Social Distancing From Pancreatitis This Holiday Season


Planning the holiday dinner may look different this year, but many families still expect to celebrate with the same delicious foods that comfort us each holiday season. Although not specific to this time of year, pancreatitis is more frequently seen at animal hospitals around the country during the holiday season. One of the main reasons for this is the amount of scrumptious but high-fat treats around the house, which pets aren’t typically used to consuming. When Fido or Garfield sneaks into the leftovers of turkey, ham or whatever yummy meal your family whips up on Thanksgiving, their pancreas has to work overtime to process that extra fat, and it can cause a wide array of symptoms including:

  • Lethargy
  • Decrease in appetite
  • Abdominal pain
  • Drooling
  • Restlessness
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea

As you can see, these are all fairly non-specific symptoms that could indicate a wide array of illnesses as well, so diagnostics such as blood tests, X-rays and abdominal ultrasounds can all be used to help correctly diagnose and manage this disease.


If your pet is experiencing any of these symptoms, it is important to call a veterinarian right away, as this is a painful and potentially life-threatening situation if not caught in time and managed appropriately.

While pancreatitis can’t be cured in the traditional sense, supportive care is necessary to manage the pain, inappetence, nausea and lethargy that are hallmarks of this disease.

If your pet is experiencing mild symptoms, they may be treated on an outpatient basis with special diet instructions and oral medications. More severe cases may call for hospitalization for intravenous fluid therapy and intravenous (IV) medication administration. Rarely, severe cases may need 24-hour care, fluids, a feeding tube, or treatment for problems with blood sugar related to decreased insulin production. Thankfully, the majority of pets recover with supportive care and a diligent eye on fatty or high-calorie treats.

While not every pet that finds the holiday ham will be at risk, there are some things you can do to decrease the odds that you and your furry family will have to deal with this condition.

  • Don’t feed pets table food or leftovers
  • Avoid fatty foods for pets entirely (think ham, gravy, stuffing, anything with lots of butter, and poultry skin)
  • Make sure your family and friends know not to feed your animals. Alternatively, consider crating your pets or placing them in a separate room during dinner.
  • Make an effort to keep any holiday treats off of countertops and tables where tall dogs or crafty cats have access
  • Empty trash to outside bins immediately to prevent any dumpster-diving in your kitchen

As always, if any concerns arise, contact your local veterinarian or local emergency clinic. At VCA Calvert Veterinary Center, our veterinarians and staff are always happy to see you and assist your pets this holiday season, but following the tips above many prevent any unexpected visits, and keep you at home with your loved ones this holiday season.


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