Pancreatitis is an unnerving word and it is a disease that affects many dogs. The term pancreatitis really just means inflammation of the pancreas. Even still, a diagnosis of pancreatitis is still upsetting for pet owners as the disease can be very painful and discomforting for dogs. Fortunately pancreatitis is a disease that can be managed and treated with veterinary care and lifestyle changes.
One of the best ways to help reduce pancreas inflammation is by changing what your dog eats. This is because the pancreas is an organ that plays a major role in digestion. The pancreas has 2 main digestive roles:
1. Secreting the hormones insulin and glucagon to assist in glucose handling
2. Secreting enzymes to help with protein and fat breakdown.
Even with a treatment plan, it is important to keep an eye out for changes in your dog’s behaviour and health, as pancreatitis is a disease that is persistent and continually reoccurs throughout their lifetime. It is always recommended that you consult with a veterinarian first to discuss the best course of diet for your pet. Listed below are some of Kabo’s best tips on managing a diet for a dog with pancreatitis.
Fat is one of the most influential factors in triggering pancreas inflammation. An influx of fat from food means that the pancreas has to work harder to produce digestive enzymes, therefore further aggravating inflammatory conditions.
For a dog with pancreatitis, it is best to avoid high fat diets. Protein sources such as lamb and beef are usually too high in fat and may cause problems for dogs with chronic pancreatitis. Instead, look for low fat proteins like chicken or turkey, non-oily fish, or even lean game meat.
It is recommended by veterinarians to look for diets that have 5-10% crude fat dry matter. Most pet food labels are required to list their nutrition as “As Fed” values on their packaging rather than dry matter. To convert the crude fat % on your pet’s food to dry matter, first subtract the moisture % from 100. Next, take the % crude fat from the label and divide the % crude fat by the % dry matter. If the dry matter % you calculated is less than 10%, it is safe for dogs with pancreatitis to eat!
The pancreas also helps to digest proteins, so a high protein diet should also be avoided. It is also beneficial to look for quality proteins that are easily digested to avoid strain on the pancreas. Veterinarians recommend that a pancreatitis diet should be less than 20-30% dry matter crude protein. You can convert the crude protein % on your pet food label to dry matter using the same calculation used above for crude fat.
Reducing strain on the pancreas is key for eliminating pancreatic inflammation. This can be done by feeding your dog food that is easy to digest. If your dog’s food is easier for them to digest then it should be easier on a digestive organ like pancreas, right?
Fresh, whole ingredients are highly digestible to dogs. Whole proteins like chicken and salmon are more digestible to dogs than plant proteins like pea protein or wheat gluten. In contrast, simple starches like rice are also easy for a dog’s tummy to digest. Avoid ingredients like cellulose, meat meals and soy as they require more effort for dogs to break down. Quality ingredients equals a happy pancreas!
To manage pancreatitis is to reduce inflammation, so why not feed a diet that includes antioxidants? The main function of antioxidants is to reduce inflammation by repairing damage done by dangerous free radicals. Some examples of great antioxidants to look for are:
It’s also important to be aware of additives that cause inflammation. These are usually ingredients that are fillers or preservatives that hold no nutritional value anyway. Some examples of inflammatory additives are BHT/BHA, ethoxyquin, refined carbohydrates, artificial color and artificial flavours.
Pancreatitis is a disease that occurs in varying levels of severity. Our suggestion is that if your dog has severe pancreatitis, it is best to stick to a prescription diet from your veterinarian. If your dog’s pancreatitis is more manageable, there may be some commercially available options available as well. Remember, when it comes to your dog’s pancreatic health, always consult your veterinarian on what is the best diet for them.
Pancreatitis is a manageable disease. The best long term treatment is to feed your dog a high quality diet that is low fat and low protein. Ensuring that their food is also highly digestible, contains antioxidants and is free of inflammatory additives goes a long way in making sure a pup’s pancreas is happy. We suggest working with your veterinarian to figure out the best care plan is for your dog!
Veterinary Partner. “Pancreatitis in dogs” (2021).
Merck Veterinary Manual. “Pancreatitis and Other Disorders of the Pancreas in Dogs” (2021).
Butternut box. “Dog food for pancreatitis” (2021).
All about dog food. “Feeding dogs with pancreatitis”. (2020).
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Our 10 month old Frenchie pup always waits till 10pm to eat her food - doesn't eat all day then eats at bedtime just because she realizes that's all that she is getting. We have been using Kabo toppers now for a few weeks and we mix it with her kibble and she eats everything! Licks her bowl clean. Her coat looks great. So happy we found Kabo!
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