Pancreatitis in Dogs

The pancreas is a V-shaped vital organ which is located on the right side of your dog’s abdomen. It produces pancreatic enzymes that are essential for the digestion of nutrients. It also produces insulin which aids in metabolism of sugar throughout the body. Pancreatitis in dogs is the inflammation of the pancreas. There can be acute or chronic forms that can be life-threatening.

Acute and Chronic Pancreatitis in Dogs

Acute pancreatitis can become life-threatening and extremely painful as multiple organs are affected due to the spread of inflammation. Chronic pancreatitis is a continuing condition usually of low-grade inflammation of your dog’s pancreas. This type of pancreatitis can also flare up from time to time and even result into an acute form.

Symptoms of Pancreatitis

There are a variety of symptoms that your dog may exhibit such as:

  • Vomiting
  • Loss of appetite
  • Stomach pain
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Dehydration
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Low energy
  • Diarrhea
  • Low body temperature
  • Fever
  • Hunched posture
  • Depression

If your dog experiences any of the following symptoms contact the veterinarian immediately.

Causes of Pancreatitis

The veterinarian will be able to determine the cause of the pancreatitis through testing:

  • Metabolic disorders
  • Medications
  • Hormonal diseases
  • Obesity
  • Trauma to the abdomen due to an accident
  • Genetics
  • Poor nutrition
  • Scorpion stings
  • Inflammation of surrounding organs
  • Infection throughout the body

Diagnosis of Pancreatitis in Dogs

The veterinarian will conduct a variety of laboratory and radiograph tests to diagnose your dog with pancreatitis.

These tests provide the veterinarian with details that could reveal elevated pancreatic enzymes and white blood cell counts. Since dogs can show a normal pancreatic enzyme level and still have pancreatitis, there is now a new test that is capable of diagnosing pancreatitis whether your dog is showing normal enzyme levels or not.

Pancreatitis in Dogs

Treatment for Pancreatitis in Dogs

Treatment is done under the supervision and recommendations of a veterinarian.

The main focus of treatment is to allow your dog’s pancreas to rest. Depending on the severity of your dog’s condition a variety of treatment options will be established.

Treatments may include withholding water, oral medications and food from your dog for up to 24 hours. This will stop the pancreas from being stimulated. After 24 hours or the specific time that the veterinarian approves of, you will begin feeding your dog small portions of a low-fat, high-carbohydrate diet. The food should be introduced slowly and as your dog adjusts to each serving, you will increase the portion size until it meets the standard requirement for his breed.

At times, your dog may have to remain on this type of diet for the remainder of his lifetime. Dogs that suffer with pancreatitis often suffer from dehydration. The veterinarian may request that your dog have fluid therapy intravenously. The ultimate goal of the treatment is to prevent complications, provide nutritional support, control vomiting, provide pain relief and correct dehydration.

Prognosis for Pancreatitis in Dogs

Since pancreatitis can be in a mild or severe form, prognosis lies in how fast treatment begins. If your dog is experiencing a mild form and he reacts well to treatment chances of a good prognosis are possible. At times pancreatic cases may increase and worsen in dogs, which can make their prognosis less favorable. Some dogs may have a chronic case of pancreatitis. This constant suffering increases your dog’s risk of developing maldigestion syndrome or diabetes.

The veterinarian will treat your dog’s specific case and provide the proper prognosis.

Caring for Your Dog When He Has Pancreatitis

Dog owners may feel nervous when taking care of their dog while he suffers with pancreatitis. It is best to stay calm and follow the instructions of the veterinarian.

You may need to administer medication, provide and prepare meals at a certain time of the day, provide plenty of fresh water and keep a close eye on your dog. During your dog’s recovery process and afterwards you will want to keep notes of any unusual or repetitive symptoms. Keeping a notebook with this information is helpful and will alert you early on if your dog is experiencing a reoccurrence of the disease.

At the first sign of symptoms you will want to alert the veterinarian immediately and adhere to the instructions given. Delaying treatment will only cause the symptoms and condition to worsen.


The veterinarian will determine if recovering at home or at the animal hospital is best suited for your dog.

Wherever your dog is recovering from pancreatitis, he is most-likely going to feel discomfort and possibly pain. In these cases the animal hospital staff or the dog owners will have to determine if pain medication may be required. If your dog is whimpering or showing you other signs that he is in pain, speak to the veterinarian immediately.

Often times your dog will be sent home with pain medication such as Tramadol or Fentanyl to provide him with a more comfortable healing process.

Preventing a Reoccurrence

Many dog owners who go through the experience of watching their dog suffer with the symptoms of pancreatitis are often interested in preventative measures.

There are a few things dog owners can do in order to prevent reoccurrences or even first experiences with pancreatitis.

Since dogs that are inactive or overweight are more likely to suffer from the disease, dog owners can make sure they are providing their dog with a healthy, well-balanced diet and plenty of exercise. If your dog already suffers from diabetes mellitus or Cushing’s disease you will want make sure you are managing them properly and adhering to all of the veterinarians recommendations. Avoid giving your dog medications such as levetiracetam also known as Keppra. This medication is known to cause pancreatitis in dogs.


Dogs that suffer from acute and chronic pancreatitis may find supplements beneficial. Digestive enzyme supplements that inhibit pancreatic secretion such as those that contain pancreatin can reduce the load on the pancreas. While these supplements are sold over-the-counter you will always want to consult with your vet first. This supplement may benefit your dog or, he can possibly have a negative reaction.

It is wise to only provide this supplement to your dog under the advice of the veterinarian. There are also a variety of natural supplements that can aid in digestion. These supplements include yarrow root, probiotics, fish oil, salmon oil and other plant-derived digestive enzymes.

Digestive enzyme supplements for acute and chronic pancreatitis

Will There be Long-Term Issues?

Depending on the severity of the pancreatitis in your dog there is a possibility that diabetes mellitus can be a long-term issue. There is also a possibility of a lack of proper flow and food digestion. In these long-term cases the vet will be able to provide the proper instruction on how to care for your dog throughout his lifetime.

Other than these issues most dogs recover without feeling the effects of long-term consequences.

You will always want to be familiar with your dog’s health. Keeping a close eye on his weight, eating habits and continuing to be on the look-out for pancreatitis symptoms are essential to your dog’s health. Discuss any unusual signs or symptoms that suddenly appear or that gradually become worse. From time to time dogs may have a digestive issue that can be related to a variety of other issues. It is important that you take quick action in order to catch pancreatitis in its early stages. It is best to be safe and contact the veterinarian than to wait for a long period of time for the symptoms to disappear on their own. An observant dog owner is the first step to treatment and healing of pancreatitis in dogs.

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