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December 10, 2020

Pancreatitis in Dogs: Symptoms & Treatment

Pancreatitis in Dogs: Symptoms & Treatment

Key Points

    • Pancreatitis in dogs occurs when the pancreas becomes inflamed and irritated.
  • The most common symptoms of pancreatitis in dogs include vomiting, pain in the belly, and decreased appetite.
  • Treatment for dog pancreatitis includes 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 & Symptoms of Pancreatitis in Dogs

If your dog has suddenly started vomiting excessively, this may be a sign that your dog has pancreatitis. Pancreatitis is a condition where the pancreas, the organ that releases digestive enzymes, becomes inflamed and irritated. This will cause your dog to vomit and have pain in their belly.

 

These are the most common signs of pancreatitis in dogs:

  • Vomiting
  • Abdominal pain
  • Hunched posture
  • Decreased appetite or refusing food
  • Lethargy
  • Dehydration
  • Fever

What Causes Pancreatitis in Dogs?

Sometimes pancreatitis 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:

  • A diet high in fat
  • Dietary indiscretion
  • Hormonal disorders
  • Diabetes
  • Medications
  • Genetic predisposition

What Foods Can Cause Pancreatitis in Dogs?

Any food that is extremely high in fat content can potentially trigger pancreatitis in dogs. 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. In addition, around the holidays, don’t give your dog any leftovers or table scraps because this could trigger an episode of pancreatitis in your dog. Additionally, certain foods can also be toxic to dogs.

Difference Between Acute and Chronic Pancreatitis

Acute means sudden and short onset, so acute pancreatitis in dogs starts suddenly and often without warning. Dogs with acute pancreatitis will exhibit severe symptoms suddenly. Chronic means a long duration, so chronic pancreatitis in dogs 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.

Diagnosing Pancreatitis in Dogs

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 of Pancreatitis in Dogs

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 are 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.

Dog Pancreatitis 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 of pancreatitis, hospitalization may last 1-2 weeks.

Dog Pancreatitis: 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 a 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.

Preventing Pancreatitis in Dogs

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 in dogs 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 a pancreatitis 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 of pancreatitis start with a dog venturing into the trash when you aren’t home.

 

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