Pancreatitis in Dogs: Symptoms, Causes & Treatment

Nikhil Goswami

When your dog starts losing appetite for food, vomiting regularly, and experiencing abdominal pain, it may pass as one of the less serious sicknesses. However, it could also be chronic pancreatitis. Pancreatitis in dogs is one of those sicknesses that dog owners should be careful of, as the symptoms generally appear less serious until it starts to worsen and wreck excess damage.

Unfortunately, many dog owners are usually unaware, and the situation leads to late detection of pancreatitis in dogs. Pancreatitis can happen at once and leave or stay on for a long time. It ranges from mild to chronic pancreatitis and can affect any dog breed. As a dog owner, you should notify your veterinary doctor of any suspected case of pancreatitis, as it can be deadly.

Here, we’ll uncover everything you should know about pancreatitis in dogs. These include the the causes, symptoms, and treatment for canine pancreatitis.

What Does Pancreatitis in Dogs Mean?

The pancreas is an organ that stays close to the stomach. It has two main functions: the exocrine and the endocrine function. The exocrine function helps in secreting digestive enzymes that help to break down food. On the other hand, the endocrine function produces hormones. These hormones include insulin that are important for controlling blood sugar.

Canine pancreatitis happens as a result of pancreas inflammation. This sickness happens due to the early activation of the pancreatic digestive enzymes within the pancreas. As a result, the enzymes that should be digesting food within the small intestine start acting on the pancreas.

Also, dog pancreatitis can be acute or chronic. Acute pancreatitis happens when the digestive enzymes from the pancreas get into the abdominal cavity. This causes more damage to other surrounding pancreas organs like the liver, intestines, and bile ducts. Acute pancreatitis can be reversible.

Meanwhile, chronic pancreatitis means permanent damage to the pancreatic tissue. This is a complication of repeating occurrences of acute pancreatitis. Although these two pancreatitis forms cannot be clinically differentiated, clinical signs of chronic pancreatitis are less severe than acute pancreatitis. Diabetes mellitus and exocrine pancreatic insufficiency are severe manifestations of pancreatitis in dogs.

Causes Of Pancreatitis In Dogs

Typically, in dogs suffering from pancreatitis, the exact cause is unknown. However, some likely risk factors are associated with this condition’s development. Among them include the following.

  • Dietary Indiscretion: Generally, this is the major cause of dog pancreatitis. If your dog goes about eating just anything or stuff from the garbage, it’s at risk. Also, eating unusual food or one high in fats could result in pancreatitis.
  • Genetics: High-fat amounts in the blood system can result in pancreatitis. Some breeds of dogs are more susceptible to pancreatitis than other dogs. For example, Miniature Schnauzers and Dachshunds tend to develop high blood fat levels.
  • Reaction to Medications: Certain medications and drugs that cause inflammation of the pancreas will lead to canine pancreatitis. Examples include chemotherapy and specific medications like azathioprine, estrogen, and atropine.
  • Obesity: Dogs that are obese are also at more risk of pancreatitis. These dogs have more fat in their body than leaner dogs.
  • Infectious Organisms: Microorganisms can also be responsible for pancreatitis in your dog. Some of them include Babesia canis and parvovirus.
  • Abdominal Stress: Injury to the abdominal area can stress the region. This condition can cause abdominal pain to the dog. Some situations that can cause abdominal stress include surgery or a hit in the belly area.

Aside from the above causes, other factors can still be responsible for pancreatitis. These issues include underlying medical conditions, disease, and blockage of the pancreatic duct. High cholesterol levels are also risk factors.

Are Some Dogs Prone To Pancreatitis?

Although pancreatitis can occur in any dog regardless of breed or age, some breeds of dogs are still more prone to this condition. These breeds include Miniature Poodles, Cocker Spaniels, Yorkshire Terriers, and Miniature Schnauzers. Miniature Schnauzers are considered to be prone. This breed tend to have issues with high levels of blood triglyceride.

Also, the Cocker Spaniels breed tends to have a high frequency of immune-related infections. These result from a malfunctioning of the dog’s immune system. In addition, pancreatitis is more common in overweight, older and female dogs. Other artificial causes that could make a dog susceptible include reaction to surgery or stress to the dog’s abdominal region.

Symptoms Of Pancreatitis In Dogs

It’s important to pay attention to these symptoms as they may be easy to miss since they develop slowly in the dog’s system. These symptoms also vary from mild to severe. Some common symptoms include:

  • Vomiting: This is a common symptom. Once your dog starts vomiting regularly, it may be due to pancreatitis.
  • Lack of Appetite: Your dog may experience decreased appetites when infected with pancreatitis. When this happens, take note of the dog’s behavior and take it to the vet doctor for examination.
  • Weakness: Weakness: Be observant of your dog’s energy levels. This way, you can easily detect when something’s wrong.
  • Abdominal Pain: Dogs can communicate abdominal pains through various means. One common way is to yelp when you touch the abdominal region. Also, they hunch their backs when they’re hurt in the region.
  • Dehydration: Dehydration occurs due to more fluid loss than fluid intake. Vomiting and diarrhea can cause the dog to lose fluids, resulting in dehydration. Therefore, if your dog does not take enough fluids, you should take it for examination.
  • Other symptoms include diarrhea, fever, and general discomfort.

Note that chronic pancreatitis has milder symptoms, while acute pancreatitis is more severe. Dogs with more severe symptoms may experience irregular heartbeats and breathing difficulties. They may also experience depression, or sudden collapse. If you notice these symptoms in your dog, don’t hesitate to visit the vet. Pancreatitis is a serious illness, and early detection is key to a quick recovery.

How Veterinary Doctors Diagnose Pancreatitis In Dogs

The symptoms above are associated with other illnesses. Therefore, there is a need for a professional vet doctor to run an accurate diagnosis. However, the vet will need to check previous records and conduct physical examinations before running the diagnosis. The diagnosis will involve a series of physical and medical tests.

Diagnosing pancreatitis in dogs can be challenging. This is because most of the symptoms are not specific to the pancreas. Therefore, your vet doctor can recommend different blood tests and scans such as radiographs. They may also conduct ultrasounds, blood work, and serum pancreatic lipase immunoreactivity.

  • Radiographs (X-rays): These X-rays scan the abdominal area to detect a swollen pancreas. They can show enlargement or inflammation in some dogs with pancreatitis. Although this method isn’t usually helpful in diagnosing pancreatitis patients, it can help dismiss other conditions like ingestion of an object that may require surgery.
  • Ultrasound: An abdominal ultrasound helps to detect a swollen pancreas. This method of diagnosis requires pancreas tissue to be abnormal enough to picture the ultrasound. Unfortunately, this test may not detect many patients with pancreatic inflammation.
  • Bloodwork: Bloodwork measures electrolytes, blood cells, and blood sugar. However, these blood tests aren’t specific. The tests are associated with other ailments rather than precisely pancreatitis. Nonetheless, bloodwork remains essential to narrow down the results.
  • A canine Pancreatic Lipase Immunoreactivity Test: The canine pancreatic lipase immunoreactivity test is a blood test for pancreatic enzymes that helps detect pancreatitis. Although It’s reliable, it may not be precise for every dog.

Treatment Of Pancreatitis In Dogs

Treatment depends on the severity of the ailment. Early intervention is pivotal, so the disease doesn’t rock more damage. If your vet figures out the major cause of the illness, they’ll try to sort that out first. For example, if the dog swallows a foreign object, you can take your dog to surgery to fix it. Or if the ailment was a result of the reaction to a medication, they can take the dog off it.

Vomiting dogs should be given low-diet foods as they recover. Intravenous fluids will be given to veterinary patients to balance normal body fluid. The pancreatitis patient will receive analgesics to control the pain. In cases of worsening conditions, special monitoring is important.

Furthermore, withholding food and water for about 24 hours helps rest the pancreas. Antiemetic medications hydrate and prevent the dog from vomiting.

Dogs hospitalized and unable to feed on their own can use a feeding tube or an intravenous method. Also, antibiotics can be given to dogs in situations of concurrent infection. Once your dog gets home, give it lots of water to ensure its properly hydrated.

When your dog resumes eating, feed it a low-fat diet that’s easy to digest. Instead of a large meal at once, feed the dog smaller, more consistent meals. In addition, have your veterinary doctor check for lipase and amylase levels.

Preventing Pancreatitis In Dogs

Preventing pancreatitis in dogs comes with some conscious efforts. Let’s check them out.

  • Curb Dietary Indiscretions: Keep garbage secure. Ensure you have a lockable trash can. It prevents the dog from eating garbage.
  • Watch the Diet: Feed your dog nice dog food that’s low in fat and easy to digest. The diet may vary depending on the dog. Ask your vet for better-personalized suggestions.
  • Avoid Unnecessary Feeding: Your dog shouldn’t just eat anything. Ensure everyone in the house keeps their food away from your dog’s reach.
  • Follow Up with Veterinary Advice and Care: Your dog may require checkups from time to time. Be sure to follow it up. Also, ensure your dog uses the prescribed medications from your vet doctor. Doing this will make your dog happy.

Moderate Or Mild Dog Pancreatitis

Depending on the severity of the disease, your dog may experience moderate or mild pancreatitis. Such dogs can be admitted for a few days and administered intravenous fluids to boost hydration.

Your vet will usually administer pain relievers and anti-nausea drugs. Although recovery times may vary for moderate or mild pancreatitis patients, the recovery period is usually within two weeks.

The Prognosis For Pancreatitis In Dogs

Suggesting a prognosis is difficult due to how unpredictable the patients react to treatment. The prognosis depends on several factors. One factor in determining the prognosis is the seriousness of the sickness. Dogs with less severe pancreatitis have more chances of surviving. Most dogs with moderate and mild pancreatic forms have a good prognosis with quality care.

Also, you should also consider the duration of the sickness. Acute pancreatitis can lead to sudden death if treatment is not meted out promptly. Healthy dogs that have recovered from single or recurrent pancreatitis episodes can become scarred in the pancreatic tissue. As a result, exocrine pancreatic insufficiency can occur.

For a better prognosis, conduct an early diagnosis, and begin early treatment. This leaves you in a position for a more positive result. In more serious cases, the vet must hospitalize the dog for several weeks.

Most dogs get well without any negative outcomes. However, serious occurrences of pancreatitis may cause some difficulties. These problems include diabetes mellitus, which can occur when insulin-producing cells are damaged.

When a good number of cells that produce digestive enzymes are destroyed, it becomes difficult to digest food. This condition is called exocrine pancreatic insufficiency (EPI). The dog will need an enzyme replacement powder daily dose to get better. In addition, hurtful bondings between the abdominal organs can happen. This condition only happens in extreme cases.


Pancreatitis can be a serious sickness. Fortunately, it’s possible for many dogs who have the condition to still live a happy life with the right treatment. If you observe some of the above symptoms in your dog, quickly take the dog for an examination. While the condition may be deadly, looking out for your dog and running early tests will help you easily defeat this menace. You can also look for cbd oil for dogs for anxiety, if you are interested.

Since pancreatitis has many symptoms that are not specific to the illness alone, diagnosing the ailment can be difficult. However, with proper tests and scans, you can diagnose it. Follow the prescription diet from your veterinary doctor closely. Also, ensure you keep all garbage out of reach and be careful of what you feed your dog.

Share this Article