Pancreatitis in Dogs: Symptoms and Treatments

When your family dog doesn't want to eat and is throwing up, you hope it's a passing thing.

Many times, it is -- but it could be a condition called pancreatitis. If so, he'll need treatment.

The condition happens when the pancreas becomes inflamed. That's an organ near the stomach that helps digest food and control blood sugar.

Pancreatitis can come on all at once and then pass, or it can stay for longer periods.

Symptoms

Often, a dog:

  • Loses appetite
  • Vomits
  • Has belly pain

Other symptoms are:

If your dog has some of these problems for more than a day, or if these symptoms keep coming back, take him to the vet. It could be pancreatitis, or it could be something else. Either way, you should get it checked out.

Your vet might make a diagnosis based on symptoms alone. Usually, though, she'll need to do blood tests or an ultrasound, which uses sound waves to make an image of what's going on inside the body.

Causes

Experts aren't sure what causes the pancreas irritation, but some breeds, especially schnauzers, are more prone to it. Older dogs and ones who are overweight are also more likely to get it.

Sometimes, the condition comes on as a side effect to a drug, or after surgery. More commonly, a fatty meal, like bacon grease or table scraps, triggers it.

Dogs usually recover from mild cases, but if it's severe, it can sometimes lead to death. 

Treatment

If your vet can figure out what caused the pancreatitis, he'll try to deal with that first. For instance, if it was a reaction to a drug, he may take him off it. If it's related to diet, he may put him on prescription food.

Sometimes it's hard to tell what causes it, and there's no clear treatment to fight it. The focus instead becomes keeping the dog as comfortable as possible until the attack passes.

For the first 24 hours, your vet may recommend no food or water, or may continue to give your pet food. Pain medications are usually given by injection. These things give the pancreas a rest. Giving your dog IV fluids is also a common practice for pancreatitis. 

Continued

When he gets home, you'll need to give him lots of water to make sure he doesn't get dehydrated. He may need medication for pain, too. He may also get drugs to help ease nausea and vomiting.

When your dog starts eating again, make sure it's a low-fat diet. Look for food that's easy to digest. Discuss food options with your vet. If this is a single, sudden attack, it's a good idea to stick with this diet for a week or so. However, if your dog has experienced several episodes, then this new way of eating will be for life. 

Prevention

Watch your dog's diet. Make sure he doesn't have too much high-fat food.

Don't cave to his puppy-dog eyes, even on special occasions. Your dog doesn't need to eat human food. Keep your garbage secure. Vets report more cases of pancreatitis during the holidays, when people are eating more fatty foods and so are their pets.

WebMD Veterinary Reference Reviewed by Amy Flowers, DVM on July 21, 2019

Sources

SOURCES:

American Kennel Club Canine Health Foundation: "Pancreatitis."

News release, Colorado State University.

MedlinePlus: "Abscess," "Pancreatic Diseases."

The Merck Manual Veterinary Edition: "Pancreatitis in Small Animals."

The Ohio State University College of Veterinary Medicine: "Holiday Safety Tips for Pet Owners."

Jan Suchodolski, med.vet., Dr. med.vet, PhD, Texas A&M University, College of Veterinary Medicine.

Texas A&M Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences: "Pancreatitis Information" and "Pancreatic Lipase Immunoreactivity (PLI)."

Tufts Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine: Your Dog: "Big Steak Dinner."

Craig B. Webb, PhD, DVM, Colorado State University Veterinary Teaching Hospital.

© 2019 WebMD, LLC. All rights reserved.

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