one is down, they all suffer). As opposed to going around trying to pick up this and that you might consider a product made by someone who has put all these herbs in one place for you. Again the human one is fine but please make sure they haven’t added any vitamin or minerals to it, you just want the herbs. I found this one on Amazon but it’s only available in the US. It contains a variety of herbs that a quick Google reveal have long been used to support an ailing pancreas and digestive tracts, including Juniper berries, Slippery elm bark, Cedar berries, Licorice root, Garlic bulb, Yarrow (aerial parts), Capsicum fruit, Goldenseal root extract, Uva ursi leaf extract, Dandelion root, Marshmallow root, Nettle leaves, Mullein leaf extract White oak stem.
4. Vitamin E & C. As the previous articles highlighted, EPI will often result in a Vitamin E deficiency as undigested fat builds in their system so you need to add some in. It usually comes in capsule form but I prefer vitamin E in dropper bottles like these so I can better control the dosage.
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 up from Amazon while you are shopping for the above. Human types fine as long as nothing else added.
5. 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 but I would keep it going in to help avoid its occurrence in the future. Careful with fish oil, a lot of crap out there. I always recommend spending a bit more, get some of the refined stuff too so the EPA/DHA content is higher. That’s what you want. You will see the cheaper types have little of this. Here are some decent brands of omega 3 I found on Amazon.
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 give 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 in the future.
Will He Recover?
Yes, they absolutely can and do, providing you take evasive action now. Our experience is showing 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 cut out all the products. Enzyme readings return to normal after a few months. The pancreas is expected to make a recovery and clients have these dogs back eating all the usual foods a normal healthy dog will. So hang in there, you’re giving him the best fighting chance.
If you need to speak to some x-pancreatitis dog owners go on to our Facebook page and reach out! There are lots on there. We only get the sick dogs at Dogs First and the answer is always the same, cut out the packets and feed fresh, biologically appropriate ingredients to your pet.