Pancreatitis is defined as inflammation of the pancreas. In this article, we explain what causes pancreatitis in dogs, how it manifests, and what treatment is recommended.
What is dog pancreatitis?
The pancreas produces enzymes that are involved in the digestion of protein, carbohydrates, and fat in the small intestine. It also produces the hormone insulin, which helps regulate blood sugar levels after a meal.
In a healthy pancreas, the digestive enzymes remain inactive until they reach the small intestine. This prevents self-digestion of the pancreatic tissue. In pancreatitis, however, the enzymes are activated too early while they are still in the pancreas. The resulting self-digestion of the organ leads to inflammation and pain.
Pancreatitis is often classified as acute or chronic – acute pancreatitis occurs when it suddenly develops, and chronic pancreatitis occurs when it continues over time. People with chronic pancreatitis can experience acute flare-ups.
What are the symptoms of pancreatitis in dogs?
In mild cases of pancreatitis in dogs, symptoms can be subtle and include lethargy or loss of appetite. There are overlaps with many other gastrointestinal disorders, including surgical emergencies such as bowel obstruction. However, during an acute episode of this condition, some of the following symptoms are likely to appear:
- stomach pain
- Loss of appetite
Dogs often show signs of abdominal pain when in the “prayer position” with the head down on the floor and the back end up.
It is important that you contact your veterinarian immediately, especially if you experience symptoms of pain or vomiting. Leaving pancreatitis in dogs untreated can lead to shock and life-threatening. Veterinary diagnostics often include blood tests and ultrasound examinations of the abdomen.
What Causes Dog Pancreatitis?
There are several possible causes of pancreatitis, but more research is needed to fully understand the condition. It is also unclear why some dogs are more prone to developing pancreatitis and why the initial trigger of an acute episode in a particular person may be unknown.
Some of the possible causes are:
- A high-fat diet
- Certain medications like steroids
- Predisposing metabolic diseases such as diabetes or hypothyroidism
- After surgery and anesthesia
A high-fat diet is considered a risk factor, but also occasionally high-fat treats, even if your dog’s diet is usually balanced. Do not feed your pet with leftover food such as sausages. The high-fat content can trigger a case of acute pancreatitis and send the owner and their pet on an emergency trip to the veterinarian. So pay attention to what your dog eats, especially if he likes to eat or if pancreatitis is already in his medical records.
Is pancreatitis more common in dogs in certain breeds?
Pancreatitis can affect any dog, but certain breeds seem to be predisposed to the disease, such as miniature schnauzers, cocker spaniels, and miniature poodles.
What is the treatment for pancreatitis in dogs?
Treating pancreatitis in dogs depends on whether your pet is mild or severe. If the dog is in pain or vomits, the veterinarian will prescribe medication to relieve these symptoms. In severe cases, the dog may need to be hospitalized for pain relief and IV fluids for a few days.
As soon as your dog has pancreatitis, long-term dietary changes are recommended. B. Introducing low-fat feed and increasing water intake. Talk to your veterinarian about what low-fat diet options are recommended, and don’t start therapeutic diets without veterinary guidance. The usual recommendation is that less than 18-20% of your dog’s metabolizable energy (ME) should come from fat if pancreatitis has occurred in the past. You may need to use an online ME calculator to convert the percentage of fat on the ingredient list to ME. Your veterinarian can help you with this.
How long does it take for a dog to recover from pancreatitis?
Most mild cases of pancreatitis in dogs resolve within a few days of looking for veterinary treatment. In more severe cases, hospitalization of up to one week can count on an even longer recovery phase.
Some of the symptoms of pancreatitis are non-specific and can also be indicators of other diseases. It is important to make an appointment with the veterinarian as soon as you notice signs such as vomiting or decreased appetite. You can also read our guides to find out what can cause vomiting in dogs and what to do if you notice anorexia in your dog.