Pancreatitis in dogs is a serious and frightening condition that can terrify the owners of any beloved pooch that befalls its unpleasant symptoms. Luckily, the more pet parents everywhere that know about pancreatitis in dogs, the easier it is to prevent and treat this unfortunate ailment in dogs.

If you have a dog and want to learn more about how to help them avoid this unpleasant and potentially life-threatening disease, we have all the information you need right here.

What is Canine Pancreatitis?

An exocrine pancreatic disease common in companion animals. The pancreas is an organ that has two important functions—an endocrine and exocrine function.

The endocrine function of the pancreas is responsible for secreting pancreatic hormones such as insulin and glucagon. It is these two hormones that are responsible for regulating the blood sugar levels.

In contrast, the exocrine glands within the pancreas are responsible for secreting digestive enzymes. These enzymes—trysin, chymotrypsin, amylase, and more— are responsible for the breakdown of fats, proteins, and carbohydrates in the digestive tract.

When a dog presents with canine pancreatitis, then this simply means that their pancreas is inflamed.


Importantly, vital organs such as the kidney and liver are also located extremely close to the pancreas, which means our four-legged pals are in extra trouble if their pancreatitis progresses without treatment.

Acute vs Chronic Pancreatitis: What’s the Difference?

When dealing with pancreatitis it’s helpful to know that there are two types found in dogs: acute and chronic. It’s important to note that these two types refer to the same affliction, pancreatitis, however, they differ in their onset.

Acute pancreatitis is also known as sudden-onset pancreatitis, which means that symptoms begin quickly and are usually a one-off episode.

Chronic pancreatitis is a disease where dogs suffer from long-term inflammation.  Chronic pancreatitis will often lead to fibrosis and atrophy, and it is often irreversible.

Lastly, it is important to note that depending on the individual pet situation, both acute and chronic canine pancreatitis can be severe.

Some breeds of dog, such as cocker spaniels, miniature poodles, and miniature schnauzers are more likely to develop pancreatic problems. Both chronic and acute pancreatitis in dogs cause a great deal of pain in the affected animal.

What Causes Pancreatitis in Dogs?

There are a number of theories as to the cause of acute pancreatitis in dogs including obesity, high-fat diets, liver problems, some medications, environmental toxins and other infections. However, most instances of occurrence have a simple root cause: diet!

When a dog’s diet is too high in fat or a dog suddenly eats a higher proportion of high-fat foods than they are used to very quickly, it can result in pancreatic problems due to pancreatic insufficiency to process the fat.

Consistent low-protein diets coupled with too much fat can also be a major cause of pancreatitis in dogs, so it is important to choose a food that has appropriate nutrients for your special pooch.

Some medications have also been shown to increase the likelihood of dogs developing inflammation in the pancreas, such as antibiotics, chemotherapy drugs, antiepileptic drugs, aspirin, and Tylenol, so be extra cautious about your dog’s diet and on the lookout for symptom if taking any of these types of drugs.

Another cause of pancreatitis is other underlying diseases that can affect the efficiency of the pancreas. Diseases that are known to predispose dogs to pancreatitis are diabetes mellitus, hypercalcemia, hyperlipidemia, hyperthyroidism, Addison’s disease and Cushing’s disease, due to their effects on the ability to metabolize fat.

Additionally, be on alert if your dog is mature, overweight or both! Pancreatitis is more common in our older, pudgier buddies.

Symptoms of Pancreatitis to Look Out For!

Dogs with pancreatitis exhibit symptoms that can be spotted fairly easily, if you know what to look out for. Some of the key clinical signs of pancreatitis that can alert us that pancreatic enzymes are on the loose are:

  • Decrease or loss of appetite
  • Nausea
  • Fever
  • Lethargy
  • Abdominal pain

Another obvious clinical sign of pancreatic distress in dogs can be observed visually. When dogs suffer from an inflamed pancreas they often move into the ‘praying’ position, with their hindquarters raised and their head and forequarters on the ground.

If you see your dog in this position often, try gently pressing on their abdomen to ascertain whether they are also experiencing abdominal pain. If so, they may have developed acute pancreatitis.

Diagnosing This Condition in Dogs

Dogs with pancreatitis are potentially at high risk, so if you notice your furry friend exhibiting any of the above symptoms for more than a few hours it is essential to take them to a veterinarian in order to have the condition of their pancreas diagnosed.

For the diagnosis of pancreatitis, your vet will check for symptoms, run tests and possibly do an ultrasound to confirm that your dog is suffering from clinical signs of the condition and to rule out other diseases.

Once your dog has been diagnosed, your veterinarian will be able to work out the best course of treatment for them.

Treating Pancreatitis: Dogs Will Need More Than a Little TLC!

If your dog has been diagnosed with pancreatitis, the good news is that they are one step closer to feeling a whole lot better! Depending on a number of factors, your veterinarian will prescribe a treatment to ensure your pal improves in no time.

There are a number of treatments that are standard for the diagnosis of pancreatitis, and your veterinarian will know what is best for your dog. Some of the standard recommended treatments that your vet may offer to help your dog’s pancreas heal include:

  • No food for a day or two
  • Following a low-fat diet
  • Lots of fluids to rehydrate
  • An intravenous drip to rehydrate if your dog is particularly dehydrated
  • Medication to relieve muscle cramps and pain in your dog

Remember, if you suspect your dog is suffering from pancreatic problems, it is essential that they see a veterinarian, to ensure they receive the correct course of treatment.

What’s the Prognosis Doc?

Luckily for their human families, dogs with acute pancreatitis should make a full recovery, provided they are given swift medical treatment.

After such an episode it is extremely important to keep strict control over their food intake to avoid another bout of this uncomfortable condition.

3 Ways to Prevent Dog Pancreatitis

1.  Keep them on a low-fat diet

It is essential that your dog does not consume too much fat in their diet, as this can trigger pancreatitis. Ensure they consume good quality vet-recommended low-fat foods with low-fat to high protein ratio.

2. Dog food good, human food bad

On the topic of food – while it may be tempting to share food from your own table with your pupster, do not, under any circumstances fall for their sad-eyed tactics!

Admissions to vets for pancreatitis spike after Thanksgiving, when many well-meaning humans slip greasy table scraps to their hounds. Don’t let your pal fall into that statistic!

3. Scavengers simply can’t help themselves

As we know, dogs and humans have bonded over thousands of years, enjoying a reciprocal relationship of trading scraps for protection and work, so the drive to get food off the table is strong! Some of our canine friends are super sneaky and like to try their luck at dipping into the trash to scrounge a tasty morsel.

Unfortunately many of our spoiled pals today lack the digestive enzymes to handle these treats, and pancreatitis is the result. Make sure you secure your garbage in order to avoid a sick dog and a trash-covered house!

With a healthy diet and a vigilant owner, it is simple to minimize the risk of damaging the pancreas of our pupper friends. Follow this simple guide in order to have a happy and fit pancreatitis-free best friend for many years to come!