Parker, an 11 year old Yorkshire Terrier, was not feeling like himself. He was lethargic and vomiting. He couldn’t even keep water down. By the time he was in the BRVC exam room with Dr. Leanne Taylor, he was unable to stand without assistance. Parker’s parents were very worried about their little guy.
Parker has been a patient at BRVC since he was a puppy and Dr. Taylor knew from his medical notes that he suffered a bout of pancreatitis several years earlier. Once an animal has pancreatitis, they are much more susceptible to getting it again. This knowledge, combined with his symptoms, led Dr. Taylor to suspect Parker was suffering from a particularly painful attack of pancreatitis.
Pancreatitis is the inflammation of the pancreas. It usually manifests as an acute attack that advances rapidly and requires immediate medical attention. It can be caused by eating fatty or human foods but sometimes there is no known cause. The pancreas produces digestive enzymes for the intestines. When it becomes inflamed, those enzymes are forced outwards, causing more inflammation and irritation in the abdominal area. Because of this, pancreatitis is extremely painful and dangerous.
Dr. Taylor needed to run some diagnostics to make sure they were indeed dealing with pancreatitis. She ran a blood panel, took x-rays, and performed an ultrasound. The x-rays are to help rule out other possible causes such as a mass or a foreign body. The ultrasound is the best tool for diagnosing this disease – Dr. Taylor could see that Parker’s pancreas was extremely inflamed and his gallbladder was obstructed as well. The blood panel revealed elevated liver enzymes indicating a possible infection.
The blocked bile duct of the gallbladder was a big concern and what made this an especially severe case. Like the pancreas, the gallbladder also produces special digestive enzymes. These drain into the intestines to help the body break down fats. Parker’s pancreas was so inflamed it was obstructing the gallbladder, causing it to become clogged and backed up. Not only is this painful but it is dangerous – the clogged gallbladder has the potential to burst. Dr. Taylor recommended immediate and aggressive therapy to help combat Parker’s illness.
Parker was admitted into the BRVC Patient Care for 48 hours of hospitalization, antibiotics and IV Fluids. He was also going to need a plasma transfusion due to the severity of his case. Plasma can help bolster the immune system. Within a few hours of admittance, Parker was undergoing the transfusion procedure. His Patient Care Nurse monitored him closely, checking his vitals every 5 minutes for the first half hour of the transfusion. Once he proved to be stable, his vitals were checked every 30 minutes for the next 4 hours.
In typical pancreatitis the appetite usually returns after the initial 24 hours of treatment, especially after a plasma transfusion. Parker’s case was atypical in that he was still recumbent and not interested in food. But Dr. Taylor, the staff, and Parker’s parents were not ready to give up. Dr. Taylor recommended a second plasma transfusion and a course of steroids to further decrease inflammation.
Finally, after his second transfusion, Parker started showing signs of improvement. He was sitting up and trying to bury his water bowl – a huge turnaround from the days prior. His appetite was starting to improve as well. Instead of a dull eyed, lethargic dog, he was bright, alert, and responsive. The fact that he wanted to eat a little was an especially good sign. You want an animal with pancreatitis to start eating as soon as possible as it helps aid the healing process. Having food in the intestines helps stimulate the gallbladder to contract and release the backed up bile. A recheck ultrasound revealed that the swelling and inflammation had decreased.
After three intense days at BRVC, Parker was able to go home with his family to complete his recovery! His at home care includes a bland and sensitive diet (such as boiled chicken and rice), pain medication, anti-nausea medicine, pepcid a/c, and an appetite stimulate as well as a special medication to protect his liver. Dr. Taylor and the Patient Care Staff were so happy – there is nothing like nursing a sick animal back from the brink. The best reward is seeing a pet go home with the family they love.