One major cause of pancreatitis in dogs is processed foods that contain poor-quality fats, are often allergenic (sensitivity-causing) and induce gut inflammation that can lead to canine pancreatitis.
Processed and ultra-processed foods often rely on grains for energy and fibre. These are not the best food for pancreatitis in dogs.
It is well recognised that high grain-carbohydrate diets promote more elevated triglycerides (fats) in the blood.
A raw diet, counterintuitively, even if it’s high-fat, helps lower blood fats, reducing the risk of your dog developing pancreatitis.
Processed foods often cause gut inflammation, IBD and Leaky Gut problems, all of which can promote CP.
Find out more in our guide “What is kibble?”
Rancid fats are found in poor quality pet foods and in dry kibbles, especially if the bag has been open for a long time. This is quite common with people who buy large economy bags of food but only have a small dog. These fats are pro-inflammatory as well as being toxic.
Healthy fats do not cause pancreatitis in an otherwise healthy dog. Those found in raw food that have not been heated, modified, emulsified and oxidised as they are in kibbles.
If healthy fats did cause damage, generations of Huskies and the other mushing dogs in Alaska, Siberia and other cold climes would have died off years ago.
Their diet of whale or seal blubber with a bit of fish thrown onto the snow would have given each and every one of them raging pancreatitis, but it did not, obviously.
Find out more about fats for dogs in this guide.
Scavenging is usually fine, but if the dog picks up a particularly rotten morsel, this can really strain the pancreas through inflammation. If the scavenged material contains rancid fats, this can compound the problem.
Genetics can play a part. We know this because, as we have seen, certain breeds are predisposed. The most common genetic polymorphism is SPINK1. Just because a dog has the gene, though, doesn’t mean it will be expressed. Toxins, drugs and inflammation influence epigenetics, the mechanisms that control if a gene is switched on or off. A good (raw or lightly-cooked fresh) diet and minimal use of drugs, vaccines and flea and tick products are thought to encourage more healthy gene expression.
Obesity in dogs is rife in the UK and Europe among our dogs. Up to 70% of all dogs in this country are overweight or obese. Obesity predisposes to CP by increased pancreatic inflammation and cell death from an increased amount of fat in and around the pancreas.
Pharmaceutical causes of pancreatitis in dogs
120 known drugs can cause canine pancreatitis, including, for example, Potassium bromide and phenobarbitone for epilepsy. Corticosteroids (Prednisolone, Prednidale or Medrone, for example) are high on the list, too. Unfortunately, they are very commonly used daily in veterinary practice.
Cushing’s disease, where the body produces too much of its own natural steroids, can predispose to canine pancreatitis, just as the use of steroids in pill or injection form can.
Tropical, insect-borne blood parasites such as Babesiosis, or Leishmaniasis have been found to cause pancreatitis in dogs.
Entire male dogs and neutered females are seen to be more at risk.
Some studies suggest that the process of having surgery can also predispose to dogs to pancreatitis. It is not clear if it’s the act of surgery, the drugs or other factors, e.g. stress, at play.