Image of a sick dog not eating its food

Key takeaway

Pancreatitis is a medical condition characterized by inflammation of the pancreas. There are several potential causes of pancreatitis, and cases of pancreatitis in dogs can be both short- and long-term. Symptoms include loss of appetite, vomiting, and weakness. Treatment may involve dietary changes, monitoring, intravenous fluids, and pain medication, depending on the symptoms your dog is experiencing.

Symptoms of Pancreatitis in Dogs

Pancreatitis is inflammation of the pancreas, which can cause a wide range of symptoms in dogs. Some of the symptoms of pancreatitis in dogs include weakness, vomiting, lethargy, and dehydration. These symptoms can vary from case to case, and cases of pancreatitis may be short-term or long-term in dogs.

Being aware of pancreatitis is important because pancreatitis is the most common exocrine pancreatic disease in dogs and cats. As a pet parent, recognizing the symptoms of pancreatitis can help you get your dog the treatment they need in a timely manner. Both short-term and long-term pancreatitis can cause severe symptoms, and reading dog body language to diagnose pancreatitis can be difficult.

Keep reading to find out more about pancreatitis in dogs and how to spot it.

What Is Pancreatitis?

Pancreatitis in dogs is a medical condition that’s characterized by inflammation of the pancreas, which is responsible for creating important enzymes and hormones that help aid in digestion1. Because pancreatitis is the most common exocrine pancreatic disease in dogs and cats, it’s something every pet owner should know about.

If your dog has pancreatitis, you may notice your dog is lethargic. However, that’s just one of many symptoms of pancreatitis in dogs. Dogs who have pancreatitis may also experience symptoms such as dehydration and vomiting. If you notice your dog vomiting after eating, that could be related to pancreatitis.

The symptoms of pancreatitis in dogs may vary quite a bit, and some cases of pancreatitis are more severe than others. The severity of pancreatitis and the symptoms present are important factors in how pancreatitis is treated. Because pancreatitis is a serious medical condition, you should call a vet immediately or take your dog to an emergency animal hospital if you believe they have pancreatitis.

What Can Cause Pancreatitis in Dogs?

Understanding the causes of pancreatitis in dogs can help you prevent it. There are several things that can cause pancreatitis in dogs, including1:

  • Eating trash
  • Consuming large amounts of table scraps or other inappropriate food
  • Severe trauma or surgery
  • Certain drugs
  • High blood levels of triglycerides 
  • Excessive adrenal gland function (hyperadrenocorticism)
  • Infections

Potential causes of pancreatitis in dogs

You can’t monitor triglycerides or adrenal gland function at home, which is why it’s important to take your dog to the vet every once in a while for a checkup. You should let your vet know about any dietary indiscretions your dog may have, especially if they have a bad habit of eating trash. The earlier you diagnose pancreatitis in dogs, the sooner you can get your dog the treatment they need.

What Dog Breeds Are at Risk of Pancreatitis?

Like many medical conditions in dogs, some dog breeds seem to be at higher risk of developing pancreatitis. If your dog is one of the breeds that’s at risk of pancreatitis, you should talk to your vet about steps you can take to prevent pancreatitis in dogs. Here are some of the breeds that are most commonly affected by pancreatitis1:

  • Miniature Schnauzers
  • Yorkshire Terriers
  • Cocker Spaniels
  • Dachshunds
  • Poodles
  • Huskies

While these breeds are at higher risk, the causes we mentioned earlier are still an important factor in whether your dog gets pancreatitis or not. That being said, you should talk to your vet if your dog is one of these breeds because taking steps to prevent pancreatitis can help reduce their risk.

What Are Symptoms of Pancreatitis in Dogs?

As a pet parent, understanding the symptoms of pancreatitis is one of the best ways to keep your dog healthy. While a dog coughing and wheezing isn’t typically a sign of pancreatitis, there are a handful of symptoms your dog may experience if they have pancreatitis. If you notice several of these symptoms, you should take your dog to the vet as soon as possible. Your vet can determine if your dog has pancreatitis and help you decide what to do to treat it.

Here are some of the common symptoms of pancreatitis in dogs1:

  • Loss of appetite
  • Vomiting
  • Weakness
  • Abdominal pain
  • Dehydration
  • Diarrhea
  • Lethargy

Symptoms of pancreatitis in dogs

Diagnosing pancreatitis in dogs can be difficult because vomiting, loss of appetite, and dehydration in dogs are all symptoms that can result from several medical conditions. If you only notice your dog is vomiting and is acting lethargic, you might think they just have an upset stomach. If your dog has several of the signs and symptoms of pancreatitis in dogs, you should take them to the vet for a diagnosis.

It’s also important to keep in mind that the severity of symptoms can vary quite a bit from case to case. While some dogs may experience severe abdominal pain and frequent vomiting as a result of pancreatitis, lethargy, and loss of appetite may be bigger problems for others. Because these symptoms may present with various serious medical conditions, you should take your dog to the vet if you notice vomiting, diarrhea, and loss of appetite that last for more than a day or two.

Because dogs may experience a loss of appetite, vomiting, diarrhea, and abdominal pain with pancreatitis, you might want to switch to a diet that’s easier on their stomach. When feeding a dog with an upset stomach, it’s important to focus on foods that are gentle on your dog’s stomach. There are certain dog food brands that can be good for a dog with an upset stomach, or you can feed your dog pumpkin, chicken, and other food that’s easy on their stomach.

When you talk to your vet, make sure you mention your dog’s medical history and talk to them about dog breeds that are at a higher risk for pancreatitis. If your dog is at a higher risk for pancreatitis because of its breed, you should ask your vet about steps you can take to prevent pancreatitis in dogs.

Dutch makes it easy to get expert advice from a veterinarian. With online vet help from Dutch, you can schedule an appointment to video chat with a vet to talk about the symptoms your dog is experiencing and get professional advice. Keep in mind that you should still take your dog to a vet or animal hospital after your video chat appointment if they have pancreatitis.

How Is Pancreatitis in Dogs Diagnosed?

Vets diagnose pancreatitis in dogs by looking at your dog’s medical history as well as the presence of vomiting and abdominal pain. Providing a thorough history helps your vet make a more accurate diagnosis; this includes dietary indiscretions, or the tendency to eat certain non-food objects1.

Veterinarian taking care of a sick dog

In addition to looking at your dog’s medical history and checking for physical canine pancreatitis symptoms, your vet may also use a blood test to make sure your dog has pancreatitis and not another medical condition. Your vet may also use a combination of X-rays, ultrasound, or pancreatic tissue biopsies to diagnose pancreatitis1.

If you think your dog may have pancreatitis, you should schedule an appointment with your veterinarian. Left untreated, pancreatitis can continue to get worse and cause more severe symptoms. In severe cases of pancreatitis that’s left untreated for a long period of time, it can actually be fatal.

How Do You Treat Pancreatitis in Dogs?

Treating pancreatitis in dogs involves a comprehensive approach that varies from case to case. Part of this treatment involves monitoring your dog and providing supportive care based on their symptoms. In severe cases of pancreatitis, your dog may need to be hospitalized for monitoring and treatment. Your dog may be given medicine that relieves nausea and helps them stop vomiting. Dogs who are vomiting uncontrollably may need to rest their pancreas. Resting the pancreas involves completely restricting water and food by mouth for a few days1.

How pancreatitis in dogs is treated

If your dog has severe pancreatitis and is very ill, your vet may recommend IV fluids in addition to the other treatment they’re receiving. Because abdominal pain is typically present with pancreatitis in dogs, your vet may also prescribe pain medication1. Make sure you read the label carefully and talk to your vet if you have any questions about administering the pain medication they’ve prescribed.

For mild cases of pancreatitis, dietary changes can help treat pancreatitis. Your veterinarian may recommend switching to a low-fat diet, which may mean switching to a specialty dog food. If you give your dog treats, you’ll need to switch to low-fat treats as well. Figuring out the cause of pancreatitis or what puts your dog at risk for it is an important part of treatment. Some dogs with mild pancreatitis may be prescribed medication if they don’t respond properly to other treatments. Dogs with long-term pancreatitis—even if it’s mild—should be monitored for complications such as diabetes mellitus and exocrine pancreatic insufficiency and treated accordingly1.

With Dutch, getting the treatment your dog needs is easy. You can video chat with a vet to learn more about the symptoms of pancreatitis in dogs and what dietary changes to make to treat mild cases of pancreatitis. If your dog needs medication as part of their treatment, we can work with pharmacies to have it delivered to your door. 

Final Notes

Pancreatitis in dogs is a serious medical condition that can be life-threatening in severe cases. Getting a diagnosis and starting treatment as early as possible is key in preventing complications that may come with pancreatitis in dogs. Treatment includes careful monitoring and treatment of symptoms, as well as medication and surgery in some cases. You can talk to your vet to learn more.

If you’re worried about your dog, telemedicine for pets can make it easier to get help from a vet. With Dutch, you can connect with a veterinarian online and schedule an online video chat to get expert advice. For dogs that need prescription medication, Dutch can work with pharmacies to deliver it to your door. If you think your dog has pancreatitis, try Dutch and get connected with a vet today.

References

  1. Steiner, Jörg M. “Pancreatitis and Other Disorders of the Pancreas in Dogs.” Merck Veterinary Manual. https://www.merckvetmanual.com/dog-owners/digestive-disorders-of-dogs/pancreatitis-and-other-disorders-of-the-pancreas-in-dogs