What Gives Dogs Pancreatitis

A crucial organ, the pancreas is located next to the stomach on the right side of the belly. The pancreas makes hormones like insulin, which control blood sugar or glucose metabolism, as well as enzymes to aid in food digestion. The hormones enter the bloodstream, and the digestive enzymes are secreted into the small intestine.

Pancreatitis is the medical term for the inflammation of the pancreas. In dogs, pancreatitis is a prevalent condition. Age, sex, or breed predisposition don’t exist. You can have acute or chronic pancreatitis.

Acute pancreatitis can manifest in two different ways: mildly edematous or more severely hemorrhagic.

Both a mild, edematous type and a more serious, hemorrhagic form of acute pancreatitis are possible. Due to the accompanying inflammation, the pancreas’ digesting enzymes might leak into the abdominal cavity and cause additional harm to the liver, bile ducts, gall bladder, and intestines. The condition is known as chronic or relapsing pancreatitis when it affects a small percentage of dogs who recover from an acute episode of pancreatitis.

What causes pancreatitis?

Digestive enzymes are turned on in pancreatitis before they get to the small intestine.

The pancreatic duct transports inactive pancreatic enzymes to the duodenum, a section of the small intestine, where they are normally formed. They are activated to start digestion when they get to the small intestine. These enzymes normally activate later in the small intestine, but with pancreatitis, they do so earlier in the pancreas. Imagine this as a time-release capsule that abruptly bursts before it reaches its destination; in this instance, the pancreatic enzymes begin to breakdown the substance earlier than they should. The pancreas itself is subsequently digested as a result. The severity of the condition will depend on how many enzymes were prematurely triggered, therefore the clinical indications of pancreatitis are frequently vary.

“…a fatty meal or the injection of corticosteroids may in certain situations cause pancreatitis.”

Although the precise origin of pancreatitis is unknown, it may occasionally be brought on by a fatty meal or the administration of corticosteroids. However, it frequently seems to happen on its own.

What are the clinical signs of pancreatitis?

The most typical clinical symptoms include vomiting, diarrhoea, stomach pain, fever, tiredness, and decreased appetite. Dogs may adopt a “prayer pose” during an assault, with their back ends up and their front legs and heads dropped to the ground. Acute shock, severe depression, and even death could happen if the attack is severe.

How is pancreatitis diagnosed?

Laboratory testing typically show an elevated white blood cell count, however in addition to pancreatitis, several other disorders can also cause an elevated white blood cell count. Although elevated blood levels of pancreatic enzymes are likely the best indicator of pancreatic illness, some dogs with pancreatitis will have normal enzyme levels. A novel pancreatic test that can effectively identify pancreatitis has recently become accessible, even if pancreatic enzymes are normal (see handout “Pancreatitis in Dogs – Pancreas-Specific Lipase”). Inflammation-related alterations may be visible on radiographs, particularly in cases of acute hemorrhagic inflammation.

Pancreatic inflammation or localised peritonitis brought on by this illness is frequently diagnosed by ultrasound tests. Unfortunately, several of these tests will miss some dogs with pancreatitis, especially dogs with chronic pancreatitis.

“In some circumstances, the diagnosis of pancreatitis may be tentative or presumptive.”

As a result, the diagnosis of pancreatitis may occasionally be based purely on clinical signs and medical history, and may even be preliminary or presumptive.

How is pancreatitis treated?

Early detection and rapid medical treatment are essential for the effective management of pancreatitis. When a patient has mild, edematous pancreatitis, supportive care is used to “relax” the pancreas and let the body recover itself. Vomiting dogs should be starved until the vomiting stops. If necessary, patients can go a few days without eating. When recovering, dogs who are not vomiting may be fed a low-fat, highly digestible diet.

In order to keep the body’s fluid and electrolyte balance in the normal range, analgesics will be administered to reduce the severe pain. Anti-inflammatory drugs or medications to stop vomiting or diarrhoea are frequently needed in addition. If a concomitant infection is thought to be present, antibiotics will be given.

The majority of dogs with pancreatitis are kept in hospitals for two to four days while receiving intravenous fluids, medicines, and a slow food reintroduction. When a dog has severe hemorrhagic pancreatitis or is exhibiting symptoms of systemic shock, intensive care is provided with high intravenous fluid doses and drugs to treat shock.

What is the prognosis of pancreatitis?

The prognosis is based on the disease severity at diagnosis and how well the patient responded to initial treatment. The prognosis for dogs who exhibit shock and depression is quite uncertain. With aggressive treatment, most mild types of pancreatitis have a bright outlook. Without treatment, dogs may develop the hemorrhagic form and experience severe effects, including unexpected death.

Will there be any long-term problems?

The majority of dogs bounce back without any lasting effects. However, one or more of the following issues could manifest with severe or frequent pancreatitis episodes:

  • An inability to properly digest food may result from the severe loss of cells that make digestive enzymes. Treatment for this condition, known as exocrine pancreatic insufficiency (EPI), involves taking an enzyme replacement powder every day.
  • Diabetes mellitus can happen if a sizable portion of insulin-producing cells are lost.
  • Rarely, pancreatitis may result in uncomfortable adhesions between the abdominal organs.

The secondary disorders mentioned above are more likely to appear in canines with chronic pancreatitis. The management of these problems is a crucial component of successful treatment.

What is the primary reason for canine pancreatitis?

The pancreas is a gland in the abdomen that can be found between the small intestine’s first segment and the stomach. Both endocrine and exocrine actions are carried out by it.

How the Pancreas Functions

The pancreas’ endocrine role involves the creation of the hormone insulin, which is released into the blood in response to the consumption of carbohydrates and proteins.

In order to aid in the breakdown of ingested foods, exocrine function entails the secretion of bicarbonate and inactive digestive enzymes into the colon.

What is Pancreatitis?

When the digesting enzymes within the pancreas are activated as a result of pancreatic injury or obstruction of the organ’s outflow duct, pancreatitis, also known as pancreas inflammation, results. Pancreatic tissue is destroyed by the enzymes as a result of pancreatic auto-digestion.

While chronic pancreatitis refers to long-term alterations in the pancreatic tissue, acute pancreatitis is described as reversible pancreatic inflammation. Clinically, these two types of pancreatitis cannot be distinguished from one another, despite the fact that acute pancreatitis typically exhibits more severe clinical symptoms than chronic pancreatitis.

Acute pancreatitis needs to be aggressively treated since it can soon cause systemic inflammation, shock, and death. Chronic pancreatitis symptoms include diabetes mellitus (30–40% of diabetic dogs also have pancreatitis) or decreased synthesis of digestive enzymes (exocrine pancreatic insufficiency).

Causes of Pancreatitis in Dogs

Although these elements have all been linked to the development of pancreatitis, their origin is typically unknown:

  • Diet, especially diets high in fat
  • inherited conditions that affect how fat is metabolised
  • Medications
  • prior operation
  • Obesity
  • Trauma
  • Organophosphates, chocolate, lilies, zinc, and other toxins
  • Cancer
  • Biliary stone obstruction of the pancreatic outflow tract
  • Inflammation
  • Masses


Dogs who have pancreatitis typically exhibit some or all of the following clinical symptoms:

  • Vomiting
  • Anorexia
  • Depression
  • Continent pain
  • Diarrhea

The following diagnostic tests may be suggested:

  • Abdominal radiographs (X-rays): Although these pictures are typically not particularly helpful in making a pancreatitis diagnosis, they are crucial in excluding other disease-causing factors.
  • Abdominal ultrasound: This test can be quite accurate in detecting pancreatitis, although in up to 32% of dogs with pancreatic inflammation, the pancreas may look normal.
  • Complete blood count (CBC) and biochemical profile among other blood tests: Blood tests may reveal normal conditions or illnesses in other organ systems that are unrelated to or brought on by pancreatitis.
  • Urinalysis
  • Culture of urine
  • cPLI, or canine pancreatic lipase immunoreactivity: Although the cPLI test has a high degree of accuracy in detecting pancreatitis, its abnormality does not necessarily rule out pancreatitis as the only possible explanation for the clinical symptoms. This is a crucial idea to understand since the clinical indications of pancreatitis may not go away once the condition is under control.

Currently, a combination of the aforementioned tests is typically advised to acquire a preliminary pancreatitis diagnosis. The patient is frequently too unstable to be put under anaesthesia, yet obtaining a biopsy through surgery or a laparoscopy is the only way to be sure if you have pancreatitis.


The severity of the pancreatitis determines how aggressively the treatment is administered, but it is really supportive in nature. Hospitalization is necessary in serious cases for nutritional assistance, pain management, nausea control, hydration maintenance, and maybe antibiotic therapy.

Food and water are not given to the patient if they are throwing up. Alternatives include a very low-fat diet. Dogs are fed extremely low-fat diets to lessen the pancreas’ burden.

If the patient is hydrated and not throwing up, hospitalisation may not be necessary in less severe chronic instances. An extremely low-fat diet and routine blood work monitoring with the cPLI and/or abdominal ultrasonography will be advised for usage at home.


The prognosis depends on:

  • the seriousness of clinical symptoms
  • The degree of injury to the pancreatic tissue
  • the length of the disease
  • the existence of an underlying illness

In straightforward situations, maintaining a low-fat diet may stop pancreatitis from returning in the future. On the other hand, certain canines will have recurrent pancreatitis, which will develop into chronic pancreatic alterations and persistent disease accompanied by unyielding clinical symptoms.

If strong treatment is not initiated right once, an initial severe attack of pancreatitis can swiftly result in shock and death. Unfortunately, some individuals may still pass away despite rigorous treatment.

Providing a prognosis is challenging due to the complexity of the diagnosis and the unpredictable nature of the response to treatment. Before a patient is stable enough to be discharged, several weeks of hospitalisation may be necessary in extreme cases.

What foods can give dogs pancreatitis?

After a dog consumes a fatty food, such as pork, steak, or any other human foods, acute pancreatitis may develop. Dogs who eat from the trash can suffer pancreatitis. Other factors, such as specific drugs and some viral or bacterial infections, can also contribute to pancreatitis.

Which dog breeds are more likely to develop pancreatitis?

Most dogs will consume something that upsets their stomach at some point in their life. Sometimes the cause is something more serious, like a bowel obstruction or pancreatitis, both of which are critical disorders and require the attention of a veterinarian. Usually, it is only a temporary issue, and your dog wakes up OK the next day.

The word used by doctors to describe pancreatic inflammation is pancreatitis. Dogs and the majority of other mammals, including humans, house the pancreas in their abdomens. The pancreas is located near the top of the belly, close to the gallbladder and stomach. The pancreas is a component of the digestive system and works by secreting enzymes into the small intestine, including lipase and amylase. These enzymes aid in the digestion of meals. Additionally, the pancreas produces hormones that control hunger and blood sugar levels. In the pancreas, insulin is created.

When the pancreas gets enraged and inflamed, pancreatitis results. An enraged pancreas distributes digesting hormones internally rather than through the small intestine. These digestive enzymes inflame and infect the pancreas; they can even result in the formation of abscesses inside the pancreas, which can result in the death of some organ tissue. Vomiting, nausea, and appetite loss are all brought on by this. Due to the fact that pancreatic inflammation triggers inflammation in the lungs, blood systems, and cardiovascular system, severe pancreatitis can be fatal.

Are there different types of Pancreatitis?

They exist! Acute pancreatitis and chronic pancreatitis are the two main types of pancreatitis in dogs. When pancreatic inflammation develops suddenly, is treated, and goes away without causing long-term harm to the pancreas, it is referred to as acute pancreatitis. When pancreatic inflammation lasts for an extended period of time, it results in chronic pancreatitis (usually a month or more). Long-term pancreatic inflammation can cause irreparable damage, which reduces the pancreas’ capacity to generate insulin and digestive enzymes, ultimately affecting how well a dog can digest food. Additionally, dogs with chronic pancreatitis are more likely to develop diabetes mellitus, a hormonal illness that needs insulin injections to control blood sugar.

What are the typical causes of Pancreatitis?

There are numerous possibilities, however the exact aetiology of canine pancreatitis is frequently unknown. Some such factors include:

  • dietary indiscretion (the pancreas became enraged because the dog ate something they shouldn’t have)
  • high-fat dog food or human meal to a dog (example: sharing a juicy burger or prime rib with your dog)
  • Pancreatic injury
  • The pancreas being inflamed as a result of inflammation in other sections of the body (it’s all connected)
  • Medications (atropine, azathioprine, chlorothiazide, estrogen, furosemide, tetracyclines, and L-asparaginase have all been associated with the development of pancreatitis)
  • Having the pancreatic duct blocked (the tube that the digestive enzymes travel down to get to the small intestine)
  • High calcium levels in the blood
  • bacterial illnesses
  • liver, stomach, or small intestine inflammation
  • elevated levels of blood cholesterol

Are there any risk factors for Pancreatitis?

Pancreatitis can affect any dog, although some seem to be more susceptible than others. Obese female canines in their middle and later years are particularly susceptible to pancreatitis. Poodles, Cocker Spaniels, Yorkshire Terriers, and miniature Schnauzers are all said to have an increased chance of developing pancreatitis.

What are the signs of Pancreatitis?

The gastrointestinal tract typically exhibits pancreatitis symptoms, and most dogs with acute pancreatitis may have abdominal pain. In dogs with chronic pancreatitis, stomach pain is not always present. The following additional symptoms of pancreatitis:

  • loss of power
  • reduced appetite
  • Weakness
  • Fever

Dogs with severe pancreatitis may experience respiratory issues, bleeding issues, and collapse as a result of irregular cardiac rhythms. If untreated, severe pancreatitis can be fatal. Call your local or emergency veterinarian right away if you think your dog may have pancreatitis.

How is Pancreatitis diagnosed?

To make the diagnosis of pancreatitis, your veterinarian will use information from your history, physical exam results, and laboratory tests. Be ready to discuss symptoms you are observing at home, how long the issue has existed, any dietary modifications made to the dog, any medications or other health issues, etc.

Vital signs will be taken as part of a thorough physical examination by your veterinarian. They will advise laboratory testing based on your dog’s medical history and the results of the physical examination.

Red and white blood cell counts, serum chemistry to assess internal organ function, and urinalysis to assess kidney function are among the laboratory tests frequently performed to identify pancreatitis.

Additional pancreas-specific blood tests, such as serum lipase, amylase, and serum pancreatic lipase immunoreactivity, may be requested (cPL). Results from these can frequently be obtained the same day when performed in the hospital where your veterinarian practises.

In order to evaluate the pancreas and look for any additional abnormalities, such as blocked bile ducts, tumours, abscesses in the pancreas, or abdominal fluid, your veterinarian may also advise abdominal imaging procedures, such as radiography or abdominal ultrasounds.

What is the treatment for Pancreatitis?

Most pancreatitis cases in dogs necessitate hospitalisation and treatment under a veterinarian’s supervision. Intravenous fluid therapy is used as a form of treatment to drain out toxins, cure shock, and rehydrate the body.

To remove cysts, abscesses, tumours, or dead tissue from the pancreas or to unclog a bile duct, surgery may occasionally be necessary.

Feeding is a crucial component of therapy, unless the dog is unable to stop vomiting, as it preserves the stomach’s lining and reduces the risk of gut germs entering the bloodstream and causing sepsis. The dog needs to be fed a low-fat, highly digestible diet, like rice or a therapeutic dog food that has been prescribed. If the dog refuses to eat, a temporary feeding tube is inserted.

Dogs with pancreatitis can be treated with a variety of drugs. The following may be prescribed in any order:

  • Maripotant (brand name: Cerenia) for nausea and vomiting
  • Dogs who are in shock may need anti-inflammatory drugs, such as steroids, in extreme circumstances.
  • antibiotics if sepsis symptoms are present (bacterial infection in the blood)
  • painkillers for stomach discomfort

Once the dog is discharged from the hospital, they are typically given one or more of the medications listed above and told to only eat bland, low-fat diets or the therapeutic food that has been prescribed. Probiotics and a follow-up visit to see how the dog is recuperating may also be advised by the vet. In order to prevent a relapse or the onset of chronic pancreatitis, it’s crucial to adhere to all recommendations from your veterinarian’s care team.

What is the expected outcome of Pancreatitis?

The majority of dogs have a positive prognosis when properly cared for. The prognosis is poor if a dog develops severe necrotizing pancreatitis (tissue death), organ failure, or sepsis. These dogs are more prone to therapeutic failure and have a larger chance of acquiring long-term pancreas-related issues.

What can you do to help prevent Pancreatitis?

Despite the fact that we don’t always understand why, dogs can occasionally acquire pancreatitis, there are steps you can take to reduce the likelihood by doing the following:

  • Keep high-fat treats, table scraps, and other fatty foods away from your pet.
  • Work with your veterinarian to help your dog reduce weight if it is overweight or obese.
  • Avoid using the medications (mentioned above) that may cause pancreatitis if your dog belongs to an at-risk breed.
  • Feed a premium dog food that is guaranteed to contain probiotics and prebiotics for intestinal health, and avoid switching foods unless your veterinarian is involved. If you decide to switch, make the change gradually by including new foods over a few days to ensure a seamless transition.
  • Call your veterinarian right away if your dog displays any symptoms that are typical of pancreatitis.

Pet parents may find pancreatitis to be a frightening experience, but you may reduce your dog’s risk of acquiring the condition by being aware of their routines, reducing risk factors, and avoiding activities that are known to contribute to the condition.