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Pancreatitis In Dogs : Symptoms, Causes, and Treatments

Updated on October 10, 2016
DrMark1961 profile image

Dr. Mark is a small animal veterinarian. He works mostly with dogs and exotic animals.

If your dog has pancreatitis he is sick and will need to be hospitalized; learn the symptoms.
If your dog has pancreatitis he is sick and will need to be hospitalized; learn the symptoms. | Source

Symptoms of Pancreatitis

If your dog has pancreatitis, she may have symptoms like:

1. A painful abdomen. This might be one of the first symptoms you notice and if you are doing the DIY physical exam at home your dog will grunt in pain when you push up on her belly. If her belly is in pain she might have a hunched over back.

2. Vomiting. There are a lot of things that can cause vomiting but if you follow these simple steps, and it does not stop, you need to have her checked out right away.

3. Loss of appetite. Missing a single meal is not a big deal for most dogs. If your dog normally eats fine, and has loss of appetite with any other symptoms of pancreatitis, take her in for an exam.

4. Depression. Your dog is in pain.

5. A swollen abdomen.

6. Dehydration. You can check this by lifting up her skin. If it sinks back slowly she is already dehydrated.

7. Diarrhea. This may be mild and may not even be present in all dogs.

8. Fever. You may not even notice this symptom, but you should keep a thermometer in your first aid kit. Check this but watch for the other symptoms first.

Sometimes the disease is so severe that the organs around the pancreas are “autodigested,” or destroyed by the digestion enzymes leaked from the pancreas. Dogs might also have heart problems, breathing problems, or a disease called DIC (disseminated intravascular coagulopathy) where all the organs are destroyed and the dog starts bleeding out of her nose and eyes.

What are the symptoms of pancreatitis you should watch out for?

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Vomitig is one of the symptos of pancreatitis in dogs.
Vomitig is one of the symptos of pancreatitis in dogs. | Source

Causes and Treatment of Pancreatitis

What can cause pancreatitis?

The pancreas normally stays quiet and does its job, releasing insulin to keep the blood sugar normal and helping to digest food. You might notice the symptoms of pancreatitis when:

1. Your dog has been “dumpster diving” or you give her a fatty meal like the skin off of the turkey at Thanksgiving.

2. Your dog is already obese; you make things worse by giving her a rich meal that she cannot handle.

3. Your dog is hit by a car or kicked in the belly. Her pancreas is traumatized and starts leaking enzymes into her belly.

4. You have a Miniature Schnauzer. They can have bouts of pancreatitis without external causes, like a fatty meal.

5. Your dog is on a new medication; some antibiotics, chemotherapy drugs, and seizure control drugs can affect the pancreas. If you have any questions about new meds your dog is taking contact your veterinarian.

6. Your dog has another disease like diabetes, Cushings, or hypothyroidism.

7. Your dog is on a diet that causes her pancreas to over-react and produce too many enzymes. Some holistic veterinarians believe that corn based diets are most likely to do this.


How will we recognize pancreatitis and treat it?

If your dog has a lot of symptoms of pancreatitis, your vet will recommend bloodwork to check for inflammation and enzymes, evaluation of the urine (a urinalysis), and maybe even x-rays or an ultrasound.

To treat it, your vet will want to:

1. Give medications to stop the vomiting.

2. Give IV fluids to keep your dog hydrated.

3. Give pain medications.

4. Give small meals.

Depression may not even be noticed, but may be seen when a dog has pancreatitis.
Depression may not even be noticed, but may be seen when a dog has pancreatitis. | Source

Cheap food with a lot of carbohydrates (that raise the blood sugar) might be one of the causes of pancreatitis. You may be causing your dog problems by putting these foods it into your dog´s bowl each night.

Which dog never has to worry about pancreatitis?

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If treated promptly, a dog suffering from pancreatitis can get better.
If treated promptly, a dog suffering from pancreatitis can get better. | Source

Will my dog get better?

If your dog has her first bout of pancreatitis, she is treated correctly, and you do not waste days going to forums and checking sites on the internet to decide whether or not you should take her to the vet, she will probably get better.

After she gets better she will probably need to be on a low-fat diet. If you just ignore it and she has repeated bouts of pancreatitis she can develop a chronic disease where her pancreas is not even able to digest her food. Your dog will starve to death.

Don’t let it get this far. If your dog has any symptoms of pancreatitis get her examined by your veterinarian today.

If you think your dog has pancreatitis, you should:

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    • profile image

      AlexJ 4 years ago

      I think the best thing you can do for your dog is to give them healthy homemade food for healthy life. There are lots of recipes here http://www.makeusknow.com/categories/animals&p... please don't give them commercial food.

    • DrMark1961 profile image
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      Dr Mark 4 years ago from The Beach of Brazil

      My dog is very thin and has no trouble with fat. I think overwieght dogs are much more likely to have trouble with this. As far as wild dogs? Even if they eat fat, they are taking in a lot of other organs besides, so it is not like a pure fat meal.

      Good question though. Something that still needs to be researched.

    • Bob Bamberg profile image

      Bob Bamberg 4 years ago from Southeastern Massachusetts

      Another good hub, Doc. Vets have told me that they see more incidents of pancreatitis around the holidays, when people are inclined to give dogs some skin, or pour pan drippings from the turkey over their dog's food.

      It's my understanding that in an acute attack, digestive enzymes begin working before they leave the pancreas and start to destroy that organ. What I can't reconcile is how wild canids can eat the fat of their prey and not succumb to pancreatitis. Is there something about rendered fat that causes problems? Voted up, useful and interesting.

    • DrMark1961 profile image
      Author

      Dr Mark 4 years ago from The Beach of Brazil

      Thanks for sharing this Will

      Lindacee, sometimes we just never know, unfortunately. At least you are preventing a recurrence, since sometimes chronic bouts of pancreatitis are the most dangerous. Thanks for taking the time to look this over and leave a comment.

    • lindacee profile image

      lindacee 4 years ago from Arizona

      My Cairn Terrier was diagnosed with pancreatitis early last year. She is a tough little girl and came through the ordeal like a champ, though it was a very scary month or two. She was extremely sick. She's now on a prescription diet and shall remain so for the rest of her life. I have no idea exactly what triggered it--maybe a sudden reaction to her food or something building over time. Thanks for sharing this valuable information with dog owners. Voted up, useful and interesting.

    • WillStarr profile image

      WillStarr 4 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona

      "You are lucky she pulled through that incident, even after a week."

      I know that now. I had no idea that fat was so dangerous to a dog, so this is another great Hub, Doc. It could save the lives of many dogs.

      Thank you, and shared!

    • DrMark1961 profile image
      Author

      Dr Mark 4 years ago from The Beach of Brazil

      I have one of those dogs that I hardly ever worry about, but it is not something that can ever be totally ignored. Like Wills comment above--a pound of pork rinds is enough for any dog to start showing symptoms.

      Im glad you know what makes your Min Schnauzer prone. She is fortunate that you are aware of these issues and that you watch her health so carefully.

      Thanks for the comment and sharing!

    • JayeWisdom profile image

      Jaye Denman 4 years ago from Deep South, USA

      I can tell you from sad personal experience that, with a miniature schnauzer, a single fatty meal (which might not seem fatty for another dog) can be enough to cause pancreatitis. My dog had it twice, and I'll do anything necessary to try to prevent it in future. I monitor everything she eats and make sure she can't get into anything she shouldn't have. Her vet works with me to ensure my dog's lipid levels stay normal.

      This is a very scary, dangerous illness. I don't want her to get it again, although the vet told me that schnauzers sometimes get it even when you're very careful with their diet. I think her very lean homemade food helps, for she's had no tummy upsets at all since I've been cooking her meals.

      Thanks for providing this information.

      Voted Up+++ and shared

      Jaye

    • DrMark1961 profile image
      Author

      Dr Mark 4 years ago from The Beach of Brazil

      Labs are such chow hounds! A pound of pure fat, that would do it. It sounds like you got a good education on this problem, but you probably wont need it with Lily.

      You are lucky she pulled through that incident, even after a week.

    • WillStarr profile image

      WillStarr 4 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona

      Our beloved yellow lab, Zoe, was a thief extraordinaire. At night, anything she found left out on the counters was fair game. She would eat an entire loaf of bread, wrapper and all, and the evidence was in her droppings.

      One morning, I found her lying on the back patio, and there was vomit everywhere. I found what was left of a pound of chicharrón, the Mexican version of fried pork rinds, which are almost pure fat.

      Her belly was very tender, and when I mentioned that to the vet, her previous 'wait and see' attitude became a 'get her here as fast as possible'.

      It took almost a week of cage rest and IV fluids, but she did finally recover from pancreatitis. We were lucky.