Pancreatitis In Dogs: Symptoms, Causes, And Treatment

Dogs are always jolly and cheerful. They make any household happy. But when your dog refuses to eat and becomes gloomy, it is something to worry about. Pancreatitis is common in dogs. The warning signs can vary at times. If your dog is suffering from pancreatitis, then take him to a vet for diagnosis. Also, you have to take good care of your dog. It is curable and your dog can live long after he/she is diagnosed with Pancreatitis.

What Is Pancreatitis?

The pancreas is an important organ that is situated on the right side of the abdomen. This organ is responsible for producing certain enzymes that help in digestion. Also, the pancreas produces some essential hormones, such as insulin and glucagon.

When the pancreas is inflamed and swells up, the condition is called pancreatitis. This situation is painful. Although pancreatitis is quite a complicated disease, it’s curable.

What Is Pancreatitis In Dogs?

Pancreatitis manifests in the form of swelling and inflammation of the pancreas. Spontaneous canine pancreatitis is not yet completely understood. However, veterinarians can prescribe proper medication or operate the pancreas if needed.

Pancreatitis in dogs is a common disease. This can happen irrespective of age, sex or breed predisposition. Further, it can be of two types: acute pancreatitis and chronic pancreatitis.

Now, acute pancreatitis is usually mild. Still, it can take an edematous form. While severe or chronic pancreatitis can take a hemorrhagic form and cause extreme pain and even lead to death.

In the case of pancreatitis, the inflammation lets the digestive enzymes from the pancreas to spread into the abdomen. And thus, it damages the liver, bile ducts, gallbladder, as well as intestine.

Prognosis Of Pancreatitis

The prognosis of pancreatitis depends solely on the severity of the disease. Also, it depends on other factors like the stage of diagnosis as well as the response to initial medication or therapy. Dogs who suffer from shock and depression usually have a quite guarded prognosis. Again, in the case of the mild forms of pancreatitis, it requires a good prognosis with aggressive treatment. Further, dogs that are not treated can move towards the hemorrhagic form. This indicates suffering severe consequences and even sudden death.

Clinical Symptoms Of Pancreatitis In Dogs

If your dog is suffering from pancreatitis, then take good care of him/her. Give your dog proper medication and observe the symptoms carefully. In case you are suspecting that your dog might be suffering from some disease of the pancreas, then look for the symptoms. If the symptoms are indicating pancreatitis, then take him/her to a vet right now.

There are some different symptoms of pancreatitis. But not all dogs show the same signs. However, abdominal pain is the most common sign. Also, the abdominal part will appear bloated than usual. Along with that, you will notice your dog becoming gloomy or depressed. This happens because of the pain they are going through.

Signs Of Acute Pancreatitis

Dogs with acute pancreatitis display the following symptoms:

  • First of all, you will notice a bloated abdomen.

  • Dehydration or increased thirst is also very common. This happens because the water circulation in your dog’s body gets disrupted. Therefore, he/she starts to pee more which, in turn, generates more thirst.

  • Lack of appetite is an important sign. When the pancreas is affected, your dog will surely refuse food. Because eating will cause him irritation and he/she will suffer from indigestion.

  • In the case of pancreatitis, you will find your dog in great discomfort or pain. He/she will specifically have a problem in sitting or lying down on the stomach.

  • Agitation, gloominess, and lethargy also occur in case of mild or acute pancreatitis.

  • Irritation or whining when you touch their abdomen.

  • Problem is finding a comfortable place to sit.

  • Your dog might hunch while walking or standing. This occurs due to the swelling and discomfort in the abdomen.

  • Diarrhoea and vomiting are also pretty common in pancreatitis.
    You might notice a fever as well.

Signs Of Chronic Pancreatitis

If your dog is suffering from chronic pancreatitis, then he/she will show some serious signs. Therefore, if you notice any of the signs discussed below, take your dog to a vet. If you leave it untreated, then the situation can get a lot more complicated. The signs of chronic pancreatitis include:

  • The first and most scary symptom is disseminated intravascular coagulation (DIC). In this condition, multiple haemorrhages take place. If you notice any hemorrhage, then do not waste any time and take your dog to a vet immediately. Without proper treatment, this can result in death.

  • Another noteworthy sign is heart arrhythmia. This is basically a problem of the heart’s rhythm where the heart rate fluctuates. Either it beats faster or slower than usual. Heart arrhythmia occurs in chronic canine pancreatitis.

  • Also, sepsis can occur if pancreatitis becomes severe. Sepsis is a life-threatening problem. It is a response to an infection. This occurs when some toxins mix into the blood. It is kind of a chemical imbalance of the body.

  • You will also notice breathing difficulties in your dog. He/she will tire up easily and refuse to move much.

  • The worst thing that can happen is your dog’s abdomen swells up and he/she refuses to eat or drink. You will see him in constant agitation. This happens because, at times, the enzymes made in pancreas gets released in the body. Since these enzymes help in digestion, it damages other organs badly. The organs become partially digested and this causes severe pain. And most importantly, these adverse effects are irreversible.

  • In addition to the above symptoms, you will notice the signs of acute pancreatitis as well in your dog if he/she is suffering from chronic pancreatitis.

Differences Between Acute And Chronic Pancreatitis

Acute pancreatitis is the one that occurs all of a sudden. It shows up in dogs without any previous appearance or risk factors. Acute pancreatitis usually occurs in a mild form. However, without proper treatment, it can spread and cause damage to other organs.

Chronic pancreatitis, on the other hand, is the one that develops over time. It usually begins without any symptoms and gradually turns severe. Chronic pancreatitis is hard to cure. If it spreads to other organs causing inflammation, then regular medication or a surgery is the only option.

Finally, both acute and chronic pancreatitis starts with a mild form. So, treat your dog properly if he/she is diagnosed with pancreatitis. Because both types can cause severe damages to other organs and even result in death.

What Causes Pancreatitis In Dogs?

Pancreatitis usually does not appear out of the blue. Although the risks are always there. Now, certain factors can cause pancreatitis in your dog. Taking into consideration these risk factors lowers the chances of pancreatitis. Also, if your dog is already suffering from this disease, then a little extra care can add up to his/her longevity. The risk factors are as follows:

High-fat Diet

A major reason behind canine pancreatitis is a high-fat diet. Food can cause a lot of problems in dogs. So, you must take care of what you are feeding your dog. Further, do not forget that a dog’s metabolism differs drastically from that of  humans. So, you cannot always feed your dog foods that are made for humans.

Now, if you feed your dog fatty, oily, or greasy food a lot, then there is a high chance of pancreatitis. So, do not feed your dog fatty food. A little bit of fish oil is healthy for him/her though.

Dietary Indiscretion

If your dog has a history of dietary indiscretion, there is a chance he/she might suffer from pancreatitis. Dietary indiscretion is a habit of animals to eat unusual items. This behavior can develop due to mistaken identity, familiar scent or flavor, and curiosity.

So, if your dog eats almost everything, then train him/her. You must keep a keen eye at what your dog is eating.


Obesity is a disorder that leads to excessive body fat. It can result from intaking extra calories than what’s required on a daily basis. Obesity is a common problem all over the globe and dogs too suffer from this. It can be a cause of pancreatitis in dogs. So, be careful with what you are feeding your dog. Loving him/her is great but do not overfeed. Also, keep your dog active.


Hypothyroidism is a condition where the thyroid glands get affected. Thus, they fail to produce certain important hormones in the required quantities. As a result, fatigue, sudden weight gain, constipation, cold sensitivity, increased thirst, etc. occur.

Hypothyroidism can be a reason for canine pancreatitis. So, make sure your dog is not suffering from hypothyroidism or any other endocrine diseases. If yes, then treat him/her now.

Severe Blunt Trauma

Severe blunt trauma can cause pancreatitis. If your dog got hit on the abdominal area, then take him/her to a vet as soon as possible. Make sure your pet is not suffering from blunt trauma.

In this context, blunt trauma refers to any injury that affects one or more organs of the body. Blunt trauma can be a contusion, abrasions, lacerations or even bone fractures. So, if your dog had an accident, then give him/her proper medication. Also, make sure he/she is not suffering from trauma for a long time.

Diabetes Mellitus

Diabetes mellitus, at times, results in canine pancreatitis. In this disease, the body fails to convert food into energy properly. As a result, it affects the metabolism and creates some abdominal problems.

The pancreas produces insulin that helps the body in regulating blood sugar levels. In the case of diabetes, the body builds an insulin resistance. Therefore, this creates incapability of intaking sugar. It can further result in pancreatitis. So, if your dog is suffering from diabetes mellitus, then provide him/her with the necessary insulin shots.

Medication Or Toxins

Certain medication has some side effects. These medicines can affect your dog’s health adversely and result in pancreatitis. Also, some medicines containing cholinesterase inhibitors, salicylates, potassium bromide, l-asparaginase, calcium, estrogen, azathioprine thiazide diuretics, and vinca alkaloids can create toxins in a dog’s body. These can cause pancreatitis or other diseases.

So, before giving your dog any medication, make sure they are not harmful to him/her. Also, ensure that your dog is not allergic to any of the components that are in that medicine.

Genetic Predisposition

Genes are something no one can avoid. If your dog carries genetic mutations that increase his/her predisposition to pancreatitis, then there is a high chance he/she might suffer from the same. So, check for the medical history of your dog. In some cases, a genetic predisposition can be the cause of pancreatitis. If you adopted him/her from any centre or pet shop, then ask for the medical history. Also, take your pet for a check-up every time you notice something unusual.

How Is Pancreatitis Diagnosed?

If you notice any of the symptoms of pancreatitis, then take your dog for a checkup. For an accurate diagnosis, your dog’s medical history, physical examination along with some laboratory testing will play an important part.

Medical History

Your dog’s medical history plays an important role in the diagnosis. It is because dogs who have experienced a problem of pancreatitis before are far more prone to suffer from it again during their lifetime. If the vet who checks your dog has already treated him/her for such conditions, then consult him. It is likely that the vet will be able to interpret the signs right away.

The age of your dog is also important in this regard. Basically, with age, dogs become more susceptible to suffering. Finally, any recent or present medical conditions should also be kept in the mind while diagnosing pancreatitis.

Physical Examination

The next important thing is a physical examination. It will allow the vet to detect whether your dog is suffering from pancreatitis or there is some other problem. In case there is visible swelling in the abdominal area, then your dog needs to go through some physical examination protocols.

However, do not jump into any conclusion on the basis of some symptoms. There are some important factors too. So, if you see anything unusual, then take your dog to a vet. An expert can definitely diagnose better and suggest you with the proper treatment.

Now, other than bloating or tenderness in the abdominal area, your dog’s behavioural changes matter as well. So, take into consideration all the signs and factors, including apathy, lethargy, and mood swings.

Laboratory Testing

Lastly, the physical examination is not always enough. To confirm the condition, laboratory testing is necessary. A lab-test involves an examination of your dog’s blood. So, at first, the physician will draw some blood sample from your dog to measure the level of pancreatic enzymes.

Now, in general, dogs suffering from pancreatitis have more white blood cells than usual. However, there are other factors too that can influence the white blood cell count.

Again, pancreatitis increases the level of lipase and amylase. These two are pancreatic enzymes that are not supposed to mix in the blood. If there is the presence of these two enzymes in the blood, then it is surely pancreatitis.

Once the physician diagnoses your dog with pancreatitis, there are a few other examinations that are required. The vet must check for inflammation in other organs too. It is because, pancreatic enzymes can damage the liver, bile tube, intestine, etc.

The veterinarians might also do an X-ray or ultrasound to confirm. Now, if your dog is suffering from pancreatitis, then don’t be disheartened. With a little extra care and proper treatment, he/she can still live a long life.

How To Treat Pancreatitis In Dogs?

The treatment of pancreatitis is possible. This treatment has multiple approaches that include treating the pain and giving your dog some relief, treatment for withdrawal of food and water, and finally treating the disease from its roots.

Treating The Pain

The first and most important step is easing up the pain. Usually, in pancreatitis, dogs suffer from serious abdominal pain. Therefore, controlling the pain is of primary importance. The manifestation of this pain varies in dogs.

So, some dogs experience massive manifestations of abdominal pain, while some feel less intense pain. Now, giving a painkiller is not enough. After that, the vet must also observe your dog for a time. Make sure your dog is not allergic to any of the medicines or not having any negative side effect of the painkiller.

Treating Potential Infections

Pancreatitis leads to some secondary infections of the stomach. So, if your dog is receiving treatment for pancreatitis, then the vet might also suggest him/her a round of antibiotics. These are for treating other potential infections.

Treatment For Withdrawal Of Food

Correspondingly, antibiotics are mainly taken as prophylaxis. They protect your dog from any infection that can derive from the complications that are associated with pancreatitis.

Pancreatitis affects pancreas, liver, gallbladder, bile tube and intestines. Due to the inflammation in the organs, your dog refuses to eat.

In such cases, do not force-feed him. Try to give him more liquids. The pancreas needs enough rest to cure itself of the disease. Now, resting the pancreas means not intaking food or water for 24 hours. This will allow the pancreas to heal.

If your dog shows improvement after 24 hours, then it is a good sign. After that, you can provide him/her with a small amount of food. You must not feed your dog fatty food. Feed him something that consists of more fibre, is bland, and easy to digest.

This type of food is preferred by most of the veterinarians because it is designed to be easy on the stomach. During pancreatitis, your dog loses his capacity of digesting food. Food intake must be increased slowly. Do not give your dog full/regular meals immediately. This can strain the pancreas.

Treating With Fluids

Keeping your dog hydrated is important. So, make sure your dog receives adequate hydration throughout the day. Offer him/her fresh clean water.

Further, hydration not necessarily means water. It also includes a solution of balanced electrolytes. But before giving your dog electrolytes, consult with a vet. Make sure he/she is not allergic to any components of the electrolyte. The most commonly electrolyte-rich fluids for dogs are given through an IV injection. This usually ensures that your dog is not dehydrated that too without taxing the pancreas.

A Pancreas Surgery

Surgeries are rare and suggested when the case gets too complicated. If the pancreas is affected badly and seems beyond treatment, then the vet usually goes with surgery.

If your dog is suffering from haemorrhage or intestinal bleeding, then surgery is the only option left. But if it can be treated with medication, then it is better not to go for surgery.

The chances of survival after surgery depends on the complications and the age of your dog. Further, you must take special care of your dog if he/she has to go through a pancreas operation.

Taking Care Of A Dog Who Is Suffering From Pancreatitis

If your dog is suffering from pancreatitis, then apart from the medication, you also have to take care of him/her. Such a complicated disease requires some extra care.

  • Do not feed your dog commercial dog food. Make bland and easy-to-digest homemade food.

  • Always keep him/her hydrated. Provide him with a fresh and clean water supply always.

  • Give him all the prescribed medication and look for any behavioural or physical changes.

  • Take your dog to a vet for a regular checkup. Do periodical blood tests if necessary.

A Few Preventive Measures

  • Don’t feed your dog fatty food and make sure he/she doesn’t grow overweight.

  • Keep your dog active.

  • Look out for mood swings and behavioural changes.

  • If your dog has a medical history, then take him for a checkup from time to time.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *