Pancreatitis is an inflammatory disease of the pancreas, often thought to be associated with over-stimulation of the pancreas gland as a result of high fat meals. It is a condition that is becoming increasingly prevalent in clinical practice, and no doubt, is seen more commonly in older pets. Yet again, this disease condition is over-expressed in pets eating processed, cooked pet foods, and rarely, if ever, seen in dogs and cats that eat a raw food diet. Whilst commonly accepted theory dictates that pancreatitis is caused by an “overload” on the pancreas as a result of an extremely high fat meal, whereby the digestive enzyme, lipase, is activated within the gland (cf normally excreted into the pancreatic duct in an inactive state and then activated within the gut lumen) and causes “auto-digestion” and acute inflammation of the pancreatic tissue.
Another school of thought, proposed by American veterinarian Wendell Bellfield DVM, suggests that pancreatitis may actually be triggered by pancreatic “exhaustion”. Bellfield’s studies indicate that the pancreas has a finite level of enzyme production which is slowly degraded by the daily process of digestion. Human studies have also shown that an 18 year old male has 30 times the digestive capacity of a 85 year old male, and that the pancreas does in fact lose its capacity to produce digestive enzymes over time. In fact, it is the limitation of poor digestion that contributes to the ageing process, and that subtle malnutrition, as a direct result of poor digestion, is what causes much of the demise in health in the older population.
If we can accept that the pancreas does have a finite level of function, which is not greatly different to that of any other body organ, then the type of food eaten, and the level of pancreatic output required to digest that food, will have a long term impact on the longevity of that organ. Studies have shown conclusively that cooked foods do require a higher enzymatic output from the pancreas to effect proper digestion. Studies on laboratory rats demonstrated that rats fed on a cooked food vs raw food diet showed a 20% increase in pancreatic weight (pancreatic hypertrophy) when fed cooked rations. If we accept that raw food does contain enzymes that assist food breakdown (compare what happens to a raw steak and a cooked steak when left at room temperature over 7 days), then it makes sense that cooked food actually does require higher pancreatic output to effect digestion, and that an animal’s pancreatic function will be more quickly utilized when fed a cooked ration.
Given that dogs and cats have evolved over 40 million years eating raw food, is it so surprising to accept that changing their diet to a fully cooked ration could in fact be causing an increase in pancreatic exhaustion and an increased incidence of pancreatitis.
I have treated many cases of pancreatitis over the years, and whilst I do not have any secrets in actual treatment, I have found that diet change (to a raw food diet) will make a huge difference in lessening the rate of recurrence, and in the long term prognosis of the animal. In combination with a change to raw food, I also advocate the addition of pancreatic enzymes to the diet (eg Enzyplex powder) to create a “reverse feedback” effect on the pancreas, and to effectively supplement a failing organ. Pets that are raised on a raw food diet are extremely unlikely to ever have to deal with pancreatitis, or indeed a raft of other chronic degenerative diseases that can be linked to poor nutrition.
Dr Bruce Syme BVSc (Hons), Founder of Vets All Natural.
Dr Bruce Syme is a practicing vet and expert in natural pet nutrition, has spoken at the Australian Veterinary Association Annual Conference, and provides regular comment on TV and Radio.
Disclaimer: The entire contents of this article are based upon the opinions of Dr. Bruce Syme, unless otherwise noted. The information is not intended as medical advice, it simply shares the knowledge and information from the research and experience of Dr. Bruce and his community. Pet health care decisions should be based upon your research and in partnership with a qualified pet health care professional.
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