Pancreatitis In Dogs. How To Treat It And What Causes It

Canine pancreatitis is a disease whose symptoms can be mistaken for something less severe. However, it is important that you are well informed about the characteristics of the disease, because it could be fatal for your dog. It is important to go to the vet as quickly as possible , so that he can establish the proper diagnosis and treatment.

The pancreas is an organ of the digestive system, located next to the duodenum. It has two functions : to supply digestive enzymes and to produce insulin for sugar metabolism . When the organ functions normally, enzymes are activated by reaching the small intestine. However, if your dog suffers from pancreatitis, the enzymes will be activated when released in the pancreas, causing inflammation of this gland and damaging the tissues that surround it. As the disease progresses, it can also damage other organs.

The causes of inflammation of the pancreas are not known exactly. Some breeds, such as the Schnauzer, are prone to pancreatitis. The disease may also appear as a side effect of a medication or after surgery. Eating high-fat foods also triggers pancreatitis.

Table of Contents

  • What is pancreatitis and which dogs suffer from it?
    • High fat diet.
    • Hypothyroidism or other endocrine diseases.
    • Severe blunt trauma.
    • Type 1 and 2 diabetes (Mellitus).
    • Certain medications or toxins.
    • Genetic predisposition.
    • Cushing’s syndrome.
  • What are the symptoms of pancreatitis in dogs?
  • How is canine pancreatitis diagnosed?
    • Acute pancreatitis
    • Chronic pancreatitis
  • Is there a treatment for canine pancreatitis?
  • What supplements are suitable to combat canine pancreatitis?
  • What is canine exocrine pancreatic insufficiency?
  • What is diabetes and how does it occur in dogs?
  • Conclusions

What is pancreatitis and which dogs suffer from it?

Although the causes of canine pancreatitis are not always known , this disease is believed to occur when digestive enzymes are activated in the pancreas, before reaching the intestine. Among the most common risk factors we have the following:

High fat diet.

It is one of the main causes, especially for a dog that consumes a large amount of high-fat food at once. It is important that you control your dog’s diet, providing it with a controlled and high quality diet . High-fat human food is especially dangerous. Especially on holidays, when there is always someone who gives your dog the remains of lamb (which usually has a lot of fat), meat, pieces of dessert … You should also educate your dog not to steal food and keep the dangerous products out of reach. Do not allow him to eat many cookies, candy, butter or traces of fat from your meals and warn your friends and acquaintances not to give your dog anything without your knowledge.


The overweight is another frequent causes of pancreatitis in dogs. Control your dog’s weight by providing an adequate diet. If you are already overweight, consult your vet to recommend a specific high-quality feed until your dog reaches its proper weight. The females sterilized overweight may suffer from pancreatitis.

Hypothyroidism or other endocrine diseases.

The hypothyroidism is a condition that slows down the metabolic rate of your dog. Dogs with hypothyroidism have high levels of serum lipids and can develop pancreatitis.

Severe blunt trauma .

These injuries are a frequent cause of pancreatitis in dogs. They may be due to a blow or an injury caused by a knife or projectile.

Type 1 and 2 diabetes (Mellitus) .

In the event that your dog suffers from diabetes , if acute hyperglycemia occurs, the cells of the islets of the pancreas are injured and stop producing insulin. If the pancreas is severely damaged, it may require surgery.

Certain medications or toxins.

These include cholinesterase inhibitors, calcium, potassium bromide, phenobarbital, L-asparaginase, estrogen, salicylates, azathioprine, thiazide diuretics, and vinca alkaloids.

Genetic predisposition.

For example, the Schnauzer is a dog that has a predisposition to pancreatitis.

Cushing’s syndrome.

It is due to an increase in cortisol production. Dogs with Cushing’s syndrome are more likely to have diabetes, pancreatitis, and other problems.

What are the symptoms of pancreatitis in dogs?

The most frequent symptoms of acute pancreatitis are:

  • Repeated vomiting
  • Severe abdominal pain
  • Loss of appetite
  • Fever or low body temperature
  • Depression
  • Intermittent diarrhea
  • Weightloss
  • Dehydration
  • Weakness
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Breathing difficulties
  • Shock

Abdominal pain is caused by the release of digestive enzymes and causes the dog to have a hunched back and a bowed belly, bringing the chest closer to the ground and leaving the rump in the air . This position is very characteristic in dogs suffering from pancreatitis.

If the pancreatitis attack is acute , the dog’s pancreas could be permanently damaged. In these cases, other diseases, such as type 1 and 2 diabetes or exocrine pancreatic insufficiency , may occur.

If your dog shows any of these symptoms, especially if there are several of them, go to the vet quickly .

How is canine pancreatitis diagnosed?

To diagnose the disease, the dog undergoes a physical examination, followed by a blood test that will show elevated levels of amylase and / or lipase. An abdominal ultrasound can reveal an enlarged and inflamed pancreas.

Canine pancreatitis can be acute or chronic . In both cases, it can present in mild or severe form . Mild cases usually have a good prognosis. In contrast, severe cases have a more reserved prognosis , due to the risk of complications and that other organs may be affected.

Therefore, finding out about the disease , to quickly recognize it and go to the vet, is very important to increase the probability that your dog receives the proper treatment and control .

Acute pancreatitis

In this case, pancreatitis comes on suddenly. It can affect other organs if the inflammation spreads.

Chronic pancreatitis

When the disease develops over time, slowly and often without symptoms, we are faced with chronic pancreatitis. It can occur after repeated attacks of acute pancreatitis.

Once your dog has a pancreatitis attack, the chance of recurrence is high . The best defense is to be aware of the warning signs and to control some factors, such as your dog’s weight and diet.

Is there a treatment for canine pancreatitis?

If your dog suffers from acute pancreatitis, it requires hospitalization , to adequately treat shock and dehydration .

To treat dog pancreatitis, the gland must be allowed to stand by fasting. During the days that your dog does not receive his usual feeding, the balance of liquids and electrolytes is maintained through saline solutions that are administered intravenously .

Currently, some studies suggest enteral (tube) nutrition is more beneficial than fasting, but many vets continue to prefer fasting for 24-48 hours.

To prevent secondary infections, you are given antibiotics . The pain is fought with narcotics , since the pain is very intense. In the event of arrhythmias, they are also treated with the appropriate drugs.

If the dog does not respond to treatment, it may require surgery to drain the pancreas.

The prognosis for dogs suffering from shock or extended peritonitis is severe.

Dogs that recover from pancreatitis are prone to recurrent attacks, which can be mild or severe. To prevent these episodes, it is important to eliminate the factors that predispose to suffering the disease . For example, if your dog is overweight, put him on a weight loss diet. If you have elevated serum lipid levels, provide a low-fat diet.

What supplements are suitable to combat canine pancreatitis?

Canine pancreatitis is a serious disease, so home remedies should never be used to replace veterinary treatment . It is very important that your vet examine your dog and deal with its disease.

That said, it is believed that some digestive enzyme supplements with pancreatin may help some dogs suffering from pancreatitis by reducing the work of the pancreas and inhibiting pancreatic secretion. But this does not work with all dogs and you should not give them to yours without consulting your vet.

In principle, it may seem that fish oil is not suitable for a dog with pancreatitis, due to its high fat content, but it can help to reduce blood lipid levels . Fish oil is supplemented with vitamin E .

Remember that supplements are not medicines and cannot replace veterinary treatment .

Some supplements may worsen pancreatitis , so it is important that you consult your vet, who is the professional who knows your dog best.

What is canine exocrine pancreatic insufficiency?

Exocrine pancreatic insufficiency is a problem related to digestive enzymes. Without these enzymes, the dog cannot properly digest food, as nutrients are not efficiently absorbed.

In some cases, the acinar cells that produce these enzymes are atrophied , that is, they are reduced in size and rendered useless, ceasing to produce the enzymes . This is one of the main causes of pancreatic insufficiency.

Another cause of pancreatic insufficiency in dogs, less common, but also occurring, is pancreatitis . After an inflammation process, the pancreas contracts, producing the same effect as acinar cell atrophy . This form of pancreatic insufficiency is more common in middle-aged dogs and older small breed dogs .

If your dog suffers from pancreatitis, you should be alert to the possible appearance of this disease. Among its most common symptoms is weight loss, despite having a voracious appetite. The dog suffers from diarrhea with large, semi-shaped, gray stools, similar to cow’s dung, with a musty odor. Hair around the anus may have traces of undigested fat.

The treatment involves supplementation of enzymes. Most dogs respond well to this treatment. Your vet may recommend low-fat diets and vitamin supplements.

What is diabetes and how does it occur in dogs?

Diabetes is a common disease in dogs. Dogs can suffer from type 1 and type 2 diabetes (diabetes mellitus) . All breeds can be affected by this disease, although it has a higher incidence in the Golden Retriever , the German Shepherd , the Keeshond and the Poodle . It is more frequent in females and usually appears when the dog is between 6 and 9 years old .

Diabetes is due to inadequate production of insulin by pancreatic islet cells, called Langerhans islets . Some dogs have a genetic predisposition to suffer from this disease. Diabetes can also appear as a sequel to pancreatitis .

The insulin allows glucose to enter cells, where it is transformed into energy. If your dog has diabetes, it will not produce enough insulin, which can lead to hyperglycemia (higher than normal blood glucose level) and glycosuria (presence of high levels of glucose in the urine). Glycosuria causes the diabetic animal to excrete large amounts of urine, causing dehydration and a lot of thirst. Diabetes eventually affects all of the dog’s organs.

At the beginning of the disease, the dog has a large appetite, which is lost with the effects of malnutrition. Therefore, the first symptoms of diabetes that you will see in your dog are:

  • Very thirsty
  • Voracious appetite
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Frequent urination

As the disease progresses, your dog will begin to experience other symptoms:

  • Lethargy
  • Loss of appetite
  • Vomiting
  • Dehydration
  • Weakness
  • waterfalls
  • Eat

To treat diabetes, the dog must be put on an adequate diet. In addition, you will have to administer daily insulin injections and follow a veterinary control. With this, dogs with diabetes often lead active and healthy lives.


  • Pancreatitis is inflammation of the pancreas.
  • It often has treatment, but it can be deadly for your dog.
  • Pancreatitis is believed to appear when digestive enzymes are activated in the pancreas, before reaching the small intestine.
  • Although the causes are not always known, it can be triggered in dogs that consume a high fat diet.
  • Overweight, hypothyroidism, endocrine disease, diabetes 1 and 2, or Cushing’s syndrome can cause canine pancreatitis.
  • Some medications can cause inflammation of the pancreas in dogs.
  • Some breeds, such as the Schnauzer, have a genetic predisposition to suffer from the disease.
  • It is important that you are informed about the characteristics of pancreatitis and that you go to your vet if your dog experiences symptoms.
  • The diagnosis is made from a physical examination of the dog, a blood test, and other tests, such as ultrasound.
  • A dog that has had pancreatitis may relapse.
  • There are supplements that can help overcome pancreatitis, but it is important to consult a vet before giving them to the dog.
  • See your vet if you think your dog may have pancreatitis, as this disease can be serious.


by Abdullah Sam
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