Pancreatitis - The pancreas, when functioning normally, secretes digestive juices into the small intestine to aid in the breakup of food. When Pancreatitis develops, this is an inflammation of the pancreas which triggers enzymes to digest the organ itself.
The exact cause of this condition is unknown, however it may include reaction to certain medications (corticosteroids are the most likely culprit), ingestion of toxins and/or a buildup of excess fat in the bloodstream.
It is believed that this occurs more often with overweight dogs or those that ingest a diet too high in fat. With Yorkies that are predisposed to this or on the brink of a pancreatic attack, it may occur right after eating a fatty meal.
The 2 main symptoms are pain and loss of appetite. Since our dogs, of course, cannot tell us when they are in pain, you would notice behavioral issues… A Yorkie may retreat to a quiet area, not want to be touched - particularly on or around the stomach area, snap when someone tries to pick him up or move him, etc.
With some dogs, there may also be some diarrhea
and/or vomiting which can quickly lead to dehydration.
If you suspect that your Yorkie's refusal to eat may be associated with this issue, immediately schedule a checkup. While rare, there is a form of very severe pancreatitis that can send a dog into shock and can be fatal if not treated.
Most cases are mild and will require a physical exam and blood tests for diagnosis. A newer test is the Canine Pancreatitis Lipase Immuninol Reactivity which works well for diagnostic purposes. An ultrasound may also be performed.
Treatment - Depending on the severity, a Yorkie may need to be kept several nights. While some will need to be treated for shock and/or dehydration, most will be put on IV solutions in order to allow the pancreas to rest (no solid food is given). Antibiotics are given as well as medication to control pain or discomfort.
If the attack has affected the dog's heart functioning (cardiac arrhythmias), anti-arrhythmic medication will be given as well.
Most dogs do respond, however those who do not will require surgery to drain the organ of those excessive digestive juices.
All Yorkies that experience a bout of pancreatitis will be must more prone to developing it again, though the severity may change (a previous severe attack may lead to a mild one and visa-versa).
For this reason, there should be careful monitoring of food intake. Zero table scraps will be allowed (though this is never recommended to begin with). Meals should be spaced apart - for example 1 meal in the evening will change to 3 smaller meals throughout the day.
For most Yorkies, a lower fat diet will be suggested.
In some cases, a dog will need to be given enzymes or insulin as supplementation to this treatment.