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Pancreatitis in Dogs: What are the Symptoms and How to Treat It

pancreatitis in dogs

We talked about symptoms of poorly dogs recently and how to tell if the illness is serious. In this blog we want to discuss a serious condition that is getting more prevalent. Experts are not clear on all the causes of pancreatitis in dogs, but dogs with a high-fat diet are more at risk.

This is because a dog’s pancreas can’t digest fatty foods. If they do, the pancreas becomes inflamed, resulting in pancreatitis. In this article, we want to examine the reasons, symptoms and how to heal from pancreatitis.

Pancreatitis in Dogs

What does the pancreas do?

The pancreas is in the abdominal cavity, forming an essential part of the digestive processes. The pancreas produces digestive enzymes which help break down food. It’s also responsible for making insulin. This helps keep blood sugar levels normal. The pancreas makes enzymes, but they only become active when they reach the duodenum through the pancreatic duct. Here they begin the job of digesting food.

However, certain conditions activate these enzymes too early. This kick starts the process of digestion. If this happens, they break down the pancreas instead of food, causing irritation and inflammation, which is known as pancreatitis.

Signs of pancreatitis in dogs

Dogs will show varying symptoms depending on the severity of the attack. Pancreatitis can be sudden or long term.

Long-term (chronic) signs of pancreatitis in dogs

  • Lethargy

  • Loss of appetite

  • Vomiting

  • Abdominal pain

Sudden onset (acute) signs of pancreatitis in dogs

  • Severe lethargy

  • Constant vomiting

  • Diarrhea

  • Dehydration

  • Collapse

As well as the above signs, dogs with pancreatitis can adopt the ‘praying position’, with their bottom up in the air and their head and paws on the ground.

Causes of pancreatitis in dogs

Unhealthy diet with too much fat

Experts don’t know the exact cause of this early activation, but they believe that ingesting fatty foods can be a trigger. Dogs need fat in their diet, as they are a source of energy. They help with absorbing minerals and vitamins, and they’re essential for healthy coats and skin. However, it is the type of fat that’s important.

Good fats:

Good fats come from oily fish, lean meat like chicken and some oils.

Oily fish: Salmon and Sprats contain omega-3 fatty acids. Fish oil: Contains omega-3 fatty acids. Olive oil: Full of mono saturated fats and antioxidants. Green-lipped mussel oil: Contains essential DPA and DHA fatty acids. Sunflower and coconut oil: Contain mega-6 fatty acids. Hempseed oil: Packed with omega 3, 6 and 9 fatty acids. Flaxseed oil: Contains omega-3 fatty acids. Chicken fat: Is a low-fat alternative which contains arachidonic acid.

Bad fats:

Highly processed foods like bacon, pies, cakes, biscuits and human sausages contain bad fats.

Trans Fats: Processed foods like bacon, sausages and other processed foods contain trans fats. Some Plant Oils: Some plant oils are too high in omega-6 fatty acids for dogs. Fast food: Fast food like pizza, burgers, fried chicken etc. contain unhealthy fats unsuitable for dogs. Fat Trimmings/Grease/Leftovers: Fat trimmed from red or processed meat is unhealthy, as are table scraps and grease from cooking.

Certain breeds of dogs are prone to pancreatitis

Diet is just one cause of pancreatitis in dogs. Dogs can eat fatty foods for years and have no reaction until the pancreas has given up. Or they can have an adverse reaction immediately to food they are not used to eating.

Some breeds of dog have high amounts of fat in their blood, making them prone to pancreatitis. This includes Cocker Spaniels, Dachshunds, Poodles, Miniature Schnauzers and Terriers.

Overweight dogs are prone to pancreatitis

Overweight dogs have more fat in their blood than leaner dogs, putting them at a higher risk. Dogs suffering from Cushing’s Disease, liver or kidney disease or diabetes are at risk of pancreatitis. Medications like certain antibiotics, chemotherapy and corticosteroids can trigger episodes of pancreatitis.

Some infections cause pancreatitis

Infections like parasites, intestinal bacteria, Parvovirus, and Babesia Canis can cause pancreatitis.

How to treat pancreatitis in dogs

Pancreatitis is difficult to diagnose. A vet will take blood to check for raised levels of digestive enzymes and liver markers. Treatment options depend on whether your dog has chronic or acute pancreatitis.

You can treat chronic pancreatitis at home:

  • Anti-nausea medication

  • Low-fat bland diet

  • No treats or table scraps

  • Pain relief

Acute pancreatitis may require hospitalisation

  • IV drips

  • Feeding tube

  • Rest and nursing care

  • Stronger pain relief

How to prevent pancreatitis in dogs

Minimise table scraps, treats, and foods that are high in bad fats. Feed your dog lean meats like chicken or fish, include foods with naturally good fats like omega-3 and 6. Don’t overfeed your dog and give it plenty of exercise.


Pancreatitis in dogs can come on suddenly or develop slowly. Knowing the symptoms can help with an early diagnosis, which means your furry friend will receive treatment faster.


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