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Published: Dec 20, 2011

The pancreas is a crucial organ in a dog's body, as it produces enzymes to assist in food digestion and insulin which regulates blood sugar. Problems with the pancreas can cause very serious illness in dogs, according to VCA Animal Hospitals.

During the holiday season, some pet owners may think it's OK to feed their dogs scraps of table food or special holiday treats.  Rich and fatty foods can actually cause harm to the pancreas, resulting in pancreatitis—inflammation of the pancreas.

VCA reports when the pancreas becomes inflamed, it allows digestive enzymes that are meant to enter the small intestine to leak out into the abdominal cavity.  This may result in damage to the liver, bile ducts, gall bladder and intestines.

Clinical signs a dog suffering from pancreatitis may exhibit include a decreased appetite, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, fever and/or lethargy. Abdominal pain is common and may result in a dog being unable to find a comfortable position to lay in or a dog may cry out when its stomach or back is touched.

If a dog eats something unusual or has any of these clinical signs, its owner should bring it to a veterinarian clinic immediately. The vet may run certain blood tests or perform xrays to support the diagnosis of pancreatitis.  According to VCA, a test has recently been designed to more accurately diagnose pancreatitis.

Pancreatitis can be a life threatening condition and some dogs will require extended hospitalization and intensive supportive care.  Most dogs with pancreatitis require some fluids and anti-nausea medications. Once food is introduced, a bland, low-fat diet will usually be necessary.  Depending on the severity of the pancreatitis, your veterinarian will help you determine if your dog requires a special diet for a longer time period.