What is the Pancreas?
The pancreas is a small organ that sits just below the stomach, tucked into a bend in the small intestine. It is an accessory organ of the gastrointestinal system and has both endocrine and exocrine properties.
Exocrine means the body uses series of ducts to excrete things outside of the body, like sweat.
Endocrine means the body secretes hormones directly into the blood stream, like insulin.
The primary job of the pancreas is to help the body breakdown, absorb, and utilize the food eaten.
Exocrine functions of the pancreas include the production of amylase which is an enzyme that promotes carbohydrate metabolism, and lipase which is a enzyme that enables fat metabolism. Because this is a function of the exocrine pancreatic system, these enzymes are excreted through the pancreatic ducts, where it can be directly taken to the gastrointestinal tract to be used to break down the food your pet eats!
Endocrine functions of the pancreas include the secretion of the hormones glucagon, and insulin. Glucagon and insulin work in conjunction to maintain normal glucose levels within the body. These hormones are excreted blood stream and work within the blood stream, and throughout the body.
Many things can work against the health of the pancreas. A quick change in food can be enough to upset its normal function. This is part of the reason why it is recommended to change diets for your pet over the course of at least a week or two.
Other diseases that your pet is suffering from, such as kidney disease, can also lead to an unhealthy pancreas.
Take a few moments and watch this TedEd video about your pancreas to learn more. Keep an eye out for future posts about some diseases that are directly related to an unhealthy pancreas.
Ashley DiPrete, RVT, VTS (SAIM) is a Registered Veterinary Technician practicing in California and obtained her Veterinary Technician Specialty in Small Animal Internal Medicine in 2016. She is the co-founder and a contributing author for InternalMedicineForPetParents.com. Visit her author page here.
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