Dog pancreatitis is the inflammation of the dog’s pancreas, which causes pain, vomiting, and other—sometimes more severe—digestive disorders. There are many different causes of dog pancreatitis, such as obesity, tumours, diet, stress, genetics, etc. There are treatments available to cure pancreatitis, but diagnosing dog pancreatitis can sometimes be difficult, so it's important to learn to recognise the signs. If in doubt, always consult your vet. They will be able to perform various tests and quickly offer suitable treatment for your dog.

Dog Pancreatitis: What is it?

To understand pancreatitis, we first need to take a look at the organ it affects: the pancreas.

The Function of the Pancreas

The pancreas is a vital organ located on the right side of the abdomen, next to the stomach. The pancreas secretes a liquid, known as the pancreatic juice, which is rich in enzymes and enables the digestion of the proteins, fats, and carbohydrates found in food. It also facilitates the absorption of vitamin B12 and possesses antibacterial properties to promote hygiene and the proper functioning of your dog's digestive system.

The pancreas also synthesises hormones such as insulin, which regulates blood sugar or glucose metabolism. When the pancreas is inflamed and can no longer fulfil its role or starts to deteriorate, this is called pancreatitis. Pancreatitis in dogs can develop either acutely or chronically.

Acute Pancreatitis

Acute pancreatitis is a sudden and short bout of inflammation. There occurs a strong and definitive functional loss of the organ, which can cause diabetes mellitus (sugar diabetes) or worse. This is a temporary crisis with a rapid onset.

Chronic Pancreatitis

Chronic pancreatitis is ongoing inflammation of the pancreas. With repeated bouts of acute pancreatitis, damage to the pancreas can occur and lead to chronic pancreatitis.


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The Causes of Pancreatitis in Dogs

The causes of pancreatitis in dogs are diverse: obesity; diet, particularly high-fat diets; stress; food intolerances; certain medications; bacterial or parasitic infections; trauma to the pancreas; genetics (some breeds, such as the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, Yorkshire Terrier, and Shetland Sheepdog, are more sensitive to pancreatitis); or tumours and masses can all account for the appearance of the disease.

Older or middle-aged dogs are most commonly affected. However, it remains very difficult to establish with certainty the causes of pancreatitis in dogs. If you notice one or more of the clinical signs mentioned above and/or you think that your dog corresponds to one or more of the above factors, consult your vet immediately to set up an appointment. Your vet will be able to prescribe treatment adapted to the disease, its stage of advancement, and the specific needs of your dog.

The Symptoms of Pancreatitis in Dogs

The symptoms of pancreatitis in dogs are wide-ranging. However, it's important that you learn to identify the main ones in order to help your dog as quickly as possible. The following symptoms are observed in dogs with pancreatitis:

  • Loss of appetite

  • Vomiting

  • Diarrhoea

  • Loose, oily, or often even lighter-coloured stool

  • Apathy

  • Fever

  • Weight loss in some cases

  • Abdominal pain

With acute pancreatitis, the symptoms are usually more dramatic. If the pancreatitis is chronic, the symptoms will appear regularly. Be aware that some of these symptoms could also be related to another digestive disorder; they are not necessarily indicative of pancreatitis. Only your vet will be able to give you a definitive answer.

Treating Dog Pancreatitis

First, your vet will help you determine whether your dog is suffering from acute or chronic pancreatitis. Tests, such as blood tests and an x-ray of the abdomen, will help them make a reliable diagnosis. They'll also be able to tell you how severe your dog's pancreatitis is.

No specific treatment is recommended to treat the inflammation of the pancreas itself. Your vet will usually prescribe a symptomatic treatment to relieve your dog's pain and other symptoms. They could therefore prescribe your dog one or more of the following:

  • Antiemetic and antidiarrheal medication

  • Digestive enzymes

  • Painkillers

  • Intravenous infusion

  • A change in diet

Food is the basis of health. If your dog's diet is not suitably adapted to their needs, this could be the cause of many disorders, such as dog pancreatitis.

Food for Dogs with Pancreatitis

At a nutritional level, you should give your dog the most digestible and least allergenic food possible. Here we outline some tips on what and how to feed a dog suffering from pancreatitis:

  • Food with simple but high-quality ingredients (a single source of meat or fish and a single digestible carbohydrate like rice)

  • Specific analytical components: moderate fat content (between 12 to 15% fat, or even less depending on the severity and type of pancreatitis), fibre content < 4%, moderate mineral content, moderate to low carbohydrate content (< 30%)

  • Split your dog's daily food ration (into 3 to 6 small meals per day)

  • Food with a high water content to promote hydration and good digestion, such as high-quality wet food (or moistened dry food)

  • A vitamin B12 supplement, if necessary - check with your vet

  • An Omega-3 supplement

  • Digestive enzymes or even fresh pig's pancreas (around 100g per day), as well as prebiotics and probiotics, to support your dog's digestive system

The ideal diet for a dog with pancreatitis? By far, homemade dog food as advised by a vet or animal nutrition specialist. If you think your dog has pancreatitis, don't wait; call your vet immediately. Dog pancreatitis is very uncomfortable and painful for your pooch. Appropriate symptomatic treatment and an improvement in your dog's diet will help contain the disease as much as possible, relieve your furry friend from pain and other symptoms, and prevent the disease from recurring.


By the Hector Kitchen medical and scientific team


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