Pancreatitis in Dogs – Symptoms, Causes & Treatment

icon April 19, 2023

The incidence of pancreatitis in dogs is as high as 1.5% and it is a very common disease, often referred to as the "disease of the rich", characterized by sudden onset of severe anterior abdominal pain, shock and peritonitis. The former has a good prognosis with early treatment, while the latter has a very high mortality rate, with the natural onset being mostly oedematous pancreatitis.

The death rate of dogs with pancreatitis can vary depending on several factors, including the severity of the condition and the underlying cause of pancreatitis. In general, severe cases of pancreatitis can be life-threatening, and the mortality rate can range from 10% to 30%.

Factors that can increase the risk of death in dogs with pancreatitis include older age, underlying health conditions such as diabetes or liver disease, and delayed diagnosis and treatment. That's why it's critical for dog parents to know about pancreatitis.

In this article, we will discuss:

  • What Are the Signs of Pancreatitis in Dogs?
  • What Causes Pancreatitis in Dogs?
  • What Foods Should be Avoided for Dogs with Pancreatitis?
  • What to Feed a Dog with Pancreatitis?
  • Best Supplements for Dogs with Pancreatitis
  • Treatment and management of pancreatitis in dogs

What Are the Signs of Pancreatitis in Dogs?

  1. Decreased appetite: once the dog has pancreatitis will have a decreased appetite, lack of energy, is increasingly thin, and be no longer interested in greasy food.
  2. Irregular stools: When a dog has pancreatitis, the stools will be irregular, soft, and sometimes even bloody, and there will be frequent urination.
  3. Vomiting: Frequent vomiting is an obvious symptom of pancreatitis in dogs.
  4. Abdominal pain: dogs with pancreatitis can also suffer from abdominal pain. If the dog is lying in a strange position, in a prayer position, it means that he is in abdominal pain so that his abdomen is pressed against the floor to relieve the pain, when you gently press his abdomen, he will be very resistant.

There is also dehydration, fever, weakness, and even shock.

Pancreatitis in dogs - How to diagnose and how to avoid it!

What Causes Pancreatitis in Dogs?

  • 1. Obesity or long-term consumption of large amounts of high-fat food.
  • 2. Hyperlipidaemia (schnauzer).
  • 3. Sick dogs treated with steroids or hyperadrenocorticism.
  • 4. Obstruction of the pancreatic duct (duodenitis, edema, tumor or abnormal movement of parasites).
  • 5. Infection (upstream intestinal bacteria, canine macro virus infection, toxoplasmosis, or pancreatic leech).
  • 6. Hypercalcemia.
  • 7. Certain toxins, including chocolate

If your dog suffers vomiting and/or diarrhea for more than 24 hours or doesn't eat for more than 24 hours, you should contact your vet immediately.

What Toxins Cause Pancreatitis in Dogs?

Some toxic substances such as pesticides, disinfectants, or some toxic chemicals. Dogs that are heavily medicated with antibiotics, anti-epileptics, paracetamol, etc. can easily damage their pancreas and develop pancreatitis

What Foods Should be Avoided for Dogs with Pancreatitis?

Dogs with pancreatitis should avoid foods that are high in fat and difficult to digest. This is because pancreatitis is an inflammation of the pancreas, which is responsible for producing digestive enzymes. When the pancreas is inflamed, it cannot produce enough enzymes to break down food properly, leading to further inflammation and discomfort.

Here are some foods that should be avoided for dogs with pancreatitis:

  • High-fat foods: Foods that are high in fat, such as fatty cuts of meat, fried foods, and dairy products, should be avoided. These foods can trigger the release of digestive enzymes, causing further inflammation and discomfort.
  • Table scraps: Table scraps, especially those that are high in fat, should be avoided. Feeding your dog scraps from the table can also lead to overeating, which can further exacerbate the symptoms of pancreatitis.
  • Raw meat: Raw meat can contain harmful bacteria that can worsen pancreatitis symptoms. It is best to stick to cooked meat that is low in fat.
  • Spicy foods: Spicy foods can irritate the digestive system and worsen symptoms of pancreatitis. It is best to avoid feeding your dog any spicy foods or seasonings.
  • High-fiber foods: While fiber can be good for dogs, too much fiber can be difficult to digest and can cause further inflammation in the pancreas. Avoid foods that are high in fiber, such as beans and legumes.

It is important to work with your veterinarian to create a diet plan that is tailored to your dog's specific needs. They may recommend a low-fat, easily digestible diet that is specially formulated for dogs with pancreatitis.

Pancreatitis In Dogs: Symptoms, Causes & More - Canine Journal

What to Feed a Dog with Pancreatitis?

As the dog begins to recover from an episode of pancreatitis, small amounts of low-fat, easily digestible (usually light) food may be introduced. In some cases, liquid food may be the first oral food to be introduced.

Once the patient is able to tolerate liquid food, the dog can be fed a low-fat, high-fiber food. 

1. Fruits and Vegetables

It is important to consult with your veterinarian for specific dietary recommendations for your dog's individual needs and conditions.

Apples, blueberries, broccoli stalks, bananas, carrots, sweet potatoes and pumpkin are great ways to add nutrition and fiber to your dog’s diet.

Pet owners often ask about offering a home-cooked diet.

The trick here is to ensure your dog is getting the full nutritional requirements needed for optimal health. A home-cooked diet may require supplementation.

Talk to your veterinarian before adding supplements to your dog’s diet.

2. Low-Fat, Grain-Free Kibble

Complex carbohydrates such as brown rice, sweet potatoes, and oatmeal can help regulate blood sugar levels and provide fiber.

3. Chicken, Turkey, and Fish

A low-fat diet is crucial for dogs with pancreatitis. This means avoiding fatty foods such as red meat, dairy products, and oily fish. Instead, opt for lean proteins such as chicken, turkey, and fish.

4. Prescription Foods

Prescription foods that may be recommended by your veterinarian specifically for dogs with gastrointestinal problems such as pancreatitis are: Puainta | Low Fat Dog Treats Pancreatitis. It is generally recommended that foods for people with pancreatitis should contain less than 18% fat. Some veterinarians recommend less than 8% fat. Puainta contains 7% fat.

5. Best Supplements for Dogs with Pancreatitis

Harmonize Liver

Our veterinarians recommend Puainta | Milk Thistle Liver Supplement for dogs prone to pancreatitis.

Harmonize Liver Supplement helps to relieve and prevent further attacks by providing digestive enzymes and probiotics for digestive and intestinal health.

In addition, it contains milk thistle and other liver support ingredients. 

Liver support is vital, as pancreatitis can put stress on a dog's liver.


Meat, milk thistle, turmeric, lactose, Moringa oleifera stem and leaves, yeast hydrolysate, pig bile powder, chicken liver powder

Treatment and Management of Pancreatitis in Dogs

Pancreatitis is a condition that occurs when the pancreas, an organ responsible for producing digestive enzymes and hormones, becomes inflamed. In dogs, pancreatitis can be acute or chronic and can be caused by a variety of factors, including high-fat diets, obesity, and certain medications.

The treatment and management of pancreatitis in dogs depend on the severity of the condition. 

Moderate to Mild Pancreatitis in Dogs

Mild cases of acute pancreatitis may require only supportive care, such as fasting for 24-48 hours, fluid therapy, and pain management. 
In a dog with mild pancreatitis, your veterinarian may determine that subcutaneous (applied under the skin) fluid administration—either at the appointment or at home—will be adequate for rehydration.

These patients are usually also treated with:

  • Antinausea medication
  • A stomach protectant(s)
  • Pain-reliever medication
  • A bland, low-fat diet is recommended during recovery (this may be a home-cooked and/or home-prepared diet)

In general, mild to moderate pancreatitis patients recover in one to two weeks. Treatment can vary with these patients, so the cost varies. If hospitalized for a few days, the costs can approximate $1500-2500. If treated as an outpatient, the cost is around $500-1000. A permanent diet change may be recommended, especially in predisposed breeds (Schnauzers) or dogs with a previous history of pancreatitis.  

Severe Pancreatitis in Dogs

More severe cases may require hospitalization and aggressive treatment, such as intravenous fluids, antibiotics, and medications to control vomiting and diarrhea, including:

  • Intensive intravenous (IV) fluid and electrolyte support
  • Pain-control measures
  • Antinausea medication(s)
  • Stomach-protectant medications
  • Nutritional support in the form of a feeding tube

Chronic Pancreatitis

Chronic pancreatitis may require long-term management, including dietary changes, enzyme replacement therapy, and regular monitoring of blood sugar levels. In some cases, surgical intervention may be necessary to remove damaged pancreatic tissue or to treat complications such as abscesses or pancreatic pseudocysts.

To prevent pancreatitis in dogs, it's important to feed a balanced and nutritious diet, avoid high-fat foods, maintain a healthy weight, and limit the use of medications that can affect the pancreas. If your dog shows signs of pancreatitis, such as vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain, and loss of appetite, it's important to seek veterinary care promptly.


Can A Dog Recover From Pancreatitis?

No, it can't. As there is no cure for pancreatitis, it is important that owners continue to watch their diet and monitor their pet's health. Whichever diet the owner chooses, a full dietary history should be collected for each patient at a return visit to the veterinarian. Additional monitoring (e.g. blood tests) will be determined by the veterinarian as appropriate for the patient. Regular contact with their veterinarian is important to assess progress or relapse and to determine the specific interventions that may be needed.

How to Comfort a Dog with Pancreatitis?

Pancreatitis can be a painful and uncomfortable condition for dogs. Here are some tips to help comfort your dog:

Follow your veterinarian's treatment plan: Your vet will prescribe medications and a special diet to manage your dog's pancreatitis. It's important to follow their instructions carefully and ensure that your dog receives all their medications on time.

Provide a calm and quiet environment: Dogs with pancreatitis can be sensitive to loud noises and excitement, so it's important to provide a calm and quiet environment for your dog to rest and recover.

Offer small and frequent meals: To help reduce the workload on the pancreas, offer your dog small and frequent meals throughout the day instead of one or two large meals.

Use a heating pad or warm towel: Some dogs with pancreatitis may find relief from abdominal discomfort with the use of a heating pad or a warm towel. Be sure to monitor your dog closely to prevent burns or overheating.

Provide lots of love and attention: Dogs with pancreatitis may feel lethargic and unwell, so it's important to provide lots of love and attention to keep their spirits up. Spend time with your dog, offer them plenty of cuddles and petting, and let them know that you're there for them.

What is the Death Rate for Pancreatitis in Dogs?

The death rate of dogs with pancreatitis can vary depending on several factors, such as the severity of the condition, the underlying cause of pancreatitis, and the dog's age and overall health.

In general, dogs with mild to moderate pancreatitis can recover with appropriate treatment and management. However, severe cases of pancreatitis can be life-threatening and may lead to organ failure, sepsis, or other complications. According to some studies, the mortality rate for severe cases of pancreatitis in dogs can be as high as 50%.

It is important to note that early diagnosis and prompt treatment can significantly improve the prognosis for dogs with pancreatitis. If you suspect that your dog may have pancreatitis, it is important to seek veterinary care right away. Your veterinarian can diagnose pancreatitis and develop a treatment plan to manage your dog's symptoms and prevent further complications.



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