Disease of Alimentary System
Inflammation of the pancreas, in the forward part of the abdomen, is usually acutely painful. The dog may stand with forequarters held low to the ground, hind parts normal in the so-called praying attitude. Attempts to move the dog are usually met with resentment because of the severe pain. Expert treatment is urgently needed or death quickly follows.
More chronic and less severe inflammation or degeneration of the pancreas leads to loss of its function in digestion. The pancreas produces enzymes for the process of digestion, particularly of fats, proteins and some carbohydrates, and with pancreatic failure the absorption of nutrients is poor. The dog may have an insatiable appetite but still be very thin, with a harsh, dry and scaly coat. The feces are foul-smelling, pale and often putty-coloured, and fat is passed in partly digested or undigested form. Carbohydrates ferment along the digestive tract, producing offensive-smelling flatus and strange digestive noises from within the abdomen. Degenerative disease commonly occurs in German Shepherd Dogs (Alsatians).
The condition must be distinguished from other bowel conditions, but once established, enzyme replacement therapy in the form of tablets is often very effective. The treatment must be maintained for the rest of the dog’s life.
A gradual loss of weight may accompany chronic illness, while lack of appetite and continuous vomiting or diarrhoea cause rapid weight losses. Marked changes always require investigation, with checks on the adequacy and quantity of the diet.
Severely and continuously underweight dogs may be hyperactive – as happens in some German Shepherd Dogs. They may require medical treatment in addition to large amounts of concentrated foods.
A common reason for underweight bitches is a failure to provide them with enough food while they are rearing litters of puppies. A lactating bitch usually needs at least three times the amount of food she requires for normal maintenance of health. Working dogs, herding or shepherding, also need high levels of wholesome food; they usually have to be fed several times daily.