Pancreatitis: The Thanksgiving Disease

By:  Dr. Hilary Slaven

One disease that we veterinarians notoriously see around the holidays is one that seems to come on quickly and is quite serious.  It is classically characterized by loss of appetite, painful belly, listlessness, and vomiting hours after a rich fatty meal.

Pancreatitis  (Pronounced “Pain-cree-uh-ti-tis”) is a swelling of the pancreas, which is a small organ that lives near the stomach and liver in the front of the abdomen (nearest to the diaphragm and chest).  It’s normal function is to provide enzymes (proteins that break down food in the intestine) and hormones for normal body functions.

The cause for this disease is largely unknown.  It is a complex disease to diagnose and to treat, and can potentially become a chronic (long term) illness.  Veterinarians do have blood tests that can help diagnose the disease, along with a good history from an owner and physical exam.  Often imaging such as an x-ray and/or an ultrasound can help narrow down the diagnosis as well as look for other potential causes for stomach pain and vomiting, such as an obstruction in the intestine, masses, etc.

Often dogs and cats that present with this disease have little to no appetite and are listless, not drinking, and may or may not have vomited.

June 2014 315The mainstay of treatment for this disease is supportive care, which typically involves staying in the hospital overnight (perhaps for multiple nights) with fluids given through an IV catheter and pain management.  Anti-nausea medication can be important as well.

This is a complex disease and there are many variations as to treatment plans and recovery.  It is not uncommon to take several days to weeks to get back to normal exercise and activity level.  In some cases, the pet must change some habits in order to prevent recurrence of pancreatitis.  This can include a diet change to a lower-fat, more ‘pancreas-friendly’ diet.

While eating your yummy Thanksgiving dinner this week, remember to keep your furry friend from eating table scraps and instead give them a rationed amount of pet-friendly treats so that you all can celebrate in good health.


Red, Swollen, Painful Ears! Oh My!

By:  Dr. Hilary Slaven

One of the most common ailments that we see here in the clinic are dogs (and cats) with ear flaps that swell up with fluid, usually overnight or over a few days.

Aural Hematoma

This fat ear has got to be uncomfortable.

The typical story is, “My furry friend has been shaking his head a lot over the last week, and this morning we woke up to a fat ear.  It’s huge!  And sore!  Now he’s tilting his head and acts uncomfortable.”

This is a condition known as an Aural Hematoma.  This is the technical term for an ear flap that has filled with a pocket of blood that is trapped underneath the skin.

Aural Hematoma Cat

It happens to kitty cats, too!!

The cause:  An ear infection or other wound to the ear that is painful and annoying.  The dog feels pain and he starts to flip his head around over and over until a blood vessel pops underneath the skin of the ear.

Yowch!!!  Am I right???

Now there is a pool of blood underneath the skin, and pressure, which is even more irritating to the dog.  A vicious cycle begins.  The dog flips his head around even more, causing a bigger pool of blood…you see where I’m going with this.  It doesn’t take long for the blood pocket to grow until it can fill up the entire ear.

So now what?

It all comes down to releasing the fluid and preventing the fluid from building back up.  Typically, draining the fluid alone (say, with a needle), is a very temporary fix because the ear will fill back up unless the ear flap is tacked down to prevent it.  Also, the underlying issue (i.e. ear infection, etc.) has got to be addressed, to take away any irritation that is causing the dog to flip his ear around.

There are many different ways that the fluid can be released and pressure applied to prevent refill.  Surgery is the most sure way of getting a good result.  This involves general anesthesia for the furry friend (he has to be completely asleep!), and the ear’s hair is clipped and prepped for a sterile surgery.  An incision is made to release the fluid, and the ear flap is tacked down with suture or a plastic kit to hold the ear flat for 7-10 days while the ear heals.

This is easier to visualize with a picture:

Aural Hematoma Surgical Repair

A sleepy dog recovers from surgery to repair an aural hematoma in his left ear.

Placing sutures or tacks through the ear also helps for the flap to scar in a more cosmetic, normal way (no crinkles in the ear post-op).

Typically, dogs are sent home with a regimen of oral anti-inflammatories that also help with post-operative pain.  Some dogs may have to have a topical or oral antibiotic if there is infection involved.  Sometimes a bandage over the head can help facilitate healing, and a collar around the neck to help prevent the dog from scratching or rubbing the ear while recovering.

If your furry friend develops any kind of swelling over the ear, come in and see us!  This is a condition that needs to be addressed quickly for the best results.