Vet's Blog > Pancreatitis In Dogs

Pancreatitis In Dogs



What is pancreatitis?


The pancreas is a vital organ that lies on the right side of the abdomen adjacent to the stomach.pancreas in dogs helps regulate the way that the body processes sugar. It also serves an important function in releasing enzymes and helping digest  the food dog eat. The digestive enzymes are secreted into the small intestine, and the hormones( insulin) enter the bloodstream directly.

The medical definition of pancreatitis is simple: “inflammation of the pancreas.”In acute pancreatitis there is a sudden swelling or inflammation of pancreas causing disruption of its function. Due to inflammation,  the digestive enzyme that is is inactive till it reach the small intestine became active in pancreas itself and there will be a auto digestion of pancreas causing pain and swelling. In addition, damage to the pancreatic duct may cause enzyme seepage and painful inflammation in surrounding tissue like liver, gall bladder, intestine occurs.While the true incidence of pancreatic disease is not known, on routine post mortem it is generally seen one percent of dogs have signs of pancreatitis. A few dogs that recover from an acute episode of pancreatitis may continue to have recurrent bouts of the disease, which is then called chronic or relapsing pancreatitis

Dog owner should aware of this deadly and life threatening disease though the sign initially seems mild and not –so –serious type. Due to the significance of the situation the problem should be addressed by vets.


What is the main cause of pancreatitis?



For the inflammation of pancreas the exact cause of it still a mystery; however there is direct relationship between the severity of attack and a high-fat low protein diet. There is also evidence that certain drugs, including corticosteroids, diuretic and some ulcer healing drugs(like cimetidine) are associated with it. Even the dog doesn’t having a high fat diet regularly,  a sudden increase in fat in diet especially in holiday season like Dashain where people tends to give more food than usual could trigger pancreatitis In addition, dogs that get into garbage are much more likely to develop pancreatitis.

Individual prone to acute pancreatitis are

  1. House pet fed table scrap
  2. Those poorly exercised
  3. Those that indulge in over eating like golden retriever and Labrador
  4. Over weight spayed female.


What are the major signs of pancreatitis?

In mild cases the signs are obscure and perhaps easily over looked. The owner may think it is normal or confused with some other condition. There may be loss of appetite, periodic vomiting and diarrhea..However in serious form.  dogs may take a ‘praying position’, with their rear end up in the air while their front legs and head are lowered onto the floor. It is due to the acute and excruciating pain in the abdomen and there is rigid abdominal wall which can be felt during palpation. Fever is also seen in few cases. If the attack is severe, acute shock, severe depression, and even death may occur

It is important to distinguish between acute pancreatitis and other causes of painful abdomen such as bloat. It is all up to the vet to make differential diagnosis and treat accordingly . So don’t waste time if you see such symptom in your dogs


How pancreatitis is diagnosed?


Your vet will run many test regarding it and also take through physical examination and history with the client. X- ray and ultrasound show anatomical changes to the duodenum however in mild or chronic cases the distinction cannot be observed clearly and there could not be proper diagnosis..Blood analysis show high level of white blood cell(WBC) due to inflammation but it can also increase in case of infection. There is also increased activity of liver and pancreatic enzyme like amylase, lipase which is quite definitive for the conclusive diagnosis. But unfortunately some dog with pancreatitis even manifest normal level of these enzymes even though they are suffering from these conditions So the diagnosis of pancreatitis may be tentative or presumptive in some cases and based solely on clinical signs and medical history.


 How is pancreatitis treated?

The successful management of pancreatitis will depend on early diagnosis and prompt medical therapy. With mild, edematous pancreatitis, the treatment is supportive, by ‘resting’ the pancreas and allowing the body to heal itself. Dogs who are vomiting should be fasted until the vomiting subsides. Food can be withheld from patients for a few days if needed. Dogs who are not vomiting may be fed a low fat, highly digestible maintenance, diet usually in small, frequent meals during recovery.

The goal of treatment are to control pain( analgesic is used), overcome the effect of shock, a and reducing pancreatic activity. The latter is achieved by withholding food for short span of time. The dog are not allowed to give any food in this period. Unlike in human, antibiotics are rarely used in dog with pancreatitis. They are indicated if there is a suspected of infectious cause or secondary bacterial infection. Corticosteroid are used only when there is clinical shock. The dog may need to be hospitalized with intravenous fluid therapy and other medication.


How will be the prognosis?


It all depends upon the severity and duration of the disease and the response to the treatment therapy given. If the treatment is quick and prompt the prognosis is good. Dogs that present with shock and depression have a very guarded prognosis. Most of the mild forms of pancreatitis have a good prognosis with aggressive treatment. Dogs that are not treated may progress to the hemorrhagic form and suffer severe consequences, including sudden death.


What will be the long term problem associated with pancreatitis?

There won’t be long term negative consequences or health problem once the disease is resolved but if there is recurrent or chronic pancreatitis  then dog may suffer one of these problem

  1. Exocrine pancreatic insufficiency (EPI) :If large number of cell are destroyed that produce enzyme to digest he food then there will be a problem of digestion and enzyme replacement powder has to be added in the dog’s diet regularly
  2. Diabetes mellitus :if significant number of insulin producing cell are destroyed
  3. In rare cases, painful adhesions between the abdominal organs may occur as a consequence of pancreatitis.



Written by Dr Pratik Man Pradhan B.V.Sc &A.H

Chief Veterinarian (Mount Everest Kennel Club)