Understanding Pancreatitis In Dogs
Posted by Michael Peterson on
Our first experience with pancreatitis was when our toy poodle, Angel, woke up sick one morning. Her stomach was extremely noisy, she was uncomfortable and we weren’t sure what to do for her. Since she was young she had always been a finicky eater in the morning and would throw up bile if she didn’t eat breakfast. I guess these might have been warning signs. We had tried all kinds of different dog foods but nothing appealed to her. On this day, however, things were much more extreme. By early afternoon she was thowing up and it was obvious that she needed to see a vet. The next 24 hours were horrible. The vet ran tests and confirmed it was acute pancreatitis. She therefore insisted on not giving her ANYTHING except IV fluids. I had read about Carafate (Sucralfate) but she refused to give her any of it during the 24 hour fasting period. As a result, she soon developed bloody diarrhea, continued to throw up and we feared for the worst. Later that night we took her to the animal hospital to continue IV’s. She ended up spending two nights in the hospital and having a blood transfusion before finally turning the corner. When we got her back home she was on antibiotics, famotidine and carafate but her stomach was still noisy and she was miserable. Since the antibiotics were just to prevent her from getting an infection (not to treat one) we stopped giving it and things quickly began to improve.
I began researching pancreatitis and searching for a new Vet.
What Is Pancreatitis?
Pancreatitis occurs when the pancreas becomes inflamed. In most cases, this condition causes the pancreas to release too many digestive enzymes into the digestive tract. The primary culprit is lipase which is the enzyme that assists with the digestion of fat. When Angel had a blood panel it showed that her lipase levels were off the charts. High lipase levels can cause nausea, vomiting, intense upper stomach pain, fatty stools, lack of appetite / weight loss, rapid heart beat and fever.
What to do?
Our next vet taught me that instead of fasting dogs (especially small ones), you should feed through the flare using very small low fat meals and make sure they are drinking water. This way they don’t become dehydrated and end up in the hospital. We used chicken breast, white rice and mushy peas because Angel wouldn’t eat the prescription i/d food. By keeping meals small (about 1/3 of normal) the vet told us that the pancreas would still be able to rest and since they were super low in fat her lipase levels would come down.
Dogs that have one acute flair can sometimes go completely back to normal once things calm down, especially if the flare was caused by over indulging in something they weren’t supposed to. If your dog continues to have flares however, it may be necessary to make dietary changes by increasing fiber and drastically reducing the fat content.
Angel’s lipase levels remained stubbornly high which meant that she had chronic pancreatitis instead of acute pancreatitis. She would often wake up in the middle of the night with nausea and discomfort often throwing up. I would give her carafate and a little food if she would eat it and in an hour she would go back to sleep. If I could get her to eat breakfast then she would have a pretty good day. If not, we would find a puddle of yellow bile somewhere around the house at lunch time and she would eat her breakfast at that time. Since carafate (sucralfate) shouldn’t be used long term our vet found a more natural solution called Gastrafate for her to use daily. It smelled terrible and she hated the taste, but I diligently gave it to her before breakfast and at bedtime for several years and it did help minimize her flares.
Since she had to be on a low fat diet long term we switched from rice to quinoa. She ate it along with chicken breast, peas, green beans, pumpkin, sweet potato and sodium free dry curd cottage cheese for the rest of her life. She loved pasta so we often gave her Banza pasta (made with chickpeas) in place of her quinoa for variety. We had always been told that dogs need lots of fat in their diet for a healthy coat etc, but she did much better on a low fat diet. We had to keep her meals small and fed her four times per day including at bedtime. It got to the point where I even had to give her a meal in the middle of the night which would help her make it through the night without getting sick.
Our Big Breakthrough!
In the spring of 2013 we were going on a trip and taking Angel along. I had ordered Gastrafate from the vet but it was back ordered and she was at the end of her supply. I knew that if we left town without it she would be miserable the whole time as we had become very dependent on it and she really couldn’t be without it. Since I had long been involved with marketing and studying supplements I started doing research and found that I could make a similar gooey substance using slippery elm bark powder. I immediately went out and bought slippery elm capsules, opened 10 of them and put it in a little shaker cup with a few ounces of water. After shaking for a bit it started to turn into a gel which was amazing and a huge relief.
That night I gave her the slippery elm instead of Gastrafate thinking I would save that for when she needed it. Surprisingly she woke up the next morning feeling better than she had in years. I was completely amazed. When we returned home I continued to do some research finding that marshmallow root would be beneficial for her stomach lining and intestines. Milk thistle seed and dandelion root are supportive for the liver, pancreas and other vital organs so I began experimenting with different combinations until I came up with GastroElm Plus. After a few weeks Angel literally came back to life. She began to play and go on walks like she was a pup instead of a 13 year old dog.
After being on it for a few months we checked her enzyme levels and they were normal for the first time in years! Our vet was amazed as he had never seen this happen in a dog that had been chronic for so long. Her flares became much less frequent as long as we used it on a daily basis.
After seeing the amazing results with Angel as well as other dogs, cats and even horses I decided we should make this product more widely available. I went to the best suppliers I knew and began ordering the ingredients in bulk. In 2018 I found my current slippery elm supplier who only deals in organic wild crafted Appalachian slippery elm bark. The bark is sustainably harvested by two families who have been doing it for decades. The result is the most fragrant, wonderful slippery elm powder I’ve ever worked with. I could purchase organic slippery elm for roughly half the price, but believe me it’s not the same.
Using GastroElm Plus For Pancreatitis in Dogs
I still use a little shaker cup to make it into a gel. You can mix 1 tablespoon of powder with 4 ounces of water and shake it for 10 seconds to make a smooth gel. For smaller dogs you can mix 1/2 tablespoon with 2 ounces of water in a smaller shaker. You can store it in a closed container in the fridge for up to a week. It will start to smell funny when it goes bad.
I use a syringe to give it to smaller animals 5 minutes prior to breakfast and at bedtime. For bigger dogs this can be hard so you can mix the gel into food or a snack. Here is a link to the complete instructions.
Frequently Asked Questions
Do I have to give it daily or just when my dog has flares?
Using the recommended doses there really is no downside to using it daily. If you notice energy improvement and fewer stomach issues it’s best to use it at breakfast time and bedtime daily.
Can I use more during flares?
Yes. You can give a third dose midday if you notice them shaking (pain) or a noisy stomach. You can even cut the dose in half and give it every couple hours during bad flares.
Is it safe to use long term?
Yes. We use whole herbs, not extracts or concentrates so they are well balanced and very safe for long term use in the recommended doses. Whole herbs such as dandelion root and milk thistle seed have multiple flavonoids and other components that provide balanced support without over stimulating the liver.
Does GastroElm Plus interfere with other meds?
No. GastroElm Plus creates a water based barrier that meds can pass through.
How about taking it with food and supplements?
I mix other supplements right into GastroElm Plus with great results. One example was adding 500mg of Hawthorn Berry to each batch of GastroElm Plus for Angel when she developed an enlarged heart. It worked amazingly well and was much easier than trying to give it to her separately.
Most animals trend back toward their normal weight once they are on GastroElm Plus so this indicates that they actually have better food utilization when on it. This is true with dogs, cats and horses.
You can learn more by reading an interview I did with Dr Michele Yasson who has used this ingredients for over 30 years in her practice:
Interview With Dr Michele Yasson
Founder of Nature’s Pet Supply
- I’m not a veterinarian so everything in this article is for informational purposes only and not intended to replace proper veterinary care. Everything I’ve learned is from research, experience working with our own animals and from helping thousands of sick animals over the past 8 years.
Angel lived to be 15 1/2 years old despite developing chronic pancreatitis when she was 7 years old. This video of Angel was taken when she was 13 and had been taking GastroElm Plus for a couple months. Her energy level was off the charts.