Pancreatitis in Dogs

Pancreatitis in Dogs

Alison Laurie-Chalmers, Senior Consultant, Crown Vets Inverness

The pancreas is a delicate organ that sits alongside the small intestine. It is a very important organ and its purpose is to help digest food and to regulate blood sugar.

The term pancreatitis is when the pancreas is inflamed and swollen. Pancreatitis is typically described as either chronic or acute, with chronic meaning the condition has developed over some time, while acute is when it appears suddenly.

Dogs with pancreatitis are likely to suffer from a loss of appetite, sickness, diarrhoea and lethargy. They may also have abdominal pain and become dehydrated. In milder forms, symptoms aren’t quite as obvious but may still include loss of appetite, lethargy, and diarrhoea. During an attack of pancreatitis, dogs may hunch their back, holding their rear end in the air with their front legs and head lowered onto the floor, in an odd praying stance.

The prognosis for pancreatitis depends on the severity of the disease. Mild cases may just require a change of diet, while more severe cases will need urgent aggressive medical treatment. If left untreated, pancreatitis may lead to severe organ damage and even sudden death. So, you should contact the vets straight away if your dog is showing any signs of this disease.

There seems to be a higher prevalence of pancreatitis in Border Terriers, Cocker Spaniels, Dachshunds, miniature Schnauzers, Poodles and Yorkshire terriers.

It’s often difficult to pinpoint the exact cause of pancreatitis. One of the most common risk factors is scavenging and sometimes the condition is triggered when a dog eats foods high in fat. Severe trauma or surgery can also lead to pancreatitis and it has been linked to the use of some drugs. Dogs with Cushing’s disease can also be prone to pancreatitis.

If your Vet suspects that your pet has pancreatitis they will provide supportive treatments including pain relief and medication to reduce the pancreatic inflammation and ease vomiting and nausea symptoms. Your pet may be admitted to be hospitalised for intravenous fluids to ensure and maintain normal fluid and electrolyte balance.

Your vet may be able to give you a provisional diagnosis of pancreatitis based on your dog’s history and presenting symptoms. Various tests can be done to support their decision. These tests are likely to include a specific blood test called a canine pancreatic lipase test. Also abdominal x rays and or an ultrasound scan may also be advised.

Life expectancy for dogs diagnosed with pancreatitis is difficult to predict. In mild, uncomplicated cases, the prognosis is usually good, with most patients going on to make a full recovery. This is especially the case if high-fat diets and human foods are avoided. In more serious and recurring pancreatitis cases the prognosis can be guarded with repeated episodes causing complicating factors such as single or multiple-organ failure. In the case of necrotising pancreatitis, a very severe and complicated form, portions of the pancreas are destroyed.

If your dog is showing any symptoms of loss of appetite or vomiting along with abdominal pain do contact us for an appointment.