My Dog Has Pancreatitis: What Should I Do? Spotting and Treating Pancreatitis in Dogs

BY | July 28 | COMMENTS PUBLISHED BY
My Dog Has Pancreatitis: What Should I Do?
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Dog pancreatitis can occur when a dog does not eat the proper foods. Learn how to adjust your dog's diet to prevent pancreatitis.

Does your dog raid the garbage can? Do you sneak them tasty tidbits from your plate? Of so, and you've noticed that your dog doesn't seem to feeling well, it may be that your dog has pancreatitis. Dogs that dine on greasy people food are at risk for developing pancreatitis.

Pancreatitis is an inflammation of the pancreas, an organ that aids in the bodyโ€™s metabolism of sugar by secreting the hormone insulin. The pancreas also secretes digestive enzymes that help with the digestion process.

While diet is often a contributing cause to pancreatitis, some breeds such as Terriers are at greater risk. Other dogs that have greater risk for developing pancreatitis include those that are overweight, older dogs, or dogs with diabetes, epilepsy, or other chronic conditions.

Signs of Pancreatitis

A painful, swollen abdomen is one sign of pancreatitis. Other signs include depression, lack of appetite, a rolled up appearance in which the dog hunches up their back, vomiting, and diarrhea. If the disease progresses without treatment, the dog could be permanently affected. They might suffer from hemorrhages or arrhythmias. Worse, the disease can damage other organs when the pancreas over-synthesizes digestive enzymes that then break down the dogโ€™s own internal organs.

Testing and Treatment for Dog Pancreatitis

If you suspect your dog has pancreatitis, your veterinarian can run blood tests, some of which will analyze the enzymes being released by the pancreas. Other tests may include x-rays, ultrasound, or a biopsy.

Treatment may include resting the pancreas by fasting the dog from food or water for 24 hours. However, most dogs are already suffering from dehydration at this point, so the veterinarian may give your dog the necessary fluids either intravenously or subcutaneously (under the skin).

Pain relievers or antibiotics may also be given to your dog.

Low-fat food specifically for such problems as pancreatitis is introduced in small amounts. Your veterinarian will be able to explain the best food or diet for your dog. Your dog may need to stay the diet for life or they may need to stay on it until symptoms subside.

Pancreatic Insufficiency

For some dogs, pancreatitis may become chronic and could lead to a problem called pancreatic insufficiency. Dogs with pancreatic insufficiency do not absorb the nutrients in their food and expel those nutrients undigested in their feces. The dog then ravenously wolfs down their food and could be eating all day, but is actually starving to death.

For dogs suffering from pancreatic insufficiency, enzyme supplements can help replace the digestive enzymes that they are missing. Their diet might also need the addition of other special supplements. However, even with this severe disease, your dog can still be comfortably maintained once their diet and enzyme needs are assessed by your veterinarian.

The Causes And Symptoms Of Pancreatitis In Cats 

One of the main functions of a catโ€™s pancreas is to release enzymes to the intestines that aid in the digestion of fats, proteins, and carbohydrates. When the pancreas fails, the enzymes cause a build-up of inflammation in the organ, leading to pancreatitis. The digestive enzymes may even start to digest the pancreas itself, which can be fatal. Fortunately, if detected and managed, many cats recover from pancreatitis.

Symptoms of Pancreatitis in Cats

Symptoms of pancreatitis in cats vary depending on the severity of the condition. Signs of the disease typically become apparent abruptly and without any obvious reason.

Though similar to symptoms of other health problems, here are some common indicators of the disease:

Pancreatitis-related inflammation may also lead to related issues, including peritonitis and diabetes, and may even damage the nearby liver, bile ducts, gall bladder, and intestines.

Diagnosis and Outlook

At the vet, tests may be given to determine the cause of these health issues. If the results from the test come back with a high white blood cell count, it could be an indicator of pancreatitis. High levels of pancreatic enzymes in the blood result from pancreatitis, but a cat may have pancreatitis without having these unusual enzyme levels. X-rays may be taken to eliminate other potential causes. A biopsy will allow the vet to conclusively determine that your cat has pancreatitis. In severe cases, the disease may be fatal at the onset of symptoms.

Causes of Pancreatitis in Cats

Pancreatitis affects cats of all ages, genders, and breeds equally, and less than two percent of cats will develop the disease. There is no single conclusive cause of the disease, but some potential contributing factors may include:

  • Consuming a high-fat diet
  • Ingesting toxic materials, like insecticides
  • Severe injury
  • Related diseases, including toxoplasmosis, inflammatory bowel disease, liver disease, inflammation in the bile ducts, and feline infectious peritonitis
  • A severe reaction to medication
  • Parasites
  • Bacteria from the intestines

For some cats, pancreatitis can become chronic, with recurring bouts of the symptoms.

Prevention of Pancreatitis in Cats

Since the cause of pancreatitis is frequently unknown, preventing pancreatitis is not possible. Itโ€™s best to be aware of the potential causes (and avoid them where possible) and symptoms, and contact your vet if you see any warning signs. The good news is that if a cat does develop a mild form and receive proper treatment, the animalโ€™s lifespan and quality of life should not be affected.

Treatment of Pancreatitis in Cats

If your vet can assess the reason for the pancreatitis, the source(s) of the problem should be addressed. In most cases, however, the cause is not likely to be known, so treating pancreatitis in cats typically includes symptom management to reduce the pain and discomfort of vomiting, diarrhea, and nausea. Some necessary treatments include:

  • Fluid therapy for hydration
  • Pain medication
  • Anti-vomiting medications
  • Appetite stimulants
  • Antibiotics
  • Anti-inflammatory medications
  • Vitamin B12
More on Dog Digestive Health


Gastritis in Dogs and Cats
Signs Your Pet Needs New Food
Recipe to Help Dog Digestive Distress

This information is for informational purposes only and is not meant as a substitute for the professional advice of, or diagnosis or treatment by, your veterinarian with respect to your pet. It has, however, been verified by a licensed veterinarian for accuracy.

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