Dog owners who are thinking about giving their dogs a raw diet often hesitate if their dogs have a chronic condition. They worry that a raw diet might complicate these conditions. One such condition is "pancreatitis", or the inflammation of the pancreas, a surprisingly common condition among dogs.

Pancreatitis happens when the pancreas, the organ responsible for producing digestive enzymes and insulin, becomes overloaded. When a dog is experiencing pancreatitis, it is due to the pancreas releasing enzymes that are usually inactive. This can result in pain and digestive upset in dogs, and is often treated with medication in conjunction with a specialty diet.

Pancreatitis: a closer look

There are many other causes of pancreatitis, including obesity, abnormal hormonal activity, some kinds of medication, and the sudden ingestion of high-fat food. Some breeds are actually more susceptible to pancreatitis such as Miniature Schnauzers and English Cocker Spaniels because they tend to have problems with their blood triglyceride levels and immune system.

There are two kinds of pancreatitis, acute and chronic. Acute pancreatitis or an acute pancreatic attack happens when the pancreas suddenly has to deal with a huge amount of fatty food. Many dogs experience acute pancreatic attacks during the holidays when they get to eat too much leftovers.

On the other hand, chronic pancreatitis is the result of more complicated imbalances in the dog’s digestive system. As the name implies, it is a chronic condition that must be addressed in the long-term and with the help of a veterinary professional.

Some claim that acute pancreatitis is more common among dogs who are used to commercial grain-based pet food. The idea is that because pet food is devoid of natural enzymes, the dog’s pancreas becomes used to producing more digestive enzymes to be able to digest the food. Thus, when the dog suddenly eats more ‘human’ food (raw or cooked) than they are used to, their pancreas may not be able to deal with it properly, resulting in a pancreatic attack.

Pancreatitis among dogs is more common than you think. According to a study, pancreatitis of the chronic sort has become a prevalent and clinically significant condition. In a survey of 200 dogs examined post-mortem after dying from a non-pancreatic disease, it was found out that 34% have chronic pancreatic conditions. Another study of 73 dogs revealed that 64% of otherwise healthy dogs have slight cases of chronic pancreatitis.

Raw Diet & Digestion

Because most dogs consume mass-produced and sterile dog food, our dogs’ digestive system becomes used to producing more digestive enzymes than their close relatives, wolves, and wild dogs. Raw diets aim to reconnect dogs to foods that are closer to their diets in the wild.

Raw diet's can reduce and even completely prevent acute pancreatic attacks by providing dogs a diet with naturally occurring digestive enzymes (and protein's low in fat.) A raw diet can even help dogs who already have a diseased pancreas. There is a lot of evidence that, in the wild, dogs eat the guts of their prey including the pancreas, to meet their dietary and digestive needs. These guts have naturally occurring digestive enzymes such as protease, lipase, and amylase which help in preventing pancreatic attacks.

Finally, some dog owners claim that a raw diet can help in avoiding old-age related issues in our dogs. Since a raw diet provides all the essential enzymes and nutrients, our dogs’s bodies do not have to work as much.

Modified Raw for Dogs with Pancreatitis

To make sure that a dog with pancreatitis transitions smoothly to a raw diet, you can choose to do a modified raw diet. A modified raw diet is simply a kind of raw diet with more specific components and serving amounts.

A modified raw diet should use meat that has less than 12% fat. Ideal meat of this sort includes chicken, duck, rabbit, and turkey. You should avoid red meat and meat with high-fat proteins such as pork, lamb, beef, and salmon - although, red meat with excess fat trimmed is usually well-tolerated.

If your dog has pancreatitis, it's important to stick to a low fat, low-carbohydrate diet to reduce strain on the pancreas as much as possible. Eliminating or reducing plant-matter and fatty meats is as essential to keeping your dog healthy on a raw diet, as much as managing your dogs portion sizes and mealtimes. Dogs that are predisposed to even acute episodes of pancreatitis do well on a diet that stays consistent and doesn't vary too much in percentages of fat and carbohydrates, as these variations can trigger flare-ups of the disease.