The Dog Owners Guide To Canine Pancreatitis

Canine Pancreatitis is a very serious condition and is basically a result of the Pancreas becoming inflamed. The condition is life threatening and early diagnosis is crucial for the best results. This page is dedicated to discussing the causes of the condition, it’s treatment, diagnosis and of course the symptoms.

What is Canine Pancreatitis?

The Pancreas is small glandular organ that is situated close to the Stomach. The main function of the organ is to produce enzymes that help to digest food. The Pancreas will also help to produce Insulin that regulates your dog’s blood sugars.

The condition comes in two forms – Acute and Chronic – both forms of the disease will cause severe pain and inflammation of the Pancreas. The Chronic form of the disease is considered the less serious.

A more simple definition would be that Chronic canine Pancreatitis is when the disease keeps returning over and over again and due to the fact that it keeps returning it is more likely to cause more damage to other organs. With Acute Pancreatitis the condition will normally only occur once and although the symptoms are more severe there is allot less chance of the disease causing damage to other organs.

What Causes Canine Pancreatitis?

There are a variety of causes of this condition including…

  • Medication and drugs are thought by experts to be a cause
  • Dogs that are obese and have been fed a poor diet that is high in fat
  • Trauma due to an injury either sustained through being hit by a Car or something else that has caused damage to the Pancreas.
  • Due to an infection that has damaged the Pancreas
  • Another cause of the condition can be due to the damage caused by Diabetes
  • Excessive fat in the blood stream (a metabolic disorder) due to a diet high in fat (also known as Hyperlipidemia) – the Pancreas will have to work harder to get rid of this excessive fat by producing more Enzymes – this will cause the the organ to swell becoming inflamed and painful.
  • Medication that has been prescribed to treat other disorders can also cause the condition – one of the most common medications that can cause the illness are Corticosteroids that are prescribed to treat Arthritis. Potassium Bromide can also cause the illness – this medication is often used to treat Seizures.
  • Blood clots caused by other illnesses
  • If your dog has high levels of calcium in the blood also referred to as Hypercalcemia
  • Kidney disease can be a trigger for the onset of the condition
  • High cholesterol levels
  • Liver disease can cause canine Pancreatitis
  • Surgery that has been recent and specifically around the abdomen
  • Shock is another cause of the condition – this could be as a result of injury or after surgery
  • Hormonal diseases can also cause the condition including Cushings Disease and Thyroid Problems (Hypothyroidism).

Diagnosis For Canine Pancreatitis

Diagnosis of the illness can be difficult due to the similarities the condition has with Gastroenteritis and other Bowel problems. However, diagnosis can be achieved through a variety of methods including…

  • Medical history and a thorough physical examination – specifically around the abdomen to see if there is any swelling or pain in that area.
  • Blood tests will need to be undertaken including a blood count (CBC – Complete Blood Count) that will check for a low Platelet count and also to see if Anemia is present
  • The Vet may X-ray your dog to see if the area around the Pancreas is cloudy
  • The Vet may undertake Serum Biochemical tests to test your dog’s complete health and to see if the disease has affected other areas
  • Ultrasound is also used to test for the disease – this will test to see how inflamed the Pancreas is (if it is), and will also test to see if your dog has developed Peritonitis. The Ultrasound will focus on the area around the Pancreas so that an image can be seen on the monitor – this will help the Vet locate any problems. This procedure is less invasive with your dog normally able to cope with only mild sedation.
  • CAT scans can be requested
  • Blood levels may also be taken to determine the enzyme levels of two of the pancreatic enzymes i.e. Lipase and Amylase.
  • Although a biopsy can be undertaken to determine categorically whether your dog has the disease this is not normally an option chosen by vets.
  • A urine sample maybe taken – also referred to as Urinalysis.

Symptoms of Canine Pancreatitis

  • Pain around the abdomen
  • Fever and a high temperature
  • Your dog may have a reduced appetite or lose his appetite completely
  • You may notice that your dog’s eyes have become swollen
  • Dry skin is another symptom of the condition
  • Your dog may have a very dry mouth
  • Diarrhea is another symptom of the disease
  • Tiredness and a reluctance to exercise
  • Your dog may appear depressed and ‘out of sorts’
  • The heart might beat faster
  • Problems with breathing
  • Vomiting and sickness may occur
  • Your dog’s poop may appear yellow and even greasy
  • Dehydration may be a result of the illness
  • Your dog may start to hunch his body
  • Organs around the Pancreas may also become inflamed.

Did You Know? The illness is more common in certain breeds including Miniature Schnauzers, Yorkies, Miniature Poodles and Cocker Spaniels. Some experts also think that the illness is more likely to appear in females.

Canine Pancreatitis Treatment

The main treatment options for canine Pancreatitis is to alleviate the distress caused by:

1. Dehydration
2. Pain as a result of the disease
3. Excessive vomiting and sickness as this will cause added problems
4. To monitor nutritional intake i.e. to make sure that your dog is eating enough food and that the nutrients are being sufficiently absorbed.

  • Dehydration – To alleviate the dehydration caused by the disease your vet may provide additional fluids either orally or intravenously.
  • Pain as a result of the disease – If your dog is experiencing excessive pain and around the abdomen or as a result of the disease affecting other organs the vet may prescribe pain medication including Butorphanol or Meperidine.
  • Excessive vomiting and sickness – If your dog is vomiting excessively then the vet may prescribe medication to help stop this or at least lessen the amount your dog vomits.
  • Nutritional intake – If your dog is not eating enough food it might be necessary for the vet to recommend a diet specifically for Pancreatitis – this might involve food very low in fat and high in Carbohydrates. Food that is easily digested are often the best option due to the problems caused by the disease.

If the disease has ocurred as a ‘one off’ it can be treated quite effectively – sometimes through changes to your dog’s diet. However, if the disease has progressed to Chronic Pancreatitis this can lead to secondary complications including Maldigestion Syndrome and Diabetes Mellitus.


A Guide to the Best Diet for Pancreatitis: Discover the best recipes for homemade dog foods specifically designed to prevent Pancreatitis or to use during a bout of the disease.


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