January 17, 2022
pancreatitis in dogs

Symptoms of pancreatitis in dogs | Causes | Treatment

What is pancreatitis in dogs and it’s symptoms?

The pancreas is a small organ in the abdomen attached to the digestive system. It plays an important role in food digestion and blood glucose maintenance. The pancreas produces digestive enzymes that help in digestion and produce insulin which helps in blood glucose metabolism. This article will focus on symptoms of pancreatitis in dogs, Causes and Treatment.

When the pancreas becomes inflamed, the flow of pancreatic enzymes is disrupted. The condition is called pancreatitis. It is quite common in dogs. In this condition, the pancreatic enzymes leak out in the abdominal cavity and damage other internal organs and the pancreas itself. It causes severe inflammation and reaction in the abdomen. It results in severe abdominal pain and vomiting and diarrhea.

What breeds are prone to pancreatitis?

Pancreatitis can occur at all ages and in any breed and sex. But some dog breeds are considered more prone to pancreatitis including Miniature Schnauzers, Cocker Spaniels.

What are the types of pancreatitis?

pancreatitis in dogs

Acute Pancreatitis

It happens suddenly without any previous signs. It is very severe and should be addressed immediately.

Chronic Pancreatitis

It develops slowly over time. Repeated acute episodes of pancreatitis can cause chronic pancreatitis too. Signs of the disease are milder and slow in progress.

Both acute and chronic forms of pancreatitis need veterinary attention.

What causes pancreatitis in dogs?

The exact cause of pancreatitis is not known. But multiple causes and risk factors can cause pancreatitis in dogs. 

  • Diet rich in fat content is considered a major cause of pancreatitis.
  • Dietary indiscretion ( eating anything)
  • Some medication like corticosteroid, calcium, potassium bromide, phenobarbital
  • Overweight
  • endocrine diseases
  • Severe blunt trauma to abdominal organs
  • Diabetes mellitus
  • Kitchen scrape

What are symptoms of pancreatitis in dogs?

Symptoms vary depending upon the severity of the disease. Your pet may show some or all of the following symptoms.

  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Decreased appetite
  • Lack of energy
  • Severe dehydration
  • Cranial abdominal pain 
  • Depression
  • Fever
  • Hunched back
  • Irregular heartbeat
pancreatitis in dogs

How is pancreatitis in dogs diagnosed?  

Diagnosis of pancreatitis in dogs involve some common steps:

  • A thorough history regarding eating habits, ongoing medication, previous history of ailments, etc.
  • A thorough physical examination to check dehydration, abdominal pain, body temperature, etc.
  • Complete blood count test may show dehydration, high white blood cells (WBC), high Neutrophils in the blood
  • Blood chemistry will show high liver enzymes and high kidney parameters like BUN and Creatinine
  • High cholesterol in the blood
  • High blood glucose in some cases.
  • Increased canine pancreatic lipase activity. It is a special parameter specific to pancreatitis in dogs.
  • X-rays to the rule of other abnormality of internal organs
  • Fine needle aspiration of the pancreas to collect a tissue sample from the pancreas with the help of ultrasound.

How do you cure pancreatitis in a dog?

The success of the treatment of pancreatitis depends on prompt diagnosis and medical treatment. The main goal of the treatment is to provide supportive care to the pet and it includes;

  • Intravenous fluid therapy to keep the pet well hydrated
  • Anti-vomiting medication
  • Antibiotics in some cases, if the infectious cause is suspected
  • Fasting for 8-12 hours, if the pet is continuously vomiting
  • Low-fat diet to give rest to the pancreas
  • Pain medication to reduce abdominal pain

The prognosis is variable and depends on the severity of the disease. Dogs with acute severe pancreatitis have a very guarded prognosis. The mild forms of pancreatitis have a good prognosis with timely treatment. 

What is the best food to feed a dog with pancreatitis?

The right diet is absolutely important for taking care of chronic pancreatitis. It will also help in preventing future acute episodes of pancreatitis. The goal of the pancreatitis diet is to give an easily digestive diet to avoid extra load on the pancreas. You can use prescription diets on your veterinarian’s recommendation. Or you can use over the counter food for your dog that has low fat, high Digestibility, good quality of protein, and low carbohydrate.

How to treat pancreatitis in dogs at home?

Pancreatitis is a serious illness. you can not treat it at home. Consult your veterinarian for timely treatment.

Is pancreatitis in dogs curable?

Pancreatitis is a curable disease with a good prognosis. But it can reoccur in the future.

How to prevent pancreatitis in dogs?

The heavy fat meal can cause pancreatitis in some dogs. So avoid human food and fatty food.

Is pancreatitis in dogs contagious?

Generally, pancreatitis in dogs in non-contagious diseases. So it can not spread from one dog to another dog.

What is necrotizing pancreatitis?

It is a very severe and life-threatening form of pancreatitis in dogs. Some part of the pancreas is destroyed by pancreatic enzymes itself.

Some other important articles:   

IMHA in Dogs

Diabetes in Dogs

Cushing’s disease in Dogs

Pyometra in Dogs

This information is NOT intended as a substitute for veterinary consultation for any of your pet’s diseases. Always consult your veterinarian for a diagnosis and treatment plan.


  • Blackwell’s Five-Minute Veterinary Consult: Canine and Feline by Larry P. Tilley, Francis W. K. Smith
  • Saunders Manual of Small Animal Practice by Robert G. Sherding and Stephen J. Birchard
  • Emergency Procedures for the Small Animal Veterinarian by Signe J. Plunkett
  • Merck Veterinary Manual by Susan Aiello
  • 100 Top Consultations in Small Animal General Practice by Peter Hill, Sheena Warman, Geoff Shawcross
  • Plumb’s Veterinary Drug Handbook by Donald C. Plumb
  • Veterinary Emergency and Critical Care Manual, 3rd Edition by Karol A. Mathews

Dr Gurpal Chahal, DVM

Doctor of Veterinary Medicine

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