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Q: My dog was recently diagnosed with pancreatitis after eating a whole package of bacon off of the counter and was in the hospital for a few days. What is pancreatitis and how can I prevent it from happening in the future?

A: The pancreas is a smaller organ located next to the stomach and produces important hormones that are responsible for digestion and energy metabolism. Some of the hormones that the pancreas secretes are insulin and digestive enzymes in response to metabolic needs within the body and in response to eating. The digestive enzymes that the pancreas secretes are very destructive to tissue because they are meant to break down food that is being eaten so it can be more easily absorbed in the intestinal tract.

Pancreatitis essentially means “inflammation of the pancreas” and refers to inflammation of the actual organ and associated tissues. Pancreatitis in dogs is usually triggered by eating fatty foods such as bacon or other fat containing foods, unlike in cats where the actual trigger for the inflammation in the pancreas is not always easily identified.

The consequence of inflammation in the pancreas is that the destructive digestive enzymes are leaked within the tissues of the pancreas itself leading to destruction of the pancreas. This destruction of the pancreas will lead to intestinal upset such as vomiting and diarrhea and significant pain. Pancreatitis can be diagnosed with a cPLI blood test in dogs and an inflamed pancreas can typically be seen with an abdominal ultrasound.

Pancreatitis is a potentially fatal illness and should be treated aggressively when diagnosed. The treatment for pancreatitis for dogs is a period of fasting to allow the pancreas to heal, fluid therapy to address dehydration, pain medications, and anti-nausea medications to stop the vomiting. Typically, once a dog stops vomiting and can eat they can start taking oral medications and be sent home. After the initial recovery stage, these dogs will be placed on a bland diet for a while to reduce the amount of fat that the pancreas is exposed to while healing.

Unfortunately, once a dog has had pancreatitis they are more prone to getting it again, so avoiding fatty foods with these dogs is vital for prevention of recurrence. The consequence of frequent bouts of pancreatitis is the destruction of the cells within the pancreas that secrete insulin leading to insulin insufficiency and diabetes mellitus. Keeping dogs away from fatty foods is highly recommended to reduce the probability of pancreatitis.

Q: I am considering going to school to become a veterinary technician and was wondering what the job entails and what are the opportunities for me?

A: The veterinary technician is a vital part of any good veterinary hospital and they provide essential support to the veterinarian and the animals that are being treated.

The veterinary technician performs many duties including patient nursing care, phlebotomy, intravenous catheter placement, radiology, cytology, client communication and education, anesthesia monitoring, dental prophylaxis, and general support for the veterinarian.

Most veterinary technicians are highly trained, devoted to the care of animals, and have dedicated their lives to the profession. This is a challenging field on many levels, so before you make this commitment, I recommend volunteering or assisting in a veterinary hospital first to make sure that this is the right profession for you.

Once you decide this is the best career path for you, then I highly recommend becoming certified as a veterinary technician through a veterinary technician school because certification will allow you more opportunities within the profession. It is possible to become a technician by starting out as an assistant and getting your training on the job, however certification provides more flexibility and more money.

Once you are certified, there are additional opportunities for specialization in certain fields such as critical care and anesthesia. Veterinary medicine would not be as great as it is without the qualified veterinary technicians that have dedicated their lives to this profession.

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Dr. Julianne Miller is a Flagstaff veterinarian. She can be reached at drmiller@canyonpet.com.

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