Cavalier King Charles Spaniel having a Veterinary examination

Pancreatitis in dogs is an inflammatory condition that is becoming more common. There is no age, sex, or breed that this condition affects.

What is Pancreatitis?

In simple terms, Pancreatitis means inflammation of the Pancreas. The Pancreas is an abdominal organ that works in close association with our gastrointestinal tract. When mammals eat food, the pancreas will release digestive enzymes into the gastrointestinal tract to help break down proteins and fats. When the pancreas is inflamed these digestive enzymes are released in a haphazard fashion and can start to digest the pancreas itself.

What is the cause of Pancreatitis?

It is largely unknown what causes pancreatitis in dogs but it appears that being overweight and receiving a diet high in fat can be trigger factors. Equally some breeds are more likely to develop pancreatitis such as Miniature schnauzers, Spaniels, Boxers and Terriers. Other medical conditions such as Diabetes, hypothyroidism and certain types of cancers can also lead to pancreatic inflammation.

What are the clinical signs?

Symptoms of this disease can vary from very acute, severe disease to more vague presentations.

Many animals will present with:

  • Vomiting
  • Lethargy
  • Inappetence
  • Abdominal pain
  • Bloody Diarrhoea
  • Increased Temperature
Cocker spaniel lying down

Many animals will recover fully with just supportive care such as pain relief and anti-sickness medication. However, those patients who cannot eat may require hospitalization, intravenous fluids and medications.

How will my vet diagnose Pancreatitis?

The Diagnosis of Pancreatitis is based largely on clinical suspicion and the findings mentioned above. However, your vet might recommend a blood sample to increase their suspicion as well as rule out other conditions that could cause similar presentations. In some cases, it will be necessary to carry out an abdominal ultrasound, especially in very severe cases that require hospitalisation. Again, this will help confirm the diagnosis of Pancreatitis as well as rule out other diseases that might be contributing to the animal’s clinical signs.

What will this mean for my dog?

The majority of cases with mild pancreatitis will make a full recovery with some symptomatic treatment and simple changes to diet made at home. However, it is possible that some animals will be prone to flare ups throughout their life and therefore require long term management for these flares.

More severe presentations of pancreatitis can be life threatening and warrant intensive management with prolonged hospital stays. It is not uncommon in these cases for animals to require ongoing management of other associated conditions such as Diabetes.

What can I feed my animal who has had Pancreatitis?

It may be necessary to feed an animal with pancreatitis a low-fat diet. Appropriate options can be discussed with your vet. It will also be sensible to withhold any fatty treats such as cheese and meats.

If you are concerned that your dog may be suffering from one of the above symptoms then please contact your veterinary practice immediately for advice.