Pancreatitis in Dogs – Causes, Symptoms, and Treatments

Just like a human, a dog can have problems with its pancreas. One of the most common pancreas-related issues in dogs is a condition called pancreatitis. 

Any breed of dog can be affected by pancreatitis but it’s especially common in Miniature Schnauzers. It causes the pancreas to become inflamed, leading to several concerning symptoms that range from mild to severe. 

It’s important to recognize the key signs and symptoms of pancreatitis in your dog so that you can take action as soon as possible. The quicker your dog gets treatment, the better the outcome. 

Sometimes, pancreatitis requires long-term management. You might need to switch your dog to a diet consisting of the best dog food for pancreatitis to prevent the condition from reoccurring.

In this article, we’re going to cover everything you need to know about pancreatitis in dogs, including the causes, symptoms, and treatment options that are available. 

What is Pancreatitis and What Causes it?

The pancreas is a vital organ that has exocrine and endocrine functions. It produces digestive enzymes, such as amylase trypsin, and chymotrypsin, that aid the breakdown of foods in the gastrointestinal tract. The endocrine portion of the pancreas produces important hormones, including insulin and glucagon.  

In pancreatitis, the enzymes in the pancreas are activated before they leave the organ via ducts. This irritates the pancreatic tissue and causes it to become inflamed, leading to a range of symptoms. 

Your dog’s risk of pancreatitis is increased if: 

1. They’re overweight 

2. They have recently undergone surgery or has had recent physical trauma 

3. They’re prone to being unwell 

4. They’ve had recurrent pancreatitis in the past 

5. They often eat high-fat foods, like butter or red meat 

6. They’re on certain medications, such as diuretics, cholinesterase inhibitors, or alkaloids 

What Are the Common Symptoms of Pancreatitis?

The symptoms of pancreatitis vary depending on the severity of the condition. They usually appear suddenly and may last a few weeks if left untreated. 

Common symptoms of pancreatitis in dogs include: 

  • Extreme lethargy 
  • Dehydration 
  • Reduced appetite or complete loss of appetite 
  • Weight loss 
  • Vomiting 
  • Pain in the stomach (you may notice that your dog stretches their torso in a prayer position) 
  • Diarrhea  
  • Collapse 

Your dog might not exhibit every symptom but it’s important to contact your vet as soon as possible if they have one or more of the above symptoms. Pancreatitis is a serious illness and should not be ignored. 

How is Pancreatitis Diagnosed?

As soon as you spot one or more of the symptoms of pancreatitis in your pup, you should contact your vet. Pancreatic diseases can be difficult to diagnose but your vet can use a range of diagnostic tools and techniques to identify pancreatitis.  

The vet will perform a physical examination and take x-ray or ultrasound scans to take a closer look at the pancreas and check that there are no foreign objects lodged in the digestive tract or ducts. They will also take a blood test to look for specific markers that indicate pancreatic problems, such as high serum pancreatic lipase. 

Once the vet has completed their initial assessment, they will provide a number of treatment options to help your dog recover fully. 

How is Pancreatitis in Dogs Treated?

The best treatment for pancreatitis in dogs depends on how severe the symptoms are and what has caused the inflammation. 

For mild pancreatitis, antiemetic (anti-sickness) medications may be enough to eliminate symptoms. Your vet may also prescribe painkillers to make your pet more comfortable. Combined with rest and a healthy diet, your dog’s mild pancreatitis can clear up in under a week. 

Treatment often needs to be more intense for severe pancreatitis. Your vet may recommend any of the following: 

  • Ongoing monitoring and intense nursing care in the veterinary clinic 
  • Intravenous (IV) fluid therapy 
  • Antiemetic medications 
  • Strong painkillers 
  • Regular, small meals that are low in fat 
  • Digestive enzyme supplements 

How is Chronic Pancreatitis in Dogs Managed?

For chronic pancreatitis, long-term management is necessary. Your vet will discuss the most appropriate management plan for your dog, which may include long-term dietary changes that eliminate high-fat foods and introduce more low-fat foods. 

Your vet might also recommend long-term supplement use to improve digestion and reduce pain. Common supplements for long-term management and prevention of pancreatitis include digestive enzymes, fish oil, and CBD oil. 

Make sure to speak with your vet before starting your dog on any new supplements or making any drastic changes to its diet. Every dog is different and requires a unique treatment plan. Your vet can work closely with you to find the most suitable options for your pup. 

Although fish oil is high in fat, it can help to lower blood lipid levels. Because the fats in fish oils are healthy, unsaturated fats, they can support your dog’s health and reduce the symptoms of acute pancreatitis.

Avoid feeding your dog lots of treats, as these tend to be high in fat and could make pancreatitis worse. As tempting as it is to give into your dog’s puppy eyes when they’re begging you for treats, you need to be strong! 

If you want to treat your dog, feed them some slices of chicken or some chopped vegetables. Make sure they don’t get their teeth on your leftover if you’ve been eating high-fat meats and dairy products. 

What is the Prognosis for Dogs with Pancreatitis?

Most of the time, dogs make a full recover after suffering from pancreatitis, especially if the condition is treated effectively. Your dog should have no long-term heath complications following treatment unless there is an underlying health condition to address. 

You may need to make long-term changes to support your dog’s health and prevent future occurrences of pancreatitis. Speak with your vet if you’re not sure how to effectively support your dog’s health, particularly if they have a chronic health condition that needs managing. 

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