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What Are the Symptoms of Dog Pancreatitis?

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What Are the Symptoms of Dog Pancreatitis?

Pancreatitis is a serious condition that can happen to any dog regardless of breed or age. Learn about the symptoms, diagnosis, and treatment for pancreatitis in dogs.

What is Pancreatitis?

Pancreatitis in dogs occurs when the pancreas becomes inflamed. The pancreas is a small, vital organ located near your dog's stomach on the right side of the abdomen. It secretes enzymes and produces insulin, a hormone that helps metabolize glucose and control blood sugar levels.

Normally, the enzymes secreted by the pancreas are only activated when they get to the small intestine. With pancreatitis, they're activated as soon as they are released, which can cause inflammation and damage to the pancreas and other organs, including the intestines, liver, and gall bladder.

There are two types of pancreatitis. Acute pancreatitis comes on suddenly without warning and can be life-threatening. Chronic pancreatitis is an ongoing condition, which can be caused by multiple bouts of acute pancreatitis. Both forms of pancreatitis can be very painful for your dog.

causes of pancreatitis in dogs _ cavalier spaniel under a grey blanket

What Are the Causes of Pancreatitis?

There is no one known cause of pancreatitis in dogs, but there are things that can trigger inflammation of the pancreas, including:

  • Eating a regular diet high in fatty foods
  • Gobbling large amounts of table scraps, trash, or other inappropriate foods at one time
  • Severe trauma to the abdomen
  • Reaction to certain medications
  • Exposure to harmful toxins

Some breeds, including Terriers and Miniature Schnauzers, may be more prone to pancreatitis than other breeds. It's also more commonly seen in dogs who are over five years old. Dogs with particular health issues, such as obesity, diabetes, or hypothyroidism, can also be at greater risk for pancreatitis.

What Are the Symptoms of Pancreatitis in Dogs?

The signs of pancreatitis can be mistaken for other ailments. The most common symptoms include loss of appetite, vomiting, weakness, diarrhea, pain, or swelling in the abdominal area, dehydration, and fever. Dogs with pancreatitis may also hunch their backs or push their rear end up in the air and their head down on the floor.

If you suspect your dog has pancreatitis, remember to stay calm. Dogs have a remarkable ability to pick up on our emotional states, and they may become more anxious if they sense that you're upset. You should also be careful when handling your dog. Even the friendliest of dogs can lash out if they're scared and in pain.

Be sure to contact your veterinarian at the first signs of pancreatitis so you can get your dog the medical attention they need. Early intervention can also help prevent complications.

Veterinarians tend to see an increase in pancreatitis around the holidays when dogs may be offered table scraps from family dinners. Get tips on holiday pet safety.

How Is Pancreatitis Diagnosed?

Your veterinarian will likely ask you about your dog's medical history and their current condition, including their symptoms, when they started, and their severity. They will also likely conduct a full nose to tail exam and diagnostic tests, such as blood work and a urinalysis.

They will also likely perform an ultrasound to see what is going on with your dog's pancreas and other internal organs. Ultrasounds use sound waves to create an image of the inside of the body. X-rays typically won't reveal abnormalities with the pancreas, but they may be done to rule out other underlying ailments.

It can be difficult to diagnose pancreatitis definitively. However, your veterinarian may still recommend treating your dog for this condition based on their history and symptoms.

treating dog pancreatitis _ woman holding a dogs paw

Can Pancreatitis Be Treated?

There is no cure for pancreatitis, but it can be treated with careful monitoring and supportive medical care. For instance, medications may be used to reduce nausea, control vomiting, and manage abdominal pain.

Intravenous fluids might be needed if the dog is dehydrated. In some severe cases where a dog is vomiting uncontrollably, food and water may be restricted for a few days so that the pancreas can rest and begin to heal itself.

How Long Can Dogs Live With Pancreatitis?

Dogs who have a mild bout of pancreatitis can recover fully without any long-term effects. If they remain safe and healthy, they should be able to live a long and full life. However, dogs with severe or chronic pancreatitis can be at risk for developing secondary conditions, such as digestive problems or diabetes.

Share your home with a feline friend, too? Learn more about pancreatitis and cats.

What to Feed a Dog With Pancreatitis

Dogs recovering from pancreatitis may benefit from a low-fat and easily digestible diet. They should not be fed fatty foods or treats. Your veterinarian can recommend a diet for your dog, and may suggest prescription food designed to support dogs with pancreatitis. In addition, it can help to feed your dog several smaller meals during the day, rather than one or two larger meals.

Healthy Diet Tips for Dogs

A high-fat diet may contribute to pancreatitis, which makes it even more important to offer your dog healthy and nutritious foods. These tips can help:

  • Choose a high-quality dog food that is suited for your dog's age and lifestyle. If they've had a bout of pancreatitis or other health conditions, be sure to follow your veterinarian's recommendations.
  • Keep the treats to a minimum, especially if your dog needs to lose weight. Treats can be high in calories and contain lots of sugar and unhealthy fats. According to The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals® (ASPCA®), treats should make up less than 5% of your dog's daily food intake.
  • Set an appropriate feeding schedule for your dog and make sure you control their portions. For instance, use a scale or measuring cup to put food in your dog's bowl rather than simply eyeballing the amount.
  • Know which foods can be harmful for your dog. For instance, never feed your dog chocolate, raisins, grapes, peanut butter or desserts sweetened with xylitol, or moldy or spoiled foods.

How Pet Insurance Can Help

If your dog is diagnosed with pancreatitis, their veterinary care can get expensive. A pet insurance plan can help you manage those costs. It can cover veterinary fees, diagnostic tests, treatments, medications, and even hospitalization.

When your dog is covered, you can focus on doing what's best for them rather than worrying about the costs. Learn more about pet insurance and decide for yourself if it's worth it for you and your dog.

The information presented in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and does not constitute or substitute for the advice of your veterinarian.


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