Pancreatitis In Dogs: Symptoms and Treatment

Pancreatitis In Dogs: Symptoms and Treatment

Alpha Paw Sale

Nov 04, 2021
AUTHOR Dr. Addie Reinhard, DVM

Reviewed by Dr. Addie Reinhard, DVM

Dr. Addie Reinhard is an experienced companion animal veterinarian with a passion for providing reliable veterinary insight & expert advice to help pet parents better care for their pups.


  • Pancreatitis in dogs occurs when the pancreas becomes inflamed and irritated.
  • The most common symptoms include vomiting, pain in the belly, and decreased appetite.
  • Treatmentincludes prompt and aggressive supportive care, hospitalization, IV fluids, anti-nausea medications, pain medications, and a low-fat diet.
  • You can reduce the risk of canine pancreatitis by avoiding feeding any foods that are high in fat including human food and table scraps.

Signs and Symptoms

Pancreatitis in dogs is a condition where the pancreas, the organ that releases digestive enzymes, becomes inflamed and irritated. If your dog has suddenly started vomiting excessively, this may be a sign that your dog has pancreatitis.

These are the most common signs include:

What Causes Canine Pancreatitis?

Sometimes it can occur for no apparent reason while other times there is an underlying culprit. Most commonly, pancreatitis is brought on by a high-fat diet. This could include if your dog gets into the trash and eats a lot of very fatty foods.

The AKC suggests that some of the most common causes of pancreatitis include:

What Foods Can Cause Pancreatitis in Dogs?

Any food that is extremely high in fat content can potentially trigger the painful condition. Human food can be potentially dangerous for dogs because a lot of human food contains very high levels of fat. I do not recommend giving your dog any table scraps because this can increase the risk of pancreatitis.

Do Not Give Your Dog Table Scraps During The Holidays

In addition, around the holidays, don’t give your dog any leftovers or table scraps because this could trigger an episode of pancreatitis. Additionally, certain foods can also be toxic to dogs.

Difference Between Acute and Chronic Pancreatitis

Acute means sudden and short onset, so acute pancreatitis starts suddenly and often without warning. Dogs with acute pancreatitis will exhibit severe symptoms when they otherwise seemed normal just moments before. Chronic means a long duration, so chronic pancreatitis usually occurs when the symptoms of pancreatitis wax and wane over a long period of time. Some dogs can develop chronic pancreatitis after an initial episode of acute pancreatitis.

Pancreatitis In Dogs: Symptoms and Treatment

Diagnosing Pancreatitis

Your veterinarian will diagnose your dog with pancreatitis based on history, physical exam, and a few diagnostic tests. Your vet will wish to rule out any surgical conditions that may be causing the vomiting, so they will likely recommend x-rays and bloodwork. Your vet may run a pancreatitis test which can help diagnose a case of pancreatitis. In addition, your veterinarian may want to ultrasound your dog’s belly to see if there is any evidence of pancreatitis.

Treatment

After your vet has diagnosed your dog with acute pancreatitis, they will likely recommend hospitalization and supportive care. Pancreatitis is an extreme condition that requires early and aggressive treatment for the best outcomes. Pancreatitis dogs dare usually treated with a low-fat diet, pain medications, antiemetics, and IV fluid support.

Dogs with pancreatitis are usually very painful, so your vet will give them medications to relieve their pain. Antiemetics are used to decrease the level of vomiting your dog is experiencing. The most common antiemetic used to treat this condition is a medication called Cerenia. IV fluid support is particularly important for dogs with pancreatitis to keep them hydrated because excessive vomiting can quickly lead to dehydration and shock if left untreated.

Dog Pancreatitis Diet

Your veterinarian will place your dog on an extremely low-fat diet. This diet helps to decrease the strain on the pancreas because it is very easily digestible. Fat stimulates the pancreas so diets for dogs with pancreatitis are low in fat. Your vet may recommend that you keep your dog on a prescription low-fat diet long-term.

Recovery Time

The recovery time for pancreatitis is variable depending on how severe a case your dog has. For milder pancreatitis cases, your dog will need to be hospitalized for aggressive treatment for 2-4 days. After that, your dog will be discharged on medications and low-fat food, and it will probably take 1 to 2 weeks for your dog to achieve a full recovery. For dogs with moderate to severe cases, hospitalization may last 1-2 weeks.

The Prognosis

The prognosis for dogs with mild forms of pancreatitis is very good if aggressively treated quickly. For dogs with severe cases of pancreatitis, the prognosis becomes guarded. The key is early and aggressive veterinary care. If a dog with pancreatitis is left untreated, the prognosis can quickly become poor because your dog will likely become extremely dehydrated and go into shock.

Can Dogs Survive Pancreatitis?

Most dogs with mild pancreatitis will survive if brought into the vet early for aggressive treatment. Some dogs are at risk of dying of pancreatitis if treatment is delayed or if your dog has a very severe form of pancreatitis.

How To Comfort a Dog With Pancreatitis

After your pet has been discharged from the hospital, you will want to keep them nice and calm. Provide them a nice soft calming dog bed to lay on for a recovery spot. Give them lots of love, and follow your veterinarian’s instructions for medication and feeding. Most commonly, your vet will ask you to feed small frequent meals of low-fat prescription dog food. Allow your dog to rest, recharge, get plenty of sleep, and avoid any strenuous activity for the next few weeks.

Pancreatitis In Dogs: Symptoms and Treatment

Preventing Pancreatitis

If your dog has had pancreatitis once before, your veterinarian may recommend feeding a prescription low-fat diet for the rest of your dog’s life to prevent future episodes of pancreatitis. My main recommendation for preventing pancreatitis is to avoid feeding any foods high in fat. Do not feed any people food because these foods can contain very high levels of fat.

One hamburger or a small fry could trigger an episode in dogs. It is important to avoid feeding any table scraps and keep your trash can out of reach from your dog. Many episodes start with a dog venturing into the trash when you aren’t home.

More Vet Expert Advice You May Enjoy…

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Alpha Paw Sale
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Dr. Addie Reinhard, DVM

Member of Alpha Paw’s Board of Pet Experts

Dr. Addie Reinhard is an experienced companion animal veterinarian who lives in Lexington, KY with her husband, greyhound, and four cats. She graduated from the University of Tennessee College of Veterinary Medicine, and currently practices in the central Kentucky region. Dr. Addie has special interests in preventative care, dermatology, and diseases, and she enjoys creating helpful educational resources related to these topics to help pet parents keep their four-legged family members happy and healthy. We love Dr. Addie’s passion for providing reliable veterinary insight and medical advice to help pet parents like us give their pups the happy & healthy lives they deserve!

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