The pancreas is a vital organ in dogs that lies on the right side of the abdomen - beside the stomach and small intestine.
It has two main functions, to produce hormones such as insulin that regulate blood glucose, as well as to produce digestive enzymes that enter the gut to aid in digestion of foods.
When the pancreas becomes inflamed the condition is called pancreatitis.
Some dogs can develop a mild form of pancreatitis characterized by mild swelling in the pancreas.
Or, a more severe form is known as hemorrhagic pancreatitis, which can make them severely ill and may even result in death.
Normally the pancreas produces enzymes that travel through a duct to the duodenum - part of the small intestine - where they are activated and begin digestion.
In pancreatitis, these enzymes are activated prematurely while still in the pancreas and they essentially start to digest the pancreas tissue and are released into the abdomen where they can cause severe inflammation in the surrounding tissues.
Although it is often thought that eating a fatty meal can trigger pancreatitis is some dogs, in many dogs the exact cause is not known.
We do know that while middle-aged dogs, obese dogs, and some specific breeds such as the miniature schnauzer are more prone to pancreatitis, it can affect any dog.
The most common sign in a dog with pancreatitis is nausea, vomiting, lethargy, diarrhea, and abdominal pain.
Some dogs will assume a praying position with their rear ends in the air and front legs and head lowered on the floor.
Blood tests are often required to determine if a dog has pancreatitis.
There is a newer test called a spec CPL test, that is quite accurate in diagnosing it now.
Successful treatment of a dog with pancreatitis usually involves withholding food for a while, providing intravenous fluids, antibiotics, and medications to control vomiting and pain.
Most dogs will have a good recovery if it is not too far advanced.
Long-term avoidance of fatty foods seems to help recurrences of the disease.
Some dogs, however, may have repeated episodes of pancreatitis if there has been some damage to the pancreas.
Occasionally a dog may become diabetic if the damage to the pancreas affects insulin production in the long run.
It is important to have your dog checked out by a veterinarian if it shows symptoms of pancreatitis that are not resolving.