June 16, 2021

Canine Pancreatitis: Symptoms, Causes and What to Do?



Your dog’s pancreas releases enzymes that help the digestion process. 

When the pancreas is working normally, the enzymes it releases don’t activate until they reach the small intestine. But in dogs with pancreatitis, the enzymes activate right away. 

This leads to inflammation in the pancreas, which can damage the organ and other surrounding organs. In severe cases, the enzymes can actually start digesting the pancreas

Because of this, canine pancreatitis is a serious health concern that you can’t afford to ignore. We’ve put together this guide to help you recognize pancreatitis symptoms, learn the causes, and teach you what to do about it. 


So let’s get started. 


Recognizing Symptoms of Canine Pancreatitis 

Pancreatitis can be a life-threatening condition for some dogs, but the symptoms can be hard to spot or easy to pass off as something less serious. So even if your dog doesn’t have canine pancreatitis, you should know the warning signs. 

Here are a few common symptoms of pancreatitis: 

  • Loss of appetite 
  • Belly pain
  • Vomiting 
  • Diarrhea 
  • Dehydration 
  • Fever
  • Lethargy
  • Irregular heartbeat 
  • Difficulty breathing

Don’t panic if you notice one of these symptoms on their own. If your dog displays one symptom infrequently, monitor them carefully. Whatever caused the single symptom most likely isn’t pancreatitis, but you can call your vet to make sure. 

However, if your dog shows two or more of these symptoms at the same time, you need to take your dog to the vet as soon as possible. Remember, canine pancreatitis can be fatal, so fast treatment can make a big difference in the recovery process. 

What Causes Canine Pancreatitis?

Experts aren’t sure what exactly causes canine pancreatitis, but there are a number of risk factors that can lead to—or trigger—a pancreatitis attack. 

Here’s a list of some of the likely causes:

  • Fatty meals 
  • Side effect of a drug (such as after surgery) 
  • Diabetes 
  • Obesity 
  • Hypothyroidism
  • Certain bacterial or viral infections

Some dog breeds are also more prone to pancreatitis, such as schnauzers. Old dogs are also more likely to develop pancreatitis than younger, healthy dogs, especially if they deal with one or more of these causes. 

But again, the exact cause of pancreatitis isn’t clear. Your dog can develop pancreatitis even if they don’t have any of these risk factors. 

That’s why it’s so important to know the warning signs of pancreatitis and what to do when you spot them.

What You Should Do About It

Once you spot any symptoms of canine pancreatitis, you need to jump into action right away. Waiting will only make your dog more uncomfortable, and it can cause the condition to become fatal. 

Here’s what you should do if you suspect your dog has pancreatitis: 

  1. Take Your Dog to the Vet 

Take your dog to the vet right away. If the vet is closed for the day, you may need to take your dog to the nearest pet hospital instead. 

Since there is no clear cause of pancreatitis, there is no clear treatment for it either. 

Your vet may take your dog off any medication to ensure the drugs weren’t the cause. Or your vet may put your dog on a prescription food diet. 

For the first 24 hours, the vet may instruct you not to give your dog any food or water. This will help the pancreatitis attack calm down. And your vet may also give you pain medication to help make your dog more comfortable. 

  1. Put Your Dog on a Preventative Diet 

Once the first 24 hours pass, make sure your dog has plenty of water to make sure they don’t get dehydrated. 

Then put your dog on a preventative diet. 

Make sure you don’t give them any foods that are too high in fat. If your vet doesn’t give your dog prescription food, keep them on a diet of gastrointestinal-supportive foods that are low – or even ultra-low –  in fat. 

Instead of feeding your dog one large meal, give them several smaller meals throughout the day. 

  1. Don’t Give into Their Puppy-Dog Eyes

Your dog doesn’t need to eat any human food. So don’t give in to their puppy-dog eyes. 

A lot of the food owners give to their dogs, like bacon, are greasy, fatty foods. This will only make their risk another pancreatitis attack higher. 

Keep your garbage bin secure. Eating scraps from the trash can also lead to another pancreatitis attack, so put your bins in a place your dog can’t reach them. 

  1. Give Your Dog Plenty of Exercises 

Exercising your dog will make sure they stay healthy and keep them from getting overweight. 

So take them on plenty of walks. 

You can also look for other creative ways to keep your dog moving. For example, teach them how to play fetch, set up an obstacle course and train them on how to use it, or hide their treats and make them work to find them. 

Giving your dog something to do will prevent them from sitting on their couch all day. 

  1. Consider Canine Pancreatitis Insurance  

If your dog has struggled with pancreatitis before—or if they are predisposed to develop pancreatitis – you should consider getting insurance for canine pancreatitis

This will help you cover medical costs involved with treatment and recovery. That means you can focus your attention on helping your dog through this difficult process instead of worrying about money. 


Understanding Canine Pancreatitis 

Canine pancreatitis is a serious condition that can be life-threatening. But if you know the warning signs of pancreatitis and know what to do when you see them, it doesn’t have to be. 

But remember, don’t wait. 

Call your vet as soon as you suspect something is wrong. This will ensure your dog gets the right treatment when they need it most. 

Want to learn some other helpful canine medical tips? Keep exploring the rest of our blog! 


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