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Pups with Pancreatitis

Pancreatitis is a serious condition that owners should be aware of, especially if your dog is the “vacuum” of the house and manages to get their paws on table scraps and into food they shouldn’t be eating. It can be potentially life threatening, so owners should be aware of the signs of pancreatitis and the potential health risks that may follow from a poor diet. 

What is pancreatitis?

Pancreatitis is a condition in which the pancreas is inflamed and is not able to function normally in the body. When functioning properly, the pancreas secretes digestive enzymes into the small intestine, as well as secretion of hormones such as insulin to regulate metabolism and blood-sugar levels. However, when the pancreas is inflamed, the enzymes are activated before reaching the small intestine. This in turn results in damage to the pancreas and surrounding vital organs and tissues. This condition can either be acute, occurring suddenly, or chronic, repeated episodes of acute pancreatitis. Some causes of pancreatitis include high-fat diets, obesity and hypothyroidism. It can occur in any dog, but is more commonly seen in older, overweight dogs. 

Treatment cartoon vector illustration of tiny doctors taking care of diseased liver


What are the symptoms?

It is important to be a proactive owner and know the symptoms of pancreatitis if it occurs. Some common symptoms of pancreatitis include:

  • Lethargy
  • Loss of appetite
  • Vomiting
  • Restlessness 
  • Abdominal pain. 
  • Dogs may even show discomfort by standing in a position where their head and front paws are lowered to the floor, while their bottom end is up in the air.
brown long coated dog lying on bed

What should I do if i suspect my dog has pancreatitis?

If your dog is experiencing any symptoms that may suggest they’re experiencing acute pancreatitis, it is recommended that you bring your dog to see a veterinarian immediately. If possible, visit your regular veterinarian as they have direct access to your pet’s medical history. The veterinarian will be able to perform a physical exam on your dog, noting any abnormalities in heart rate, temperature, or discomfort from palpating the abdomen. A diagnosis can be confirmed through blood tests to measure pancreatic enzymes and any other parameters that need to be tested. Ultrasounds or radiographs may also be suggested by your veterinarian to confirm the diagnosis and to rule out any other possible diagnoses. 

Is there any treatment?

The treatment recommended by the veterinarian depends on how severe the disease is. To prevent dehydration, they may need IV fluids to ensure there is no electrolyte imbalance and proper hydration. Antiemetic medication will also prevent dehydration, as it will help with any vomiting and nausea that the dog may be experiencing. In more severe cases, patients may need to be hospitalized for over 24 hours for proper monitoring. During this period, it is important to give the pancreas a break by withholding food. To help with monitoring, the veterinarian may also recommend rechecking diagnostic tests such as blood tests.

How do I manage a dog with pancreatitis?

As mentioned before, high fat diets are a major contributor to the onset of pancreatitis. It is always recommended that you consult with a veterinarian first to discuss the best course of diet for your pet. Some suggestions that may help are to feed your pet low-fat diets. Low fat proteins to be sure to look out for in the foods you get are chicken or turkey, non-oily fish, or even lean game meat. Protein sources such as lamb and beef are usually too high in fat and may cause problems for dogs with chronic pancreatitis. 

Man’s hand cutting raw chicken breast on wooden cutting board

How do I prevent pancreatitis from occurring?

Although pancreatitis can occur in any dog, as owners we can definitely take preventative measures! Weight management is one of the most important factors to prevent pancreatitis. It is important that your pet maintains an ideal body weight that is healthy for them. To maintain a healthy pup, refrain from feeding table scraps to your dog. Human foods are usually very high in fat, which their bodies may not be used to. Supplements such as fish oils and vitamin E may also help lower lipid levels in the blood. Always speak with your veterinarian before intervening with any type of supplement for your pet.

Take home message

In dogs, pancreatitis is a serious, and potentially life-threatening condition if not treated properly. It can occur in any dog, but is more commonly seen in overweight dogs and dogs with high-fat diets. Maintain a healthy weight on your pet while feeding a healthy diet to reduce the chances of pancreatitis. If your dog is experiencing any symptoms that may lead you to believe it may be pancreatitis, it is important to reach out to a veterinarian near you to get your dog examined. As an owner, it is always good to stay informed and knowledgeable on what these diseases are and how to reduce the risks!


Pug puppy splooting on hardwood floor looking lethargic
Pug puppy splooting on hardwood floor looking lethargic

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