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The pancreas is one of the vital organs in the body which lies on the right side of the abdomen. It has two functions:
The cause of pancreatitis is not known. It is often associated with a rich, fatty meal. In some cases, it may be associated with giving corticosteroid drugs however, some dogs with pancreatitis do not have exposure to either.
Under normal conditions, digestive enzymes produced by the pancreas are activated when they reach the small intestines.
With pancreatitis, there is digestion of the pancreas itself by these enzymes.
We diagnose pancreatitis by: clinical signs, laboratory tests, and radiographs (x-rays) and/or ultrasound examination. Typical signs are:
The successful management of pancreatitis will depend on early diagnosis and immediate medical treatment. The only way to control the pancreas is to stop all oral fluids and food.
This is then accompanied by intravenous fluids to maintain normal fluid and electrolyte balance. In addition, anti-inflammatory drugs are sometimes given. Antibiotics are also necessary in many cases.
There are three possible long-term complications that may follow severe pancreatitis.
However, most dogs recover with no long-term effects.
When an unneutered male dog reaches 8 years of age, he has a greater than 80% chance of developing prostate disease, but it is rarely cancerous.
The gland serves the same function in the dog as it does in man and suffers from all the same diseases.
Most unneutered canines will at one time or another, suffer a lot of discomfort if not severe pain due to the prostate gland.
Signs of prostate disease
Classically, in the dog, an enlarged prostate causes painful defaecation. The prostate gland lies right below the rectum within the bony pelvis.
The canal through the pelvis is only so big and it cannot get any bigger on an individual dog.
Therefore, when the prostate increases in size, it pushes up against the rectum, greatly decreasing the space available for the rectum. This is the most common cause of constipation and faecal straining in the male dog.
Dogs with painful prostates will often walk abnormally. They are attempting to keep anything from pushing against or putting pressure on the swollen, painful gland.
Their rear legs will be stiff and straight at the knee and hock and they will usually take very short steps.
Other signs directly associated with prostatic infection are discharges from the penis including blood and pus, straining to urinate, and in rare cases, peritonitis, which develops when bacteria from the prostate leak out and enter the abdominal cavity.
Types of prostatic disease in the dog
Benign Prostatic Hyperplasia: In the dog, by far the most common prostatic disease is benign prostatic hyperplasia. This is not caused by bacterial or viral infection and it is not a form of cancer.
It is, rather, a normal ageing process of the gland. Almost all dogs over 4-5 years of age will show some degree of prostatic enlargement.
In many, the gland may not yet be painful, but as the condition continues with age, it will at the very least be a source of constant discomfort.
Bacterial Infections: Probably, the second most common form of prostatic disease in the dog is bacterial infection.
Bacteria can get into the prostate via the blood system or from the urinary tract. In the latter, bacteria can come from the bladder or come up the urethra through the penis.
Chronic infections follow this acute phase and may go on for years. They are difficult to treat, as bacteria can become trapped within scarred tissue of the gland. It is almost impossible to get medications into these areas.
The chronic stage is less painful, but still is a potential source of bacterial spread to other areas. Most dogs that have repeated bladder infections are just being continuously reinfected with bacteria from the diseased prostate.
Abscesses are a chronic form of bacterial infection in which pockets of pus have developed within the gland.
Cancer: Unlike humans, prostatic cancers are uncommon in the dog. Some would describe them as rare. When they do occur, they are usually malignant and potentially life threatening.
The cancer may metastasise, spreading throughout the body by the blood system. We have no cure for prostatic cancer so we do recommend castration of male dogs.
Over 90% of all prostatic diseases would be prevented during the life of all dogs if the animal was castrated in the first year of life.
Pyometra is a common disease in female dogs and although it is easy to diagnose, it can be very worrying in your old pet. Older female bitches that are not spayed and are one to two months beyond their season are at high risk of developing a pyometra.
Intact females of all ages that receive hormone injections to delay their heat or if there has been a mismating are also at risk. Spayed animals are rarely affected.
A pyometra often results from your pet's own bacteria within the genital tract. E. coli is the most common bacteria identified in pyometra. Whenever levels of the reproductive hormone progesterone rise (a few months after a season), the uterine lining becomes susceptible to bacterial infection.
Signs of a pyometra
Most patients are diagnosed using history, clinical signs, physical examination, a blood test (which show a raised white cell count) and abdominal x-rays or an ultrasound scan.
Pyometra requires prompt treatment or you may lose your pet. Antibiotics to fight the infection and intravenous fluids to correct the dehydration are routinely administered.
Your pet is then admitted straight away for surgical removal of the entire affected uterus and ovaries.
It is performed as we would a spay but is obviously a far more risky procedure due to the infection. Both horns of the uterus or womb are filled with thick pus.
The circulating bacteria in the blood can also affect the heart so they are a slight anaesthetic risk, but it is a risk worth taking or you would lose your pet.
Other tests if this condition is suspected in neutered bitches involve the use of an ultrasound to pick signs of a 'stump pyometra'. This is very rare.
Prognosis following ovariohysterectomy, or spay is good if there is no uterine rupture or other source of contamination.
If there is contamination of the abdomen with the infected pus from the womb, then these patients will certainly be hospitalised for longer periods of time as your pet would need intensive care.
The prognosis for such patients is guarded. We would make you aware of how the operation went.
Most patients are released two to three days after uncomplicated surgery. Antibiotics are continued for seven to 10 days after most procedures.
Other means of Treatment
While surgery is considered the treatment of choice for companion animals with pyometra, owners of valuable breeding animals or owners of very old pets may elect to treat pyometra medically.
Stable patients are given an injection on days 1, 2 and 8 to stimulate uterine contractions and to decrease the blood progesterone level.
This means of treatment has a 95% rate of success but the side-effect is the discharge which is basically pus that will drip from your bitch continuously for the length of treatment.
An elective spay of your young pet will virtually eliminate the possibility of pyometra.
Avoidance of oestrogen or progesterone injections will decrease the risk of pyometra in both young and mature pets, so avoid any mismatings.
If your pet has to have the hormone injection if there has been a mismating, have your bitch spayed within a few months of the injection to prevent a pyometra developing.