Pancreatitis In Dogs: Symptoms, Causes, & Treatments

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Pancreatitis in dogs refers to an inflammation of the pancreas that can either be acute or chronic. If it goes untreated, it can result in permanent organ damage — even brain damage.

The pancreas is an important organ. It produces insulin and enzymes that help dogs digest their food. These enzymes are usually only active in the small intestine, but when a dog has pancreatitis, the enzymes activate on release and damage the pancreas and surrounding tissue.

These enzymes can actually attack the pancreas, causing pain for dogs who suffer from the condition, along with other symptoms. If you see the signs of pancreatitis, see your veterinarian right away so they can form a proper diagnosis and treatment plan.

Here’s what you should know about the symptoms, causes, and treatments for pancreatitis in dogs.

Symptoms Of Pancreatitis In Dogs

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Symptoms of pancreatitis in dogs can be mild or severe; although, they tend to be more extreme in cases of acute pancreatitis.

The condition often affects the abdomen and digestive system, and it can also mimic the signs of other conditions. For this reason, it’s important to get to your vet for proper diagnosis.

Here are some of the common symptoms you might see in dogs with pancreatitis:

  • Loss of appetite
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Pain in the abdomen
  • Bloating
  • Back hunched over
  • Fever
  • Lethargy
  • Dehydration
  • Increased heart rate
  • Difficulty breathing

If the condition goes untreated, enzymes from the pancreas can digest organs and tissue, resulting in very severe complications and symptoms. Treatment should start as early as possible to avoid permanent organ damage.

Causes Of Pancreatitis In Dogs

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There are many factors that can contribute to pancreatitis in dogs.

Some breeds are more predisposed to developing pancreatic inflammation, especially Schnauzers and Yorkshire Terriers. Older dogs are more likely to have the condition, as well.

Here are a few other risk factors that can lead to pancreatitis in dogs:

  • Obesity
  • High fat diets, especially table scraps
  • Dietary indiscretion, meaning your dog eats anything, even non-food items
  • Hypothyroidism
  • Diabetes
  • Severe trauma
  • Cushing’s disease
  • Surgery complications
  • Metabolic disorders
  • Exposure to certain medications or toxins

Dogs who suffer from obesity, epilepsy, or diabetes may have more trouble getting over pancreatitis, but dogs recover from most mild cases of the condition if they get treatment.

Severe cases can be life threatening.

Treatments For Pancreatitis In Dogs

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The treatment for pancreatitis in dogs often depends on the cause of the condition.

If your dog develops pancreatitis in response to medication exposure, your vet will likely take your dog off of that medication. If it’s related to diet or obesity, your vet may prescribe a diet and advise you on how to monitor your dog’s eating habits more closely.

Treatment will also focus on reducing your dog’s pain and preventing further damage to organs and tissue. Your vet may use intravenous fluids to make sure your dog stays hydrated and restore potassium levels. They may also prescribe pain relievers or drugs to relieve nausea and vomiting.

In rare cases where there’s extensive damage, dogs may require surgery.

While recovering, vets usually recommend withholding food and water for 24 hours. After that, dogs must follow a strict low-fat diet with small meals. Dogs must stick to this diet for at least a few months, and possibly permanently, to prevent further instances of pancreatitis if the vet deems it necessary.

Has your dog ever suffered from pancreatitis? How did your vet treat it? Let us know in the comments below!