Pancreatitis In Dogs Survival Rate


What Are The Clinical Signs Of Pancreatitis

Pancreatitis Dog Diet for Cancer Dr. Nancy Reese Q& A

The most common clinical signs include nausea, vomiting, fever, lethargy, abdominal pain, diarrhea, and decreased appetite. During an attack, dogs may take a ‘praying position’, with their rear end up in the air while their front legs and head are lowered onto the floor. If the attack is severe, acute shock, severe depression, and even death may occur.

Are Some Dogs Predisposed To Pancreatitis

Some breeds are more prone to the development of pancreatitis, as well as dogs taking certain medications.

Miniature Schnauzers are considered to be a predisposed breed due their tendency to have problems with high blood triglyceride levels.

Another example is the English Cocker Spaniel. Immune-mediated diseases, which result from abnormal activity of the immune system, are seen at a higher frequency in this breed in general, and the immune system attacking the pancreas is no exception.

Medications that are known to cause inflammation of the pancreas include, but are not limited to, some chemotherapy medications and some antibiotics.

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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What Are The Symptoms Of Pancreatitis In Dogs

Pancreatitis can present as a sudden-onset illness or as a more long-term illness.

A dog that has acute pancreatitis will have more serious clinical signs, such as:

  • Severe lethargy

A dog with chronic pancreatitis is typically not as sick. The clinical signs may include:

  • Abdominal pain and/or vomiting

In general, chronic pancreatitis is not as common in dogs as acute pancreatitis.

Dogs with chronic pancreatitis can suddenly develop worsening pancreatitis. This is a situation where chronic pancreatitis presents acutely.

What Are The Causes Of Pancreatitis

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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.

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Can I Treat It Myself

While it may be tempting to try home remedies when your dog falls ill, it is critical that you not try to treat this at home. Pancreatitis may present itself as a simple virus when it is a life-threatening condition. Home remedies may help relieve some of the symptoms, but they will likely not eliminate the condition.

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.

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Hematology Serum Biochemistry And Urinalysis

Results of a complete blood count , serum biochemistry panel, and urinalysis convey general information about the patient and are useful in the diagnosis or exclusion of other diseases.16 However, these results are often nonspecific and highly variable and may be within normal limits in mild cases.16,18 Abnormalities, when present, are the result of hypovolemia and inflammation. In brief, changes include leukocytosis, thrombocytopenia, azotemia, and increased liver enzymes. Variable electrolyte abnormalities have been identified. In some cases, coagulation abnormalities may be present , which are invariably associated with spontaneous bleeding.16

Diagnosis Of Pancreatitis In Dogs

Exocrine Pancreatic Insufficiency in Dogs

The symptoms listed above can indicate pancreatitis but they are also associated with many other health conditions. Therefore, a veterinarian will do a thorough physical exam and recommend diagnostic testing, in order to reach a diagnosis and determine the best course of treatment.

Diagnosing pancreatitis can be tricky. Therefore, veterinarians will often begin treatment based on clinical signs alone. However, diagnostic testing is still important to rule out other health conditions with similar symptoms that could require a different treatment.

Here are some of the most common tests that may be performed:

  • Bloodwork, which measures blood cells, blood sugar, electrolytes, and organ function parameters. Unfortunately, bloodwork changes tend to be non-specific . But bloodwork is still important to rule out other conditions and to check for abnormalities of electrolytes and other parameters that may need to be addressed during treatment. Blood tests for pancreatic enzymes can help diagnose pancreatitis. This includes a very specific test called canine pancreatic lipase immunoreactivity . However, even these tests might not be accurate in all dogs, so a vet may need to begin treatment based on symptoms alone.

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What Should A Dog With Pancreatitis Eat

There is no hard evidence that any particular food is better than another for dogs prone to pancreatitis. Experts usually recommend a food that is lower in fat than average.

So, what should your dog with pancreatitis eat? It depends on what the dog was eating at the time he got sick. Aim for a food that has lower fat content than the food he was eating before he developed pancreatitis.

Potential Complications Of Pancreatitis

Some dogs develop chronic pancreatitis, which means long-term episodes of pancreatitis can occur. Guardians of these pups must be especially vigilant about their diet, and eliminate table scraps, to help prevent flare-ups.

During an episode of pancreatitis, some dogs may also suffer collateral damage to nearby organs, such as a blocked bile duct from all the inflammation. These complications may need to be addressed during, or shortly after, pancreatitis treatment.

Additionally, damage to the pancreas can interfere with future functioning of the organ. This could include development of diabetes mellitus due to imparied insulin production, which requires daily insulin injections. Or, it could mean exocrine pancreatic insufficiency , where there is insufficient production of pancreatic digestive enzymes, leading to long-term digestive issues. Fortunately, EPI can be treated with supplementation of these digestive enzymes.

Dont worry, having an episode of pancreatitis doesnt mean a dog will develop complications. However, the possibility of serious complications is an important reminder as to why its so important to seek veterinary care as soon as possible.

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How Do Vets Diagnose Pancreatitis In Dogs

Disease of the pancreas can be difficult to identify because, oftentimes, the signs of illness are not specific to the pancreas, and routine blood tests are often not helpful.

However, there are pancreatic-specific blood tests that can be performed when the veterinarian has a high suspicion of pancreatitis.

Unfortunately, even these special tests are not 100% accurate.

Abdominal X-rays are also not very helpful in diagnosing pancreatitis in dogs. However, in a vomiting patient, it is important to take X-rays to rule out a potential foreign-body obstruction of the stomach and/or intestine .

The best method to image the pancreas is via abdominal ultrasound. However, the tissue of the pancreas has to be abnormal enough to visualize using the ultrasound, which is more common in dogs with acute, severe pancreatitis, when compared to those with chronic, mild pancreatitis.

Overall, blood testing and abdominal ultrasound are better in helping to diagnose pancreatitis in dogs when it is acute and severe.

What Causes Pancreatitis In Dogs


In most cases, no cause is identified. However, its not uncommon to find out that dogs with acute pancreatitis have recently consumed a large, high-fat meal. Dogs who are unaccustomed to eating rich foods are the worst victims. The common thread in many cases is dietary fat and abnormal fat metabolism.

Certain drugs and diseases may trigger pancreatitis


  • Pancreatitis blood test most sensitive test

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Symptoms Of Pancreatitis In Dogs

When dogs get pancreatitis, the general clinical signs involve the gastrointestinal tract.

  • Vomiting: This is the most consistent sign but can be absent
  • Acting depressed
  • Painful in the abdominal area: Your dog will likely be restless, panting, trembling, or look “hunched-up.” Here’s an example of what “hunched up” might look like:
  • Weakness, or in severe cases, collapse

Symptoms of pancreatitis tend to be vague and nonspecific. Often, when getting diagnosed by the veterinarian, other illnesses are found. Diagnosis is often made from the combined results of the exam, bloodwork, and an ultrasound of your dog’s abdomen.

What To Feed Dogs Recovering From Pancreatitis

A bland diet may be useful while your dog is recovering from a pancreatitis episode whether acute or chronic.

Bone broth can be a good choice as he starts to feel better.

If hes ready for solid food, give a bland diet like cooked chicken breast and white rice. If youre only feeding it for a few weeks, you dont need to add supplements.

In the long run, youll want to go with a consistent, low-fat diet.

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Acute Vs Chronic Pancreatitis: Whats The Difference

When dealing with pancreatitis its helpful to know that there are two types found in dogs: acute and chronic. Its important to note that these two types refer to the same affliction, pancreatitis, however, they differ in their onset.

Acute pancreatitis is also known as sudden-onset pancreatitis, which means that symptoms begin quickly and are usually a one-off episode.

Chronic pancreatitis is a disease where dogs suffer from long-term inflammation. Chronic pancreatitis will often lead to fibrosis and atrophy, and it is often irreversible.

Lastly, it is important to note that depending on the individual pet situation, both acute and chronic canine pancreatitis can be severe.

Some breeds of dog, such as cocker spaniels, miniature poodles, and miniature schnauzers are more likely to develop pancreatic problems. Both chronic and acute pancreatitis in dogs cause a great deal of pain in the affected animal.

Diagnosing This Condition In Dogs

Pancreatitis in Dogs

Dogs with pancreatitis are potentially at high risk, so if you notice your furry friend exhibiting any of the above symptoms for more than a few hours it is essential to take them to a veterinarian in order to have the condition of their pancreas diagnosed.

For the diagnosis of pancreatitis, your vet will check for symptoms, run tests and possibly do an ultrasound to confirm that your dog is suffering from clinical signs of the condition and to rule out other diseases.

Once your dog has been diagnosed, your veterinarian will be able to work out the best course of treatment for them.

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What To Feed A Dog With Pancreatitis

Pancreatitis wont resolve on its own, and your dog will need to be treated by a veterinarian. In some cases, you may need to withhold food completely for a period of time. When your veterinarian gives you the go-ahead to reintroduce meals, your dog should eat low-fat foods that are easy to digest.

Foods that your dog can eat while suffering from pancreatitis include:

  • Low fat cottage cheese

  • Unseasoned, boiled chicken

Keep in mind that your dog may have an extremely-diminished appetite and may not want to eat as frequently as they normally would.

Dehydration And Pancreatitis In Dogs

Dehydration is due to a greater fluid loss than fluid intake. Diarrhea or vomiting can cause dehydration, but those signs together will cause a greater fluid deficit and dehydration because the dogs fluid input cannot keep up with the fluid losses. If the diarrhea becomes bloody, the condition worsens and the dehydration can become an emergency.

Other factors such as fever require increase fluid intake and can lead to dehydration along with other metabolic issues such as kidney disease, etc.

Blood in a dogs stool indicates a loos and significant inflammatory response requiring a veterinarians attention but it can be cause by a multitude of factors, from ulceration to parasites. Dehydration is a serious condition that can lead to death. It is an emergency and requires immediate veterinary care.

Any lethargic dog who is not drinking water or cannot hold water down should be suspect of dehydration and examined by a veterinarian. Dry mucous membranes may be a quick way of assessing dehydration but as always, when in doubt, consult with your veterinarian.

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How Long Can A Dog Live With Pancreatitis

Life expectancy for dogs diagnosed with pancreatitis is difficult to predict. In mild, uncomplicated cases, the prognosis is usually good, with most patients going on to make a full recovery. This is especially the case if high-fat diets are avoided and good veterinary and nursing care is provided. But in more serious cases the prognosis is guarded. This is partly because dogs with severe pancreatitis often have frequent acute episodes or complicating factors such as hypothermia, acidosis, hypocalcemia, and single or multiple-organ failure.

Prognosis For Dogs With Pancreatitis

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Assessment of severity of acute pancreatitis in dogs is challenging, and several scoring systems have been proposed to assess disease severity and prognosis.31-33 Unfortunately, they have not been globally accepted as useful. Indicators of severe disease and poor prognosis include SIRS, shock, DIC, thrombocytopenia, prolonged coagulation times, renal azotemia, oliguria or anuria, metabolic acidosis, icterus, elevated transaminases, hyperkalemia, hypocalcemia, hyponatremia, hypo-/hyperglycemia, hypothermia, serum pancreatic lipase > 1000 µg/L , persistently elevated serial C-reactive protein, and elevated urine trypsinogen activation peptide:creatinine ratio.31,33-35

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Dog Food Good Human Food Bad

On the topic of food while it may be tempting to share food from your own table with your pupster, do not, under any circumstances fall for their sad-eyed tactics!

Admissions to vets for pancreatitis spike after Thanksgiving, when many well-meaning humans slip greasy table scraps to their hounds. Dont let your pal fall into that statistic!

What Foods Can Cause Pancreatitis In Dogs

Any food that is extremely high in fat content can potentially trigger the painful condition. Human food can be potentially dangerous for dogs because a lot of human food contains very high levels of fat. I do not recommend giving your dog any table scraps because this can increase the risk of pancreatitis.

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What Are The Causes Of Pancreatitis In Dogs

Experts have yet to discover what primarily causes pancreatitis in dogs. 90% of the time, the cause behind this condition is idiopathic, which means it cannot be determined.

However, it is observed that the occurrence of pancreatitis in dogs is linked to numerous factors such as:

High-Fat Diet

What foods can cause pancreatitis in dogs?

Fatty foods such as chicken skin, bacon, butter, and red meat can trigger canine pancreatitis. Table scraps are very high in fats, thus avoid feeding these to your pooch.

Slipping pieces of fatty meat to your dog during meals should also be avoided. If given in small amounts every meal, the fats can slowly pile up in his body. This may, later on, result in pancreatitis.

Can peanut butter cause pancreatitis in dogs?

Peanut butter is high in fats and should only be given sparingly. Excessive consumption of peanut butter can lead to pancreatitis and other health problems such as obesity, skin issues, and liver diseases.

Indiscriminate Eating

Some dogs have dietary indiscretions. They may carelessly eat anything they find, such as spoiled food, or consume large amounts of dog food.


Obesity is a significant risk factor that can lead to canine pancreatitis. According to a study, middle-aged and geriatric overweight dogs are more vulnerable to this gastrointestinal problem.

Certain Medications and Toxins

Drugs used in chemotherapy treatment as well as potassium bromide, which is an anti-seizure medication, can cause canine pancreatitis.

Symptoms Of Necrotizing Pancreatitis In Dogs

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Acute canine pancreatitis is identified by symptoms such as unexpected onset of vomiting and severe abdominal pain. The pain is the outcome of the release of the gastrointestinal enzymes into the pancreas and surrounding organ tissue.

The dog may cry out and have a tucked-up belly.

Other symptoms include diarrhea, yellow, oily stools, dehydration, weakness and lethargy.

In severe cases, there may be signs of shock or total collapse.

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Diseases Associated With Pancreatitis

Pancreatitis can be devastating to more body systems than just your dogs gut.

The lungs can develop pleural effusion or pneumonia. From the systemic effects of the disease, your dogs heart can develop arrhythmias and even pericardial effusion, where fluid develops around the heart.

Pancreatitis can cause shock to develop, and some dogs even develop anemia from either destruction of red blood cells, lack of making cells, or loss through the gut.

Your pup may become septic and need antibiotic therapy, as well.

Some metabolic abnormalities can develop when your dog has pancreatitis. These can include:

  • Low calcium in the blood
  • High or low blood sugar
  • Elevated amounts of fat in the bloodstream

Your dog may also have low protein in his blood, known as hypoproteinemia.

Treating And Managing Pancreatitis

  • Fluid therapy where your vet will administer intravenous fluids to correct or prevent dehydration from fluid loss caused by vomiting and diarrhea
  • Pain medications or anti-inflammatory medication to ease abdominal pain and discomfort associated with pancreatic inflammation
  • Antinausea medication to prevent vomiting and allow patients to rest comfortably
  • Anti-diarrheal medication to settle the lower gastrointestinal tract and stop further fluid loss through the bowel
  • Resting the pancreas by withholding food for a period of time
  • Antibiotics, if necessary, due to small intestinal damage and secondary bacterial leakage
  • Placement of a feeding tube in severe cases for nutritional support
  • Additional medications to correct any underlying conditions, such as diabetes mellitus, hyperadrenocorticism, or hypothyroidism

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