Dry Food Causes The Majority of Pancreatitis in Dogs. The Cure is Feeding a Homemade, Low-Fat Meal…
Some folk recommend a low-protein diet for a dog with pancreatitis. However this is not correct. By decreasing protein they must increase the carbohydrate content, which is the greatest aggravating factor of pancreatitis in dogs in the first place, or increase the fat, which is daft considering the illness, low fat dog food is the order of the day.
If your dog is suffering from the condition you need to avoid overstimulating the pancreas. As with so many other common issues plaguing dogs and cats today, avoidance of dry, processed, cereal based dry food is certainly your first step in dealing with this condition. A fresh, easy to digest meal is required. I would recommend a biologically appropriate meal based on lean fresh meat which we will discuss below.
Step 1: A Period of Digestive Rest
Before this new diet most important is a period of rest. You should starve the dog for 24hrs (48 hours in the case of acute pancreatitis). This immediately eases the burden on the pancreas. Future meals need to be smaller and more often (up to 5 times a day) and highly digestible. They need to be high in fresh protein (25% protein), low in fat (less than 5%) and low in carbohydrate (less than 5% for example, as it’s fresh food the remaining 65% will be water). 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
It’s imperative that you remove all dry dog food and pet store treats from your dog’s life. Everything. Trust nothing. 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) most certainly while your dog is ill but use this as an opportunity to consider their use at all in your pet’s future.
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 middle-back 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: Best Recipe for a Dog With Pancreatitis is Based on Fresh, Homemade, Low Fat Meat and Veg
Fresh, Lean Meat & Bone (40%)
Aim for 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 a low fat, whole, non-minced form (minced venison is often very fatty). You can buy pre-made raw dog foods based on these or plain raw minces with bone in it and make your own dog food. Or you can simply buy meat on the bone. You can buy from anywhere, the half-priced section of supermarkets are great, or maybe see what the butcher has.
Cut out minced beef or lamb, it’s far too high in fat and harder to digest. If worried re fat content you can boil off fat at a low heat. Yes I know, cooked meat is not ideal but it’s better than high fat!
Fresh meaty bones are vital to the tooth and gut health of dogs but warning, they can be fatty. Use duck / turkey necks for a chew (low fat), or chicken legs with the skin pulled off. Never give rawhide chews or pigs ears to pancreatic dogs. These are pure fat.
20% Organ Meats (consisting of 10% heart, 5% kidney, a small bit of liver and maybe some pancreas, if you can find it)
Don’t forget your vital organ meats. Heart and kidney are excellent low-fat, high-protein options, get them in there. Liver is excellent nutrition but fattier, so use less of this. Spleen is great too if you can source it.
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 by feeding pancreas for example, you will be inadvertently providing the dog with bits like insulin which perceivable will be broken down and rebuilt by the dog. There is an enormously complex relationship between animals and their food, we still know so little about it. In the 20th century, we studied pigs pancreas to find out what was going wrong with human diabetes patients. We stumbled upon insulin but it is believed that there is yet more to be discovered, if we knew what to look for and isolate. 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, probably less than 5%. Or you can pick it up in dried form on Amazon (see below). Dose according to body size.
Cooked Veg (40%)
To lower the fat content further feel free to include lots of ground, cooked vegetables (green beans, broccoli, spinach) as a very low-fat filler. Dogs are carnivores and do not need this stuff but with pancreatitis in dogs, it’s vital we lower the fat content for a while to enable the pancreas to have a breather. Do not use carrots, peas, rice, potatoes or any grain or cereal. No carbs whatsoever. More on feeding dogs vegetables here.
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 use 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. 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.
2. Probiotics. I recommend you include some canine probiotics in their diet. 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) but also usually come in time-release capsules, which means they will better survive in the dogs’ battery acid-like digestive juices and open in the intestines. 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 (there is precious little out there for dogs) but please make sure they haven’t added any vitamin or minerals to it, you just want the herbs. Again on Amazon, I found one called ProPancreas formula. It contains 14 herbs that provide nutrients that support healthy function of the pancreas. It contains: 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. The reviews speak volumes so it looks well worth a go.
4. Vitamin E. 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. Don’t put it in straight away, give them a week on their new diet first (vitamin E invariably comes in oil form, it’s no problem, but just give him a few days). 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.
Some Low Fat Dog Food Recipe Ideas For Pancreatitis in Dogs
So you’re aiming for high protein, low fat (5% or less of fresh weight), low carb (5% approx. of fresh weight) mix. Easy.
50% lean meat (chicken / turkey / white fish / game with skin taken off, necks are good)
10% duck hearts
5% kidney, 5% pancreas, 5% liver
20% cooked and blended veg 5% whatever (boiled and mashed sweet spud with skin on, bit of low fat dairy, egg – easy on the yolk)
20% chicken / turkey necks 20% non-oil fish
5% beef heart, 5% kidney, 5% pancreas, 5% liver
10% cooked oats
15% cooked and blended veg
5% whatever (boiled and mashed sweet spud with skin, bit of low fat dairy, egg – easy on the yolk)
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.
I have spent a lot of time building up my knowledge. From a doctorate in animal behaviour and nutrition to years in guide dogs and the last seven year inside and out of the pet food industry, I have always provided all my information free to the public, articles that I spend a lot of time putting together. While it’s clearly a passion of mine the fact remains, I can’t do this and a steady job at the same time. Without a salary or fancy sponsorship, I am left trying to monetise my site as much as I can without pushing on you horrible adverts for car loans and crap pet products. One way I do this is by tracking some of the links to products I recommend (as an Amazon Associate I then earn from qualifying those purchases). Another is by popping a few ads for my products in some of my bigger articles. Finally, I’m now putting a donation button at the bottom of my longer articles. So, if this helped you in any way, helped you where your vet couldn’t and you feel you’d like to give me the price of a cup of coffee each month, please free to do exactly that. If you’re strapped and can’t afford it, I can totally sympathise, you’re free to read on, no questions asked. We’re glad to have you on board spreading the word regardless.
Many thanks and continued good health to you and your pets.