Pancreatitis In Dogs: Signs to Watch For

Are you worried about your dog’s risk of pancreatitis? Whether you are or not, read our animal hospital‘s article to learn more about pancreatitis and the symptoms to look out for.

dog pancreatitis

What is Pancreatitis in Dogs?

Pancreatitis is a disease that affects the pancreas in animals. The pancreas is an important organ, and is found in the abdominal cavity. The pancreas produces some of the enzymes that a body uses to digest food.

In dogs specifically, pancreatitis is an inflammatory disease. The pancreas becomes inflamed causing pain, loss of appetite, and vomiting. 

Pancreatitis is a common health problem in dogs, and can either be mild or severe. Mild forms of pancreatitis involve swelling, while severe forms of pancreatitis include bleeding, as well as swelling.

What are the Causes of Pancreatitis in Dogs?

Pancreatitis is caused by the very enzymes they create. In a healthy dog, pancreatic enzymes are inactive until they reach the intestines.

A dog with pancreatitis has pancreatic enzymes that are becoming active too early. The enzymes begin to digest the pancreas.

There are a few risk factors that can affect a dog’s chances of developing pancreatitis. Dogs that eat a high-fat meal or who get into the garbage often can be more prone to pancreatitis.

However, the true cause or causes of pancreatitis in dogs is unknown.

What are the Symptoms of Pancreatitis in Dogs?

The symptoms of pancreatitis can be easily overlooked or mistaken for another illness. It is important to know them ahead of time and go to the vet if your dog exhibits any of them.

Pancreatitis can be either acute or chronic. Each form has different symptoms.

Chronic pancreatitis is usually less severe. Symptoms can include:

  • Lethargy
  • Abdominal pain
  • Loss of appetite or decreased appetite
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea

Acute pancreatitis is usually more severe. In its early stages it may mimic chronic pancreatitis. Symptoms can include:

  • Lethargy to severe lethargy
  • Abdominal pain
  • Severe dehydration
  • Persistent vomiting
  • Persistent Diarrhea
  • Collapse
  • Shock

Chronic pancreatitis is not as common as acute pancreatitis. Over time, chronic pancreatitis can become acute pancreatitis.

Diagnosing Pancreatitis in Dogs

You will need to take your dog to the vet to get pancreatitis diagnosed. It is important to get it diagnosed as early as possible. At the first signs of symptoms, call your vet to make an appointment.

Unfortunately, the symptoms are common in many illnesses. This means your vet may need to run multiple tests to determine what is wrong. Most of the typical tests they run will not catch pancreatitis.

There are specific tests for pancreatitis. However, even these tests are not 100% effective. Your vet will likely start with a physical exam and the typical tests. You can request the pancreatitis tests.

Your vet may also do an ultrasound to look for inflammation. Another test is fine needle aspiration of the pancreas.

Treating Pancreatitis in Dogs

Once your dog is diagnosed with pancreatitis, there is no cure. However, you can take steps to make life more comfortable for your dog.

Whether your dog has chronic or acute pancreatitis, the first step is treating the symptoms and changing your dog’s diet. You need to feed your dog a bland, low-fat diet.

Chronic and Mild Forms of Acute Pancreatitis

Your dog may need IV fluids at a veterinary hospital. Your vet may also suggest you start an IV subcutaneous (under the skin) fluid treatment for your dog at home.

Your vet may also prescribe:

  • Antinausea medication
  • A medication or supplement that protects the stomach
  • A pain-reliever

Treatment typically takes one to two weeks. After that, it is important to keep an eye on your dog since their pancreatitis symptoms can come back at any time. You may also need to make permanent changes to your dog’s diet.

Acute and Severe Forms of Pancreatitis

In severe cases, your dog may need to stay in a pet hospital for at least a couple of days. Sometimes as long as a week or more.

Treatment includes:

  • Intensive IV fluids
  • Electrolyte support
  • Pain control measures (including medications)
  • Antinausea medications
  • Stomach-Protectant medications
  • Feeding tubes and nutritional support
  • Antibiotics

Once you bring your pet home, you will need to continue the bland, low-fat diet until symptoms are gone. It is important to continue a low-fat diet even after symptoms are gone. However, the food doesn’t need to remain bland.

You may need to also learn how to give your dog IV fluids for at home care.


Dogs with mild forms of pancreatitis and chronic pancreatitis have a higher chance of survival than those with severe forms of pancreatitis and acute pancreatitis.

Pancreas inflammation can lead to whole-body inflammation which in turn can lead to multiple organ failure.

Pancreas abscess is another complication that can lead to death. Your dog may also develop an infection in the abdominal cavity. This complication can also lead to death.

Once your dog is out of the danger zone and recovering, they will develop scarring on and in their pancreas. Your dog may also develop diabetes mellitus or exocrine pancreatic insufficiency (EPI). EPI occurs because the pancreas is unable to create enough pancreatic enzymes.

Reach Out to Our Vets If You Think Your Dog is Dealing with


The earlier you get treatment for your dog, the better chance they have of survival. The good news is that if you catch it early your dog can live for years more. With the right diet and exercise, you can control future flair-ups.

If you believe your dog has pancreatitis, please reach out to our animal hospital by giving us a call at (301) 994-9919