Pancreatitis in Dogs

Pancreatitis in Dogs | Wag!

Introduction

The pancreas is a small cog in the digestive system that goes largely unnoticed when it’s functioning as intended. However, when the organ starts to play up, there can be some serious consequences.

Pancreatitis is one of the most common disorders relating to the pancreas and can be deadly if left untreated. The symptoms are sometimes non-specific and confusable with other medical conditions, so it’s important that pet parents are fully clued in on the illness.

In this handy guide to pancreatitis, you’ll come away with knowledge on:

  • What pancreatitis actually is
  • The nasty symptoms to watch out for
  • The treatment options your vet will go for to treat the condition
  • The things parents can do to lower the chances of their dog getting the disease

Pancreatitis is a medical condition that usually requires swift veterinary intervention — to ensure your dog has access to this at the right moment, you should seriously consider taking out a pet insurance policy. You can use our online comparison tool to work through the best options.

What is Pancreatitis in Dogs?

To understand what pancreatitis is, it helps to know what the pancreas itself does.

This tiny organ sits in the digestive system close to the stomach. One of its chief roles is to release enzymes that aid with digestion. These should stay inactive until they reach the small intestine, but trouble arises when they become active prematurely in the pancreas. This leads to inflammation, which is where the ‘itis’ part of pancreatitis comes from.

Essentially, these enzymes start to digest the pancreas, which leads to a whole host of nasty symptoms and can result in secondary damage to other organs.


What are the Different Types of Pancreatitis In Dogs?

There are two different types of pancreatitis in dogs:

Acute pancreatitis

This is the more common form diagnosed and is usually more easily treated. However, its onset is normally more sudden and although it’s often mild, acute pancreatitis can be severe in nature, especially if the pancreas inflammation quickly spreads.

Chronic pancreatitis

As opposed to coming out of nowhere, chronic pancreatitis develops slowly over time and is often symptomless in the early beginnings. This sometimes makes it difficult for vets to make a diagnosis and can lead to irreversible damage if left undetected for too long.

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Symptoms of Dogs with Pancreatitis

There’s no typical bout of pancreatitis and dogs suffering from the illness will often display different symptoms. The following have been observed in dogs with pancreatitis:


Many of these symptoms are commonly observed in other medical conditions, so it doesn’t necessarily mean that your dog has pancreatitis if they exhibit one or more of the above clinical signs.

At the same time, your vet won’t want to exclude the possibility too quickly due to the severity of pancreatitis if left untreated.

Causes — How Do Dogs Get Pancreatitis?

Once your vet has diagnosed a dog with pancreatitis, it’s only natural for parents to want to know the reason why the condition developed, especially as this could hold vital information for successful treatment.

Unfortunately, it can be very difficult to pinpoint exactly what causes pancreatitis in dogs. However, here are some common reasons for the condition emerging.

Genetic Susceptibility

Although pancreatitis can develop in any dog, there are certain breeds that are more prone to the condition. It’s disproportionately diagnosed in Miniature Schnauzers in particular, but there’s also a higher incidence in some toy and terrier breeds — this includes Yorkshire Terriers, Dachshunds, Poodles and Cocker Spaniels.

An Underlying Condition

On other occasions, pancreatitis is a secondary condition — this means it’s essentially a symptom of another medical issue from which your dog’s suffering. This can be  in the following instances:

Poor Diet

If you only consider genetics and other health conditions, it would be tempting to see a diagnosis of pancreatitis as pure bad luck. However, one potential cause that parents have more control over is their dog’s diet.

Pancreatitis is just one of the health conditions that becomes more likely when a dog is obese. That’s why feeding your dog recipes full of top-quality meat, carbs and vegetables is so important. Our partner Dog Food Advisor has lots of recommendations if you’re in need of inspiration – including specialist food for dogs who have pancreatitis.

At the same time, pancreatitis can come about suddenly if your dog eats a lot of high-fat food in one sitting. Some vets notice a spike in canine pancreatitis cases during the days after holidays, such as Thanksgiving.

Every effort should be made to keep dogs away from human foods, as it only needs a parent to let their guard down for a second for your dog to pilfer a plate of something harmful to their insides.

How are Dogs Diagnosed with Pancreatitis?

If you witness any of the symptoms listed above in your dog, you should contact your vet straight away. They will most likely invite you and your pet into the clinic for closer observation.

When the problem looks to be with your dog’s digestive system, your vet will normally start with a few questions on their eating habits: what food do they eat every day? Are they ever fed table scraps? Is there a possibility they’ve consumed something toxic?

Once your vet has a fuller picture of your dog’s diet and health, they may conduct testing, such as a blood count, serum biochemistry analysis and urinalysis. These can rule out other causes, such as elevated liver enzymes, hypoalbuminemia, electrolyte imbalances, or an increase in white blood cells.

As well as this, a radiograph of the abdomen or an ultrasound might be carried out to locate an obstruction, displacement of organs or a hypoechoic mass.

If your vet is leaning towards a pancreatitis diagnosis, they may carry out a pancreatic lipase immunoreactivity test. This only requires a small blood sample and is around 80% effective in diagnosing the disease. 

However, some cases of chronic pancreatitis are pretty good at evading detection. If your dog is relatively healthy, your vet will consider the option of trying a fine needle aspiration or exploratory laparotomy to look for abnormal cell behavior.

How to Treat Dogs with Pancreatitis

After a diagnosis of pancreatitis, your vet will first seek to treat the immediate symptoms. Depending on the severity, this might need to be done in a hospital under close observation and may involve:

  • Administering intravenous fluids and nutritional support to replace missed food and drink
  • Offering antacids to treat gastrointestinal bleeding, anti-nausea medication or pain relief
  • Withholding food and water for a short period to halt enzyme production in the pancreas and give inflammation a chance to reduce


Once your dog has recovered from the worst of the initial symptoms, your vet will establish a long-term plan to manage the condition and hopefully prevent a recurrence. This might involve:

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Recovery of pancreatitis in dogs

The good news is that the prognosis of mild to moderate cases of pancreatitis caught early is usually favorable and symptoms tend to clear up in a week or two.

Similarly, dogs diagnosed with chronic pancreatitis will be able to lead a fairly normal life, albeit with some lifestyle changes, such as dietary modifications and enzyme supplementation.

However, not all bouts of pancreatitis are so rosy. More severe instances of acute pancreatitis can ultimately lead to full-body inflammation, multiple organ failure and death. This is why it’s important to contact a vet as soon as you notice any adverse symptoms in your dog.

Pet insurance is great in an emergency, but parents should also consider taking out a wellness plan for their dog, too — regular examinations and testing can help spot health conditions that can sometimes hide away, like pancreatitis

Pancreatitis Average Cost

From 367 quotes ranging from $800 - $6,000

Average Cost

$2,200

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Pancreatitis Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals

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Cavalier King Charles Spaniel

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Chandler

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6 Days

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0 found this helpful

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0 found this helpful

My pet has the following symptoms:
Diarrhea, Vomit, Pain
We were in an apartment complex that people did not clean up dog waste. Could this be a possible cause for pancreatitis if he repeatedly walked through? We had him treated, diagnosed and doing well however wondering if this could have been an underlying cause.

April 15, 2018


0 Recommendations

Walking through faeces wouldn’t cause pancreatitis but a dog may eat faeces to try and get help with digestive enzymes etc… If Chandler was walking through faeces, he should have been cleaned after each walk. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

April 16, 2018

I have a question my neighbors dog has been diagnosed woth pancreatitis and she is blaming it on me amd my husband becaise we throw slop out side bc there are a million cats tjay rome around outside, but she did so as well. So am i the reason her 13 yearold dog is havong these problems?

May 3, 2018

Tandi H.

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King Charles Spaniel

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Bindi

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8 Years

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3 found this helpful

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3 found this helpful

My pet has the following symptoms:
Vomiting
Vomiting, Nausea, Lethargy
Hello our dog is a King Charles spaniel who ingested human puppy chow and now has developed severe pancreatitis. He is in the veterinary hospital with elevated BUN and creatinine and his pancreatic enzymes are over 5100. He’s getting IV fluids, Not interested in food and is still lethargic. What are the chances of recovery, is he suffering, should I give the IV fluids more time.? Help. Thank you.

Jan. 20, 2018

3 Recommendations

The mainstay of treatment in these cases is fluid therapy along with supportive and symptomatic care (antiemetics for example), feeding a low fat diet (or encouraging to feed) is also important. As for chances of recovery, I cannot answer this question as I haven’t examined Bindi and haven’t monitored his progress to date but your Veterinarian would be able to give you more guidance on this subject. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM www.msdvetmanual.com/digestive-system/the-exocrine-pancreas/pancreatitis-in-small-animals www.cliniciansbrief.com/sites/default/files/attachments/Canine%20Pancreatitis.pdf

Jan. 20, 2018

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Average Cost

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