Pancreatitis in Dogs – Causes, Symptoms, and Treatments


The pancreas is a vital organ for dogs, as it helps to control levels of blood sugar and aid in food digestion. When the pancreas becomes inflamed, this is known as Pancreatitis. Pancreatitis is a serious problem for dogs that can cause a simple loss of appetite in the beginning, and lead to severe dehydration and pain.

What Symptoms are Common?

Early Pancreatitis symptoms include issues with eating. Many dogs have no interest in food, and may even vomit when they do attempt to consume a meal. Severe stomach pain may also be felt, especially right after attempting to eat. This is why many avoid doing so.

A dog with pain in the abdomen may frequently find themselves in the position of relief. This means their paws are forward and low to the ground, with their hind ends up in the air. This helps their stomachs to sag, which helps to relieve some of the associated pain that is felt.

Dogs cannot remain in this position for long though, so relief is only possible for short amounts of time.

Are There Uncommon Symptoms?

Several other symptoms may be noticed if the problem persists. Dogs with untreated Pancreatitis may develop a fever and experience diarrhea. The lack of food and water, paired with diarrhea and fever, can lead to dehydration.

Dehydration has its own set of symptoms to worry about. It typically causes dryness of the dog’s mouth, nose, and eyes. The eyes may also appear sunken.

The stress from experiencing these symptoms can lead to an irregular heartbeat. Some dogs may have little to no energy, and will be sluggish and slow-moving. Others will be extremely fatigued and take to sleeping more often than usual.

It may also be hard for dogs with this illness to breathe, as their stomachs can become distended and swollen from the inflammation. This can put pressure on other organs, causing further troubles.

What Causes Pancreatitis in Dogs?

There is no one-known cause for Pancreatitis. Several factors often come into play. Sometimes dogs experience Pancreatitis symptoms after having surgery due to the trauma to the abdomen. Other trauma to the abdomen may also cause the symptoms, as it limits blood flow to the pancreas.

Other times, the cause for illness is due to a side effect of medication, particularly seizure meds and certain antibiotics.

Some breeds are more prone to developing Pancreatitis. Terriers, miniature schnauzers, and cocker spaniels are a few of the breeds that can develop the illness easily. This is due to genetic predisposition. Senior dogs, as well as those that are overweight, are also more likely to experience symptoms from this ailment.

Dogs with diabetes, hypothyroidism, or gastrointestinal diseases are also more likely to develop Pancreatitis. Many of the same symptoms are experienced between each of these illnesses.

Is Pancreatitis Contagious?

Pancreatitis is an inflammation of the pancreas. Medication and diet can be a factor, meaning multiple animals in the same household could develop the illness at the same time if they have been consuming a similar diet. However, it is not contagious, and cannot actually be passed from one dog to another.

What is the Diagnosis?


Due to the differing nature of symptoms in all Pancreatitis cases, it is often difficult to diagnosis the disease. A physical examination, medical history, and full diagnostic workup are required to determine if the associated symptoms are in fact due to Pancreatitis, and not another illness.

Blood tests may be required to help locate enzymes that only originate in the pancreas. These include TLI and PLI. An abundance of these enzymes are only found when the pancreas is inflamed.

What is the Prognosis?

The mortality rate is low for dogs with acute Pancreatitis. Those with more advanced symptoms can develop complications, such as dehydration and severe vomiting, and even chronic episodes.

How is Pancreatitis Treated?

A restricted diet is often needed to lessen the symptoms of Pancreatitis. This is especially true for overweight dogs who are showing signs of having the illness. Fatty foods are not allowed, as this typically triggers the problem.

No food whatsoever is recommended during the first 24 hours after diagnosis. This is to allow time for the pancreas to settle. Dogs experiencing severe complications from the illness may require a feeding tube to have some food put into their system. Food should not be consumed by mouth.

Dehydrated dogs may need to receive fluids via an IV before they can be discharged from the vet’s office.

Dogs currently taking medications who are now showing signs of Pancreatitis will need to be taken off their prescriptions. Alternative options will need to be discussed instead, in order to reduce symptoms and prevent additional problems from occurring.

There are also medications available to reduce vomiting, to be administered to those dogs who have had a severe case of the illness.  Pain meds can also be administered to reduce inflammation and associated discomfort.

Living with Pancreatitis

Dogs with Pancreatitis may experience no symptoms for some time, until the problem flares up again. It is important that owners stick to the restricted recommended diet and keep fatty foods away from their pets. Absolutely no human food should be given. Most contain high amounts of fat, which is unsafe for dogs to consume.

Prevention Suggestions

In order to prevent Pancreatitis in pets, owners need to begin feeding their dogs a healthy diet from the get-go. Special diets should not wait to be started until after the disease has already struck. Feeding them the right foods now will lessen their chances of dealing with the disease later in life.

Keeping pets healthy in other ways is also important. This includes regular walks and exercise to prevent obesity, a typical factor of developing Pancreatitis.

When putting dogs on medication, it is also important to research the associated side effects. Prescriptions that are known to cause problems for the pancreas need to be avoided. There are always alternative solutions that can be administered in their place.

Pancreatitis is painful for dogs, and needs to be prevented as much as possible.