You are right, there is very little research that is not influenced by the pet food companies. Here is an old article:
Do High Fat Dog Foods Predispose
Dogs to Pancreatitis?
John W. Hilton
pancreatitis is by definition an
inflammation of the pancreatic
tissue accompanied by edema,
necrosis and sometimes hemorrhage. The essential lesion is
necrosis of the acinous cells. In relation to dogs, acute pancreatitis
occurs more commonly in canines
than in other animals (1). In addition, pancreatitis is thought to account for 1 to 2%
of the canine hospital admissions; however, it is a difficult disease to document and this estimate may not
be a true reflection of its actual prevalence in
The etiology of pancreatitis is not well understood
and a number of factors have been proposed to explain
the disease. However, the most plausible mechanism
in the pathogenesis of pancreatic necrosis and inflammation is the release of digestive enzymes, particularly
lipases, into the parenchyma and interstitial tissue.
These enzymes would readily disrupt and/or destroy
the integrity of the membrane lipids affecting the
The association of pancreatitis and hyperlipidemia
has long been recognized (1,2,4). Furthermore, studies
in humans suggest that hypertriglyceridemia precedes
the development of pancreatitis (5). High concentrations of triglyceride in and around the pancreas could
result in excessive lipolysis with the release of large
quantities of free fatty acids. Normally these free fatty
acids would be absorbed and/or bound to albumin
which effectively eliminates their potential reactivity.
However, if the quantity of free fatty acids exceeds
the binding capacity of the albumin, then the unbound
free fatty acids would be very toxic to the tissues.
Therefore, the hyperlipemia could lead to ischemia,
capillary damage and microthrombi causing the pancreatitis (6). This hypothesis is supported by the fact
that animals fed high fat diets have a predisposition
to pancreatitis (7,8). In addition, female dogs are more
prone to pancreatitis than male dogs, and obesity also
predisposes the dog to the disease (9).
The dog belongs to the order Carnivora and for this
reason some people mistakenly assume that the dog
John Hilton has a PhD in nutrition and is the Technical
Manager - Animal Nutrition at Hoffmann-LaRoche,
Etobicoke, Ontario. He is a member of the Nutrition Subcommittee of the CVMA Pet Food Certification Program.
is a carnivore. In fact he is actually an omnivore or
opportunistic feeder (10). The dog can and does consume and derive nourishment from a variety of foods
of both animal and vegetable origin. Thus the amount
of fat or lipid that the dog consumes is variable
depending upon its diet. Nevertheless, healthy dogs are
capable of absorbing large quantities of dietary fat
In recent years the dry-type dog foods or kibble have
been undergoing a change from a moderate protein
and low lipid content ( - 12 7o protein: - 80o lipid) to
a high protein and high lipid content (25-307o protein:
15-200o lipid). These higher energy diets are apparently
more palatable to the dog and feces production is
reduced which is a definite advantage to some dog
owners. While such high energy diets are probably
beneficial for working dogs, there is some concern
regarding dogs that are just house pets. There is a
natural tendency of pet owners to overfeed their dogs.
This problem is accentuated when the pet owners feed
their dog the new high energy feeds, particularly when
such feeds are augmented with table scraps. Furthermore, the lack of proper exercise for the dog coupled
with boredom also increases the potential for obesity
to occur, particularly in older dogs.
The lipid supplement to the high energy dog foods
is often in the form of saturated fats such as lard and
tallow. The intake of high levels of such hard fats in
human diets is associated with hyperlipidemia. It is not
known whether the feeding of saturated fats to dogs
also results in hyperlipidemia. Nevertheless, it would
appear that there exists a greater potential for both
hyperlipidemia and obesity in dogs fed the new high
energy feeds. Considering that these same conditions
are also major factors affecting the predisposition of
the dog to pancreatitis indicates that there is some
justifiable concern by both pet owners and veterinarians in the feeding of these new high energy foods to
1. Brobst DF. Pancreatic function. In: Kaneko JJ, ed. Clinical
Biochemistry of Domestic Animals. Academic Press, 1980: 259.
2. Strombeck DR. Small Animal Gastroenterology. Davis,
California: Stonegate Publishing, 1979: 304.
3. Murtaugh RJ, Jacobs RM. Serum amylase and isoamylase and
their origins in healthy dogs and dogs with experimentally
induced pancreatitis. Am J Vet Res 1985; 46: 742.
4. Hardy RM. Acute pancreatitis: a review. Proc Am Anim Hosp
Assoc 1974: 324.
Can Vet J Volume 29, October 1988 8555. Cameron JL, Capuzzi DM, Zuidema GD, Margolis S. Acute
pancreatitis with hyperlipemia - Evidence for a persistent defect
in lipid metabolism. Am J Med 1974; 56: 482.
6. Havel RJ. Pathogenesis, differentiation and management of
hypertriglyceridemia. Adv Intern Med 1969; 15: 117.
7. Lindsay S. Entenman C, Chalkoff IL. Pancreatitis accompanying hepatic disease in dogs fed a high fat, low protein diet. Arch
Pathol 1948; 45: 635.
8. Haig TH. Experimental pancreatitis intensified by a high fat
diet. Surg Gynecol Obstet 1970; 119: 914.
9. Anderson NV. Pancreatitis in dogs. Vet Clin North Am (Small
Anim Pract) 1972; 2: 79.
10. Kronfeld DS. Canine Nutrition. University of Pennsylvania,
School of Veterinary Medicine, 1985: 13.
11. Hill FWG, Kidder DE. Fat assimilation in dogs, estimated by
a fat balance procedure. J Small Anim Pract 1972; 13: 23.