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Pancreatitis in Dogs

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Pancreatitis in dogs generally is a painful, serious canine disease that can crop up all of a sudden. Although the exact cause of this condition remains unknown, it appears to be most common in middle-aged pooches, probably more in females as compared to males, which are overweight and usually follows a high-fat diet.

For some dogs, an attack can occur rapidly as a result of eating table scraps or very fatty foods. Veterinarians often report increased cases of acute pancreatitis around the holidays, when people unknowingly feed their dog special treats from the holiday meal, like turkey skin or sweets. However, not all cases are a result of poor diet, as genetics seems to also play a role in its development.

Understanding the Basics

  • The pancreas. The pancreas is a large, elongated gland in the body that is found between the upper small intestine, kidneys, liver, spleen, and stomach. One of the pancreas’ major functions is the secretion of digestive enzymes as well as other essential substances necessary for digestion. Pancreatitis occurs when there is a swelling and inflammation of the organ. The condition is linked to the activation of certain digestive enzymes that lead to the injury to the pancreas itself, and sometimes, even to its adjacent organs in the abdomen.
  • The symptoms. Clinical signs of pancreatitis normally include vomiting, oftentimes profuse; lack of appetite or refusal to eat; lack of thirst or refusal to drink; weight loss; depression; weakness; lethargy; abdominal pain, usually severe and sudden; diarrhea; dehydration; and/or tucked up belly. Once the disease has progressed, the following indicators can be observed: abnormal stool consistency and color; fever; swollen abdomen; heart arrhythmias; difficulty breathing; shock; systemic infection, inflammation of the other organs that surround the pancreas; and/or internal hemorrhage. Since pancreatitis in dogs can be very serious, it requires immediate vet attention.

Treatment Options

Most cases of pancreatitis in dogs are treated by means of withholding the pet’s oral food and water, along with intravenous fluid in order to maintain the electrolyte balance and normal fluid in the dog’s body. Anti-inflammatories, antibiotics, anti-emetics, and pain killers may also be prescribed to manage the symptoms of the disease. If shock is present, other treatments may be provided. Sadly, pooches that show shock are often at risk of death, despite the aggressive forms of treatment.

When vomiting is no longer present, the patient can be given little amounts of fluids. If he can keep the liquids down, small amount of low protein, low fat diet may be offered. Some dogs with pancreatitis, however, may have to be hospitalized for several days before they can be sent back home.

Possible Long Term Problems

Although most dogs with pancreatitis may recover without any long-term effect, there are still some cases in which the dog may continue showing recurrent bouts of the condition, commonly referred to as chronic, relapsing pancreatitis. These dogs usually require a specific medical diet to minimize the recurrence rate. Nevertheless, if a substantial amount of pancreatic cells have been destroyed; inadequate digestive enzymes might be produced resulting in continuing digestive problems. Dogs experiencing this digestive difficulty may have to be medicated with each meal in order to prevent diarrhea and weight loss. In addition, since the pancreas is also the site of the production of insulin, if a great number of these cells is being destroyed, the patient may develop diabetes.

The very best way to prevent pancreatitis in your dog is to provide a healthy, low fat, balanced diet and plenty of regular exercise. Further, if you’re adopting a dog from a breeder, make sure that the other dogs in the breeding line have not developed this condition, as genetics do play a role.

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  1. Avatar Of J



    My beloved rescued dog of 10 yrs died from pancreatitis. He was hospitalized for 10 days. The 10th day they operated and inserted a feeding tube below his pancreas. He went into cardiac arrest and died 6 hours after the operation. He was rescued from a kill shelter and had been given a clean bill of health years earlier, after having 2 radiation treatments for cancer. He was the cutest, sweetest, smartest,boy ever. Pancreatitis is cruel. Mookie took a big piece of my heart. I'll see you at the rainbow bridge Mookie. I you.

  2. my dog had this and was put on the vet diet,she was medium age bitch,but now just has original Chappie and any veg and potato scraps,she is fine happy and healthy at nearly 13 yrs old.

  3. Avatar Of Millie Millie says:

    My dog died 3 days ago of acute pancreatitis. The veterinarian run labs and enzymes where high but not too critical. Then he vomit, diarrhea, so he was place on antibiotics and IV fluids a week later then he died.

  4. Avatar Of Melinda



    my dog has this disease. Hasnht eatn in 3 days. Went to vet got meds but he still wont eat. What can i give him.

  5. As far as I know, Pancreatitis occurs when a dog’s diet contains too much fat (either due to a mediocre dog food and/or due to feeding table scraps). Of course genetics play a role as well, but the condition can be contained with a low-fat diet and regular, breed-specific exercise! I just mentioned Pancreatitis in my latest article about dog safety on Thanksgiving: k9sovercoffee.com/nutrition/keep-your-dog-safe-this-thanksgiving-with-these-6-tips/

  6. Avatar Of Frances



    My holistic vet suggested cottage cheese for my dog with Pancreatitis, and he has not had an attack in over the 9 months I have been giving him a spoonful before his meals.

  7. Avatar Of Rosie Roy

    Rosie Roy


    My nine-year-old Black Labrador, Wolf, died of pancreatic cancer July 23, 2011. He lasted about a month after diagnosed and $2500. later trying to save his life. He was my best friend,loyal protector, and companion. Though I have two small sweet rescues found a year later, I dearly miss my Wolf till this day. He is buried in my backyard and still watches over me. I love you Wolf, see you in Heaven!~Momma

  8. Avatar Of K. Savage

    K. Savage


    My 11-year-old lab/wolf mix has had chronic pancreatitis for several years now. Several months ago, I started adding raw goat milk to her daily food (the enzymes and pro/pre-biotics in the raw milk replace the ones her pancreas cannot produce anymore) and she has done amazingly well! Also, her “bouts” of pancreatitis have lessened… but when she does have one, I also add some cannabis tincture to her food. She acts like a pup again!!

  9. i had mine too !! it was very painful for me !! since we never thoght that he couldhad that pancreatic ilnness !! my persia ! his named was so lovable ! that i did not realize 10 years had passed !! then suddenly he got sick ! and just afer 4 days he left us unexpectedly !! still my heart aches whenever i remember him !and i kept on thinking what i had given him some foosds that occurs sickness ! then i remember i used to eat cheese and eused to give him too !! then so sudden he how much he loved cheese he stopped eating it. but i have 4 doggies and the same i treat them all the same !!but h was sick after and vomiting !! which i never thought from the cheese or whatever treats i give !! i feel guilt yet i cnat say from the foods i give or what !! he passed away now for one year and my heart is broken till now !! i can never forget him ! a very unique and lovable pups !!

  10. Avatar Of Kelly



    My Baby Girl Esha Passed Away After A Ten Day Battle With This. She Was 11. The Symptoms Came On Fast And Although We Did Everything They Vet Said And I Didn’t Leave Her Side For A Minute Those Ten Days, She Easiest Not Strong Enough. We Fed Her Jam After Christmas…..I’ll Never Forgive Myself. Please Don’t Feed Your Pups People Food…..EspeciallY Ham. I’d Give Anything To Have My Best Friend Back. Im So Sorry, Esha. I Love you.

  11. Avatar Of Nancy Gagnon

    Nancy Gagnon


    While pancreatitis does present all of these symptoms other things can be diagnosed as this when it is not. My dog was diagnosed with reoccurring pancreatitis but when taken to a specialist it turned out to be inflamitory bowel disease. Now with meds and special food he has been fine and no “attacks” for two years.

  12. Avatar Of Patti Mcdoggy

    Patti McDoggy


    The only food he has access to is whatever I feed him. I was giving him a bit of whatever I was eating but recently cut down drastically or not at all, due to what I’ve read. He is fed Merrick before grain and organic treats only in the morning. He doesn’t get too much. I have 3 and they al eat differently. He seems to graze and likes plenty of water. He will let me know when the water bowl is empty!!

  13. Avatar Of Patti Mcdoggy

    Patti McDoggy


    every once n awhile my 2.6 yr old male Dachshund cries out when I lift him. I realized when I was lifting him, my right hand is beneath his left side just the rib area. Can you tell me what organ is located there?

    • Avatar Of Bettie



      I have three chi’s and the only way I can pick them up is a hand under rump and a hand under chest. They scream when picked up under belly or under arms.

  14. Avatar Of Susan



    My daughter’s 2 year old mixed breed (boxer/pit) one day developed severe vomiting, eating grass, vomit some more, wouldn’t drink or eat anything. The next morning after having IV fluids, x rays and blood work- pancreatitis !! We spoon fed her “Fruitables” Pumpkin/or Sweet Potato canned food – 6 times a day, along with her medications. She now only eats Purina EN dry & canned food (vet prescribed) This whole adventure was less than 24 hours !!! I have “Fruitables” stocked in the pantry & won’t ever go without it. If your pet store doesn’t carry it, they can order it for you. Highly recommend. Also, after a call to Purina, they told me the EN food takes up to 8 hours to fully digest
    (most food is 3-4 hours) so the enzymes have something to work on other than the pancreas.

    • Avatar Of Deb



      That’s good to know about the digestion rate of Purina EN. We give our little dog that also after our vet diagnosed her with chronic pancreatitis last summer. She still has attacks once in awhile, but nothing like she did before.

  15. Avatar Of Lisa



    My 8 yr old clumber spaniel died of pancreatitis a year ago. Her symptoms came on very quickly and she deteriorated. She was hospitalized and on the 3rd day became diabetic, insulin was started and she still declined. She died 24 hours later. She had a healthy diet, fed only holistic food so it must have been in her lineage.

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