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Pancreatitis in dogs is one of those conditions that owners must be informed about before it strikes. The warning signs may not always be obvious at first. The symptoms might just be mistaken for something less serious, and yet it’s potentially life-threatening.

Pancreatitis in dogs is the inflammation of a dog’s pancreas. This condition can come on all at once and then pass, or it can stay for longer periods. The pancreas is a vital organ that lies on the right side of the abdomen adjacent to the stomach.

The pancreas produces enzymes to assist in food digestion and hormones such as insulin, which regulates blood sugar or glucose metabolism. The digestive enzymes are secreted into the small intestine, and the hormones enter the bloodstream.

There are two forms of Pancreatitis in dogs. Acute pancreatitis is defined as reversible pancreatic inflammation, while Chronic pancreatitis refers to permanent changes in the pancreatic tissue.

These two forms of pancreatitis cannot be differentiated clinically. Clinical signs in acute pancreatitis are usually more severe than those seen with chronic pancreatitis.

If left untreated, pancreatitis may lead to severe organ damage and even sudden death. As a result, you should contact your vet straight away if your dog or puppy is showing signs of the disease.

Symptoms of Pancreatitis in Dogs

If your dog has some of these problems for more than a day, or if these symptoms keep coming back, take them to the vet. It could be pancreatitis, or it could be something else.

Often, a dog:

  • Loses appetite
  • Vomits
  • Has belly pain

Other symptoms are:

  • A fever or low body temperature
  •  Diarrhea
  • No energy
  • A hard time breathing
  •  Dehydration
  • Irregular heartbeat

Major Causes of Pancreatitis in Dogs

In most cases, the cause of pancreatitis in dogs is unknown. But we do know some of the things that may trigger it.

  • High-fat foods
  • Dietary indiscretions:
  • Pancreatic duct backflow or obstruction
  • Hormonal imbalances
  • Toxins: Certain drugs, including those used in chemotherapy treatment and the anti-seizure medication
  • Trauma to the pancreas: Blunt trauma, such being hit by a car, or even surgical manipulation.
  • Genetic predisposition


Diagnostics that may be recommended include:

  • Abdominal radiographs (X-rays)
  • Abdominal ultrasound
  • Blood work including a complete blood count (CBC) and biochemical profile
  • A canine pancreatic lipase immunoreactivity (cPLI) test: The cPLI test is a highly accurate test in diagnosing pancreatitis.
  • Urinalysis and Urine culture
  • Biopsy via surgery or laparoscopy,

Currently, the combination of the tests above is usually recommended to obtain a presumptive diagnosis of pancreatitis.

Treatment of Pancreatitis in Dogs

If your vet can pinpoint the cause of your dog’s pancreatitis, it’s likely they will treat it first. If this isn’t possible, they will provide supportive veterinary care and ensure your dog is monitored carefully. Pain relief is likely to be prescribed to dogs suffering abdominal pain. Medication may also be given to reduce pancreatic inflammation and to stop vomiting and nausea.

In some cases, vets may recommend no food or water for at least 24 hours. One of the most common treatments for pancreatitis is intravenous fluids to maintain normal fluid and electrolyte balance.


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