Lois Lane is an Australian Kelpie mix who we adopted from a local rescue in July of 2006. She’s a feisty little girl and one of the smartest dogs we’ve ever had. Last July, when she was 4 years old, Lois Lane was diagnosed with severe canine pancreatitis. We never believed she would truly pull through, but she did. It was a very difficult process for her and for us and we hope Lois Lane’s story will help shed some light on pancreatitis symptoms so that your dog may not have to go through what Lois did. Knowing the symptoms and getting help right away will be a huge stress reliever – on yourself, your dog and your wallet.
We first noticed Lois Lane gaining weight, particularly in her belly. Lois is a very food driven dog and would snatch up dog food, cat food or any food she found at any time she could. We began watching her closely at meal times to ensure she was only eating her food in hopes of dropping her down a few pounds. We then noticed that as Lois slept she began twitching a lot and seemed to be distant towards us, which is very uncommon for her social personality. She would still come when called, however it was with the attitude that she didn’t really want to or didn’t really feel like getting up.
This behavior continued and the twitching got worse and would occur in any one of her legs anytime she would lay down – asleep or not. We suspected she may be having seizures. The initial vet trip resulted in a confirmation of seizure activity brought on by epilepsy and a round of Phenobarbital was started. The seizure like episodes continued for the next week with no indication that the medication was helping.
Lois had gotten to the point where she was not eating much, she was aloof and lethargic and not herself at all. Her little belly was still distended and she began regurgitating what little she did eat. So back to the vet we went, this time seeing a different veterinarian who immediately ordered more blood tests and removed Lois from the Phenobarbital stating she was not having seizures and did not have epilepsy. With the blood results, the veterinarian suspected pancreas problems and asked that we leave Lois over night for observation and for intravenous fluids. When vomiting is severe, treatment begins with withholding of food, water, and oral medications for at least 24 hours. This stops the stimulation of the pancreas and keeps digestive enzymes from being produced. Fluid therapy was also done, as is common practice, to help prevent dehydration and electrolyte imbalances.
Generally after a day, or sometimes more, food and water intake resumes at a gradual pace, starting with a bland, easily digestible, high carb, low-fat food. Over a period of a week or so, the meal size is increased. Some dogs must stay on this special diet for life, others can gradually get back to a normal diet, though all diets should remain low-fat. This was not the case for Lois Lane. Lois continued to get worse and by the weekend needed 24 hour observation and care. She was not eating or drinking at all and continued to vomit at regular intervals.
Because Lois was at our regular vet who only carries week day hours and no after-hour care, it was recommended that she go to the 24 hour care vet, who only take in pets upon veterinary recommendation. Lois was transported to the new facility where she received superb 24 hour care. She was there for two weeks. Her pancreatitis became so bad that her refusal to eat put her at high risk to not pull through and we were at the point of having to make a very hard decision for our beloved girl. After the first week in doggie ICU something drastic had to be done or we were going to lose her. A feeding tube was inserted via Lois’ neck and fed down into her intestines to bypass the stomach, therefore preventing the pancreas from triggering digestive enzymes. She kept the feeding tube for a week before the specialist vet felt comfortable with attempting to remove it in hopes that Lois would eat on her own again. She was still regurgitating, but only in small amounts, and we had to get her off of the tube. She had to eat again – it was her last chance.
The tube was removed and she slowly started accepting the prescription diet and water when offered to her by the vet. After she was eating on her own for a few days, much to our excitement, she was released to come home under a very strict diet of only her prescription food. As happy as she was to be back home, she once again began refusing food. After three days of us trying to coax her to eat we had to do something or she was going to starve to death. We even tried baking the food into treat nuggets, but she even turned her nose up at those. Research was done on other types of extreme low-fat food and we called the vet back with two that we found that we thought would work. The first one we tried gave the same result as the prescription food where Lois would sniff at the food and then turn around and walk away, not even trying a nibble. So we then tried a third food, not a prescription brand, and luckily the third time was a charm. She took one smell and scarfed the little test amount we had given her. From that point on she’s eaten the food and loves it. We special order it cases at a time to ensure she never runs out due to the store being out of stock. The food is Nutro Ultra Weight Management Control.
I’m happy to say that Lois pulled through and is back to her normal, feisty self. It was close though and it was a rough road. She is on medications and diet food for life. She can’t be given any other food, especially any food high in fat. We have to take care that she can’t get into garbage cans, the cat food, or the other dog’s food. When guests are here she must be put up for fear of someone accidentally feeding her table scraps when we have cookouts. But it’s all worth it. Our little girl came home and now has a second chance at life.