Inflammation of the Pancreas in Dogs

Inflammation of the Pancreas in Dogs - Symptoms, Causes, Diagnosis, Treatment, Recovery, Management, Cost
Inflammation of the Pancreas in Dogs - Symptoms, Causes, Diagnosis, Treatment, Recovery, Management, Cost

What are Inflammation of the Pancreas?

The pancreas is located adjacent to a dog’s stomach and next to the small intestine. The gland produces trypsin, chymotrypsin, carboxypeptidase (breaks down proteins), lipase (breaks down fats) and amylase (breaks down carbohydrates).These inactive enzymes are released through the pancreatic duct into the duodenum where they become active.  When food reaches the duodenum it is covered with the activated enzymes and broken down. The small intestine can then absorb the digested nutrients into the bloodstream. 

The pancreas also produces the hormones insulin and glucagon into the dog’s bloodstream. These hormones are essential in regulating blood sugar in the body.

When the enzymes become active before they reach the duodenum they attempt to “digest” the pancreas.  The dog’s pancreas becomes inflamed and very painful. The cells that produce the digestive enzymes and hormones can be permanently damaged and/or destroyed. In severe cases, the digestive enzymes can overflow into the abdominal cavity causing damage to the liver, gallbladder, bile ducts and the intestines.  Inflammation of the pancreas is a serious condition, which can be a fatal. If your pet is showing signs of pancreatitis he should be seen by a veterinarian as soon as possible.

The pancreas is a glandular organ, which secretes enzymes that aid in the digestion of food in the small intestine.  The enzymes produced by the pancreas are normally inactive until they are released and reach the duodenum (part of the small intestine).  If the enzymes become active inside the pancreas, inflammation of the pancreas occurs. Inflammation of the pancreas is also referred to as pancreatitis.

Symptoms of Inflammation of the Pancreas in Dogs

Symptoms may include:

  • Hunched posture
  • Repeated vomiting
  • Pain
  • Distention of abdomen
  • Bloat
  • Diarrhea
  • Loss of appetite
  • Dehydration
  • Weakness
  • Lethargy
  • Depression
  • Jaundice
  • Fever

Symptoms of severe inflammation of the pancreas may also include:

  • Heart arrhythmias
  • Hemorrhages
  • Sepsis
  • Shock
  • Collapse


  • Acute Pancreatitis - Condition occurs suddenly
  • Chronic Pancreatitis - Condition develops over time


Causes of Inflammation of the Pancreas in Dogs

Inflammation of the pancreas may be caused by:

  • High fat diet
  • Obesity
  • Triggered by a fatty meal
  • Constant eating of fatty table scraps
  • Corticosteroid administration 
  • Severe blunt trauma, such as being hit by a car
  • Scorpion bite
  • High levels of calcium in the bloodstream
  • Potassium bromide - anticonvulsant medication
  • Hormonal diseases such as Cushing’s disease, diabetes mellitus or hyperthyroidism
  • Toxins such as organophosphate found in some flea control products
  • Bacterial or viral infections
  • Vaccinations
  • Genetic predisposition (Schnauzers and Yorkshire terriers)


Diagnosis of Inflammation of the Pancreas in Dogs

After a consultation and discussion of your dog’s medical history, the veterinarian will then perform a medical examination.  The dog’s temperature weight, pulse and blood pressure may be taken.  The doctor will listen to the patient’s heart, lungs and abdomen with a stethoscope.  The doctor may palpate your dog’s abdominal area.

The doctor may recommend x-rays, ultrasound, a complete blood count, serum chemistry panel and a urinalysis.  If the x-rays and/or the ultrasound confirm that the patient’s pancreas is inflamed the doctor may use a SNAP cPL test (canine pancreas-specific lipase test).  This test uses a few drops of serum to determine a negative or positive to an abnormal enzyme count.  If the test is positive, the doctor may then take a cPLI test (canine pancreatic lipase immunoreactivity test), which measures the exact concentrations levels of lipase in the serum.



Treatment of Inflammation of the Pancreas in Dogs

The inflammation of the pancreas in a very painful condition; therefore, the doctor will administer pain and anti-inflammatory medication.  This will help reduce the pain and concurrently, the patient’s stress.  If the dog is dehydrated, an IV will be started to administer fluid therapy.  Patients with severe hemorrhaging will need to be hospitalized in order to receive intensive care.

The doctor may recommend resting the pancreas, which means no food for a period of 24 hours.  After the 24 hours, food is gradually reintroduced. Smaller and frequent meals are easier on the pancreas, instead of a large once a day meal. Small amounts of rice and skinless chicken fed 6 to 8 times a day may be recommended. Carbohydrates (rice, sweet potato, pumpkin) cause less pancreatic stimulation.  Your dog should not be fed a high protein diet, which may trigger the inflammation of the pancreas to reoccur.

Fish oil and Vitamin E are beneficial in lowering lipid levels.  L-glutamine, an amino acid, can help the intestinal mucosa to recover. Probiotics should not be used by patients with a history of pancreatitis.



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Recovery of Inflammation of the Pancreas in Dogs

Recovery of the inflammation of the pancreas depends on how severe the condition was and how well the patient responds to the treatment plan.  Mild cases of pancreatitis have a good prognosis.  Your pet will need follow up visits with the veterinarian who will want to monitor his progress and enzyme levels.  Dogs who suffered severe damage to the pancreatic cells may need daily enzyme replacement powder in their food, and insulin injections.



Inflammation of the Pancreas Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals




Decker Rat Terrier


15 Years


0 found helpful


0 found helpful

Has Symptoms


Diagnosed with pancreatitis 6 days ago, on flagyl, and IV fluids twice a day. Dog will drink water but won't willingly eat. Is this normal? Are we headed in the right direction or are we still not out of the woods yet?

July 26, 2017

Cassie's Owner



0 Recommendations

Most cases of pancreatitis are caused by unknown causes, so generally supportive and symptomatic therapy is the best course of action which normally consists of fluid therapy and an antiemetic (stops vomiting). If the cause of the pancreatitis is known, then specific treatment is given for the underlying cause. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

July 26, 2017

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