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Key takeaway

Pancreatitis is a condition that’s characterized by inflammation of the pancreas, though it can affect various bodily functions. Some of the signs of pancreatitis in dogs include dehydration, diarrhea, a hunched back, and fever. Left untreated, pancreatitis can become a life-threatening condition. Treatment is focused on relieving pain and preventing complications that come with pancreatitis, so early diagnosis is key.

Pancreatitis in dogs is a medical condition characterized by inflammation of the pancreas. That being said, pancreatitis is a very serious condition that can affect several parts of your dog’s body. Over time, pancreatitis can lead to inflammation of various parts of the body and can even cause death. Because of this, it’s important to see a vet for a diagnosis and get started on treatment as early as possible.

As far as treatment goes, there are a handful of options available. Closely monitoring your dog’s health and making dietary changes can help relieve some of the symptoms that come with pancreatitis in dogs. However, it’s important to talk to a veterinarian before you make any decisions about how to treat your dog’s pancreatitis.

If your dog is not eating and you think they may have pancreatitis, the best thing you can do is take them to the vet. Only your vet can properly diagnose your dog, and they can also help you decide on the right treatment plan for your dog. Here’s what you need to know about pancreatitis in dogs and what you can do about it.

What Is Pancreatitis? 

So, what is pancreatitis in dogs? Pancreatitis, in medical terms, means “inflammation  of the pancreas,” but it’s more complicated than that. The pancreas is responsible for releasing enzymes into your dog’s digestive system, which play an important role in the digestion of food. Typically, these enzymes activate in the small intestine, but these enzymes activate right away in dogs with pancreatitis. This is what actually causes the inflammation in your dog’s pancreas.

Over time, the enzymes that are immediately activated as a result of pancreatitis can begin to eat away at your dog’s pancreas, which leads to serious pain and medical complications. Recognizing the symptoms of pancreatitis in dogs before it gets to that point is important because your vet can help you minimize the symptoms that come with pancreatitis.

Because pancreatitis can affect so many parts of your dog’s body, it can eventually lead to a series of complications that includes myocarditis, pulmonary failure, renal failure, and hypotension. It’s important to visit a vet as soon as possible to get your dog diagnosed and get started with pancreatitis treatment.

Graphic listing symptoms of pancreatitis in dogs

Symptoms Of Pancreatitis In Dogs

As a pet parent, it’s important to know the signs of pancreatitis so you know if you need to take your dog to the vet. There are a handful of symptoms of pancreatitis in dogs, and some of these symptoms may also occur with other medical conditions. 

Here are some of the symptoms your dog may exhibit if they have pancreatitis:1

  • Anorexia
  • Hunched back
  • Repeated vomiting
  • Pain or distention of the abdomen
  • Diarrhea
  • Loss of appetite
  • Dehydration
  • Weakness/lethargy
  • Fever

If your dog is only showing one of these symptoms, you should keep an eye on them and monitor their health. If your dog is showing several symptoms of pancreatitis in dogs, you should take them to the vet for a diagnosis immediately.

Graphic listing causes of pancreatitis in dogs

What Causes Pancreatitis In Dogs?

While there’s only so much you can do to prevent pancreatitis in dogs, understanding the causes of pancreatitis is a good start. Pancreatitis can be caused by numerous things, including canine diabetes, your dog’s diet, and certain medications. It’s important to make sure your dog doesn’t have any habits or medical conditions that may cause pancreatitis. So, what causes pancreatitis in dogs?

For some dogs, pancreatitis is a result of dietary choices over a long period of time. This is because pancreatitis can be caused by a high-fat diet, as well as obesity and dietary indiscretion. If your dog has pancreatitis as a result of their diet, making dietary changes to avoid fat and other trigger foods is an important step to take.

Certain medical conditions may also lead to pancreatitis, including severe blunt trauma, hypothyroidism, and diabetes mellitus. If your dog has a medical condition that may cause pancreatitis, talk to your vet about preventing pancreatitis in dogs.

Dogs can also get pancreatitis as a result of things they consume, whether it’s a medication or a toxin. Make sure your dog is only eating dog food that your vet recommends, and talk to your vet before giving your dog any medication.

Pancreatitis in dogs may also have a bit to do with breed. Certain smaller breeds of terriers and miniature schnauzers seem to be at increased risk for pancreatitis.

Diagnosis 

When you take your dog to the vet, they’ll perform a physical exam and run some basic tests to diagnose pancreatitis. Your vet will look at your dog’s medical history, use medical imaging tests, and measure pancreatic enzymes to help diagnose your dog.

Fine needle aspiration may also be used to take a sample of the pancreatic tissue, which an expert can look at to determine if there’s anything wrong. Getting your dog to the vet for a diagnosis as early as possible is an important part of preventing complications from pancreatitis.

Graphic listing treatment approaches to pancreatitis in dogs

Treating Pancreatitis In Dogs

If left untreated, pancreatitis can be a serious and even fatal medical condition for dogs. Fortunately, there are a handful of treatment options that can help manage pain and prevent further complications.

For acute pancreatitis, it’s important to identify the underlying cause of the condition and focus on treating or managing that while providing supportive care. This may include IV fluids, a low-fat diet, and resting the pancreas. Chronic pancreatitis treatment is similar, but your vet may recommend immunosuppressive medication as well.

Keep in mind that early intervention is one of the keys to treating pancreatitis in dogs. If you notice your dog is lethargic or exhibiting other symptoms of pancreatitis, it’s worth visiting your vet to find out what’s going on.

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Pancreatitis In Dogs: Frequently Asked Questions

Can a dog survive pancreatitis?

It depends. Your dog’s prognosis has a lot to do with how early their pancreatitis is diagnosed, as well as the severity of their condition. An early diagnosis and early intervention can help prevent some of the complications that come with pancreatitis in addition to improving quality of life. If you don’t do anything about pancreatitis in dogs, it can eventually lead to medical conditions that include renal failure and myocarditis. If your dog is exhibiting signs of pancreatitis, you should take them to the vet.

What can trigger pancreatitis in dogs?

Pancreatitis can be triggered by lots of things, from your dog’s diet to the medication they’re taking. Oftentimes, pancreatitis is caused by a high-fat diet, but it can also be caused by certain medications or the ingestion of toxins. Dogs can also get pancreatitis as a result of diabetes mellitus, hypothyroidism, and other medical conditions. Dogs who are obese are at higher risk for pancreatitis, and certain dog breeds such as small terriers and miniature schnauzers seem to have a genetic predisposition to pancreatitis.

What is the best dog food for pancreatitis?

When your dog has pancreatitis, your vet will typically recommend switching to low-fat or ultra low-fat food. A high-fat diet is a fairly common cause of pancreatitis, and it’s even worse for dogs who eat one large, fatty meal in a single sitting. In addition to switching to low-fat dog food, your vet may also recommend changing your feeding schedule from one large feeding per day to several small feedings per day. It’s also important to avoid giving your dog any table scraps, especially if you’re eating something fatty that isn’t good for dogs. Ultimately, if your dog has pancreatitis, it’s up to you and your vet to decide what food your dog should eat and how often.

Happy pet owner holding dog

Final Notes

Being a good pet parent means knowing the signs and causes of pancreatitis in dogs, so you can help keep your dog happy and healthy. It’s important to avoid feeding your dog a high-fat diet or feeding them one large, fatty meal in one sitting. You should also talk to your vet before giving your dog any medication.

If your dog has pancreatitis and you need a vet, Dutch is here to help. With Dutch, you can connect with a vet online to video chat, so you can get help from the comfort of your home. Dutch even works with pharmacies to ship prescriptions directly to your door. When you need a vet without all the hassle, Dutch is here for you.

References

  1. Steiner, Jörg M. “Pancreatitis in Dogs and Cats - Digestive System.” Merck Veterinary Manual, Merck Veterinary Manual, 10 Feb. 2022, https://www.merckvetmanual.com/digestive-system/the-exocrine-pancreas/pancreatitis-in-dogs-and-cats?query=pancreatitis

  2. Staff, AKC. “Pancreatitis in Dogs: Symptoms & Treatment.” American Kennel Club, American Kennel Club, 20 Sept. 2021, https://www.akc.org/expert-advice/health/pancreatitis-in-dogs/