How To Treat Canine Pancreatitis

Explore all options for your dog, from pancreatitis diets to medication and others

Canine Pancreatitis can be a serious health issue for your dog. It is the inflammation of the pancreas. The pancreas is a V-shaped organ, located on the right side of the abdomen, behind the stomach. The pancreas is responsible for producing enzymes that are necessary in food digestion as well as for making insulin. The inflammation is caused by damaged pancreatic cells leaking digestive enzymes.  

This condition can be either acute, which is usually survivable, or chronic, which eventually claims the life of the dog, and has many causes such as:

  1. Obesity
  2. High-fat diet
  3. Hyperlipidemia
  4. Long-term use of corticosteroids
  5. Cushing's disease
  6. Drug reactions
  7. Blood clotting disorder
  8. Trauma
  9. Liver disease

Because high-fat diets or the occasional large serving of a high-fat food such as ham can cause pancreatitis, veterinarians see more cases of this illness during the holidays when dogs tend to get more table scraps. Symptoms of this illness are:

  1. Painful abdomen
  2. Abdominal distention
  3. Lack of appetite
  4. Depression
  5. Dehydration
  6. Change in posture
  7. Vomiting
  8. Color change in red tissues of the mouth and eyes
  9. Diarrhea
  10. Yellow, greasy stool
  11. Fever

Acute cases of canine pancreatitis will also show:

  1. Heart arrhythmia
  2. Sepsis
  3. Difficulty breathing
  4. Disseminated intravascular coagulation
  5. Severe inflammation of the organs near the pancreas

If your pet is exhibiting any combination of the previously mentioned symptoms, take him to the veterinarian right away. The vet will be able to make a diagnosis by:
canine pancreatitis

  1. Asking the owner about any symptoms the dog has exhibited recently
  2. Performing a physical exam
  3. Doing laboratory testing
  4. Taking X-rays
  5. Doing an ultrasound
  6. Performing a biopsy

Treatment begins after the veterinarian makes a diagnosis. This treatment is meant to allow the pancreas to take a break and rest. It should also control any complications that arise. The symptoms should also be treated so that the dog will feel better quickly. The treatment that is generally given includes:

  1. Being kept off anything to eat or drink, including oral medications, for up to 3 days.
  2. Fluid therapy to prevent dehydration and electrolyte imbalances. This includes IV fluids such as potassium supplements and plasma transfusions that provide special proteins. These proteins inhibit pancreatic enzymes.
  3. Pain relievers if the canine is showing signs of pain. Meperidine, Butorphanol injections or Fentanyl patches can be used. These medicines can also be administered as a continuous drip.
  4. Controlling nausea.
  5. Halting all previous medicines.
  6. Treating any toxin, infection or other condition that may be causing the pancreatitis.
  7. Performing surgery (although this occurs rarely).

You may be wondering, "What do I feed a dog with pancreatitis?" The right diet can help your dog heal. Reintroduction of food and water is slow using small amounts of bland, easily digestible, low-fat food, such as Purina's Fit&Trim. This special diet may only be fed a few days or for the rest of your pet's life.

Now that you know how to treat this illness, make sure you keep an eye on your pet. Canine pancreatitis can lead to diabetes mellitus and other canine health complications; it can be as mild as a 1-day bout with abdominal pain or it can be fatal. It can also reoccur easily, causing more pain. Prevention is the best way to avoid problems.


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