What is it?

Pancreatitis is inflammation of the pancreas. The pancreas is an organ located near the stomach that is responsible for producing digestive enzymes that are released into the small intestine to help digest carbohydrates, fat and protein. It is also the organ which makes insulin to control our blood glucose levels.

Pancreatitis can be acute (sudden onset) or chronic with symptoms including depression, poor appetite, vomiting, abdominal pain, diarrhoea and weight-loss. It is a potentially life-threatening disease.

Why does it occur?

The cause of pancreatitis is not fully understood, but there are some risk factors that have been attributed to increasing the likelihood of pancreatitis occurring. Overweight pets are at greater risk of developing the disease, and often affected pets have a history of a recent fatty meal. Certain breeds are at greater risk, such as Miniature Schnauzers, Cocker Spaniels and Burmese cats.

How is it diagnosed and treated?

Pancreatitis can sometimes be difficult to diagnose, however clinical examination of your pet and relevant history may give increased suspicion of pancreatitis. Often blood tests are required to support the diagnosis, and occasionally an abdominal ultrasound as well.

Depending on the severity, patients may need to be hospitalised and placed on intravenous fluids whilst we withhold food and water to give the pancreas a ‘break’. Pain relief will be required, and often medications to stop further vomiting. Occasionally in more mild scenarios, your pet may be able to be managed at home. Very severe cases can sometimes require surgery and intensive medical care. Each case needs to be assessed individually, so if your pet is off it’s food or vomiting and you suspect pancreatitis, veterinary attention should be sought immediately.

How can you prevent it occurring?

As mentioned, many of the pets we see that are suffering an acute bout of pancreatitis have a history of recently eating a fatty meal. Hence why it is relevant to mention during the festive season! A common ‘culprit’ is the left over ham bone, but any rich foods (such as sausages, bacon, barbeque table scraps and marrow bones) containing high percentage of fat should be avoided!

Keeping your pet fit and at it’s ideal body weight is important. You shouldn’t be able to see all of your dog or cat’s ribs but you should be able to easily feel them. If you are unsure about your pet’s weight, speak to our nurses or vets and they can help assess their body condition and give advice on feeding.

Patients that have been treated for pancreatitis before, or that have a chronic form of the disease, may have to be on a prescription diet and sometimes even enzyme and insulin supplements to manage the disease long term.

‘Bloat’ – Gastric Dilation Volvulus

What is it?

Gastric Dilation/Volvulus (GDV), more commonly known as “bloat”, is a life threatening condition that develops very quickly. Volvulus refers to twisting of the stomach in conjunction with gaseous dilation.

The cause of GDV is complex and not fully understood but certain breeds are predisposed and dogs that consume large meals very rapidly or exercise directly after eating seem to be at a higher risk of developing GDV.

Firstly, air or gas builds up in the stomach. This may be due to poor motility of the gut or the dog may have swollowed excessive air during feeding or exercise. As the pressure in the dog’s stomach increases it interrupts the blood flow back to the heart causes immediate shock and decreased oxygen circulation around the body. If a volvulus occurs, the stomach twists and compresses other organs like the spleen. The stomach wall is deprived of oxygen and begins to die and can rupture. Bacteria and toxins will be released from the diseased stomach leading to severe sepsis and other life-threatening complications.


  • Restlessness
  • Increased respiratory rate or panting
  • Distended/swollen abdomen
  • Hyper salivation/Excessive drooling
  • Non-productive retching, vomiting white froth
  • Collapse


The breed of your pet can be the first indication they could be at risk of GDV. Deep chested dogs like the Great Dane, Irish Setter, German Shephard, Pointers, Weimaraner, Afghan Hound, Boxer, Basset Hound and St Bernard are at highest risk.

On examination your veterinarian will be able to identify an enlarged abdomen and possibly feel a distended stomach full of gas. They will check the patient’s heart rate and pulses and assess for signs of shock. If there is any concern about bloat, then your veterinarian recommend abdominal radiographs to confirm their diagnosis. This will help to determine not only if gastric dilation is present, but also to assess for the presence of volvulus.


Treatment for GDV is an emergency! Your veterinarian will first treat your dog for shock with intravenous fluids and provide pain relief. The pressure from the dilated stomach then needs to be quickly relieved. Depending on the severity of GDV there are several methods used to do this, however most cases will require urgent abdominal surgery. During the surgery the stomach is returned to its normal position and then secured to the abdominal wall to prevent future occurrences of volvulus. There are many secondary medical complications following GDV, so your dog may need to stay in hospital for a number of days before they are ready to go home.

Gastric Dilation Volvulus is a potentially life threatening condition. If your dog presents with a distended stomach please contact your veterinarian immediately!

My pet has eaten something they shouldn’t have!

Tango’s Story

Majority of the time when a sick patient visits one of our Veterinarians they are able to establish a diagnosis and treatment plan quickly. Well not for Tango the black Labrador, she has a more interesting story to share!

Tango first came to see Dr Kristy Gilbert with a high temperature and mild changes in her liver function. Kristy prescribed antibiotics and bland diet for a week and Tango quickly became progressively better therefore no further treatment was required.

But then the plot thickens! Two months later Tango visited us again for a high temperature, sore abdomen and lethargy. This was very unlike the normal Tango, who is usually bursting with energy, which encouraged a need for further investigation.

Kristy decided to run a few blood tests to check Tango’s overall health along with a blood smear which allows her to examine Tango’s cells in more depth. Her white blood cells looked abnormal and this indicated that there might be an infection beneath the surface somewhere.

Later, Kristy suggested an abdominal ultrasound for the next available day. In the mean time Tango was admitted to hospital for intravenous fluid therapy, an antibiotic injection and monitoring to see whether her symptoms progressed into vomiting or diarrhoea.

The next day Kristy conducted an abdominal ultrasound, which revealed some abnormalities in Tango’s spleen. The spleen is responsible for removing nasty cells from the body and although it is very important in the body a dog can actually live without it. Under close inspection Kristy found a suspicious 2-3mm nodule. Kristy explained to Tango’s owners that the best option would be to remove the spleen and perform a biopsy to ensure that the suspicious nodule is not cancerous.

The next day Dr Quentin Brown performed a Splenectomy, which involves the removal of Tango’s entire spleen under a general anaesthetic. Once the spleen was removed the plan was to biopsy the sinister nodule and send it away for histopathology.

What happened next was incredible. As Dr Quentin explored the strange looking nodule with a tiny bit of dissection, out popped a TOOTHPICK! She must have ingested a toothpick that burrowed its way through her intestines and into her spleen. Tango’s owners were extremely relieved, as much as this was a huge ordeal for Tango it was better than finding out she had a cancerous lump.

Tango’s parents later revealed they had a 70’s party a few months ago and they had used toothpicks for some of the finger food! Miss Tango had obviously decided to try some!!

Now Tango only visits us for her Arthritis problems and vaccinations! She is doing well and won’t be going near any more toothpicks!

This is an important message to pet owners to also be careful when feeding dog bones. Remember if you do feed your pet bones, never feed them cooked and to always consider the possibility that any bone can splinter and cause internal damage!

Why does my dog eat grass?

Many clients ask us why is their dog eating grass like a cow? Well, we can tell you they aren’t morphing into a cow. There are many reasons why dogs eat grass, and unfortunately it is still a poorly understood topic amongst veterinarians.


A common thought is that your dog is eating grass because they are sick or feeling nauseous. Some dogs vomit after they have consumed grass, which can indicate they are trying to “feel better”. If vomiting persists after eating grass we highly recommend your take them to the vet to diagnose what is causing them to vomit in the first place.


Many dogs simply eat grass out due to habit or boredom, anxiety or they simply enjoy the taste. It may be that your dog is not getting enough exercise therefore engaging them in more fun activities may help. Give them plenty of toys to play with and engage in regular play with them. If you need some help with anxiety or any other behavioural issues, contact Nicole our behavioural trainer at our Jervis Bay Clinic, she will be able to assist you with any of these issues.

Nutritional Deficiency

Some dogs that are fed a low fibre diet will often eat grass. Domesticated dogs not only need meat but vegetables and fibre. So try changing their diet, our nurses can help you find a dog food that is best suited to your dog.

Food Allergy

What are allergies, and how do they affect pets?

One of the most common conditions affecting pets is allergy.  In the allergic state, the dog’s immune system “overreacts” to foreign substances (allergens or antigens) to which it is exposed.  These overreactions are manifested in three ways.  The most common is itching of the skin, either localised (one area) or generalised (all over the dog).  Another manifestation involves the respiratory system and may result in coughing, sneezing, and/or wheezing.  Sometimes, there may be an associated nasal or ocular (eye) discharge.  The third manifestation involves the digestive system, resulting in vomiting or diarrhoea.

What is food allergy?

A food allergy is a condition in which the body’s immune system reacts adversely to a food or an ingredient in a food.

What foods are likely to cause an allergic reaction?

Any food or food ingredient can cause an allergy.  However, protein, usually from the meat source of the food, is the most likely offender.  Proteins commonly found in dog foods are derived from beef, chicken, lamb, and horsemeat.

Isn’t a lamb-based dog food supposed to be hypoallergenic?

No, although many people think it is.  Several years ago there were no dog foods on the commercial market that contained lamb.  A manufacturer of prescription dog foods formulated a food from lamb that was suitable for allergy testing, which will be explained below.  Because of that situation, lamb-based dog food was considered “hypoallergenic”.

Dogs are not likely to be born with food allergies.  More commonly, they develop allergies to food products they have eaten for a long time.  The allergy most frequently develops in response to the protein component of the food; for example, beef, pork, chicken, or turkey.  Food allergy may produce any of the clinical signs previously discussed, including itching, digestive disorders, and respiratory distress. 

How is a food allergy diagnosed and treated?

The most effective way to diagnose a food allergy is through an elimination food trial over 6-8 weeks. You pet will eat a diet that they have never consumed before for the entire period of the trial. It takes at least 4 weeks for food products from the past to leave your pets system, therefore no additional food can be given to avoid any continuation of allergy symptoms, such as treats, vitamins or table food. If you do feed your pet food other than the prescription hypoallergenic food recommended the elimination trial must start again. Our Veterinarian’s can recommend a prescription hypoallergenic diet specifically designed for pets with food allergies.

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