Do You Know the Symptoms of Pancreatitis in Dogs?

Most dogs vomit from time to time, and it’s often nothing to worry about. However, sometimes it can be a symptom of pancreatitis, which is painful at best and deadly at worst. Besides vomiting, what are symptoms of pancreatitis in dogs? How is it treated? What causes it?

Let’s talk about pancreatitis in dogs.

What Is Pancreatitis?

Pancreatitis is inflammation of the pancreas, which is a small organ that’s responsible for releasing enzymes that aid in digestion and hormones like insulin, which regulates blood sugar. It can be acute (sudden onset) or chronic (repeated or persistent bouts).

With pancreatitis, the pancreatic enzymes can actually start to digest the pancreas, causing extreme pain. The inflammation can also spread to other organs, potentially leading to death.

Pancreatitis can affect dogs of any age, size, or breed. However, it seems to be somewhat more prevalent in Schnauzers and obese dogs.

Symptoms of Pancreatitis in Dogs

Pancreatitis symptoms in dogs may include:

  • Diarrhea
  • Repeated vomiting
  • Loss of appetite
  • Fever
  • Hunched back
  • Painful or bloated belly
  • Weakness
  • Lethargy
  • Dehydration
  • Irregular heartbeat

If your dog is showing more than one symptom, or if one sign won’t go away, seek veterinary care for your dog immediately.

Causes of Pancreatitis in Dogs

Vets aren’t always sure what causes pancreatitis. Some things that are known to cause pancreatitis include:

  • High-fat food (as little as one fatty scrap of human food can trigger it)
  • Obesity
  • Severe blunt trauma
  • Hypothyroidism
  • Some medications or other toxins (such as calcium, cholinesterase inhibitors, potassium bromide, l-asparaginase, phenobarbital, estrogen, azathioprine, salicylates, thiazide diuretics, and vinca alkaloids)
  • Diabetes

The day after Thanksgiving is one of the busiest days in many vet clinics with dogs suffering from pancreatitis after eating fatty table scraps, so be sure to keep your dog safely away from people food on that holiday (and every day).

How Is Pancreatitis in Dogs Diagnosed?

Diagnosing pancreatitis in dogs can be tricky. There isn’t any one method that will reliably diagnose the condition in all dogs. Usually, the diagnose will come from the results of one or more of the following:

  • Elevated white blood cell count
  • X-rays or ultrasound showing an inflamed pancreas
  • Elevated pancreatic enzymes
  • Fine needle aspiration of the pancreas
  • Physical exam including gums, stomach, heart, and temperature
  • Medical history

What’s the Difference Between Chronic and Acute Pancreatitis?

  • Acute pancreatitis comes on suddenly with no previous symptoms. If the inflammation spreads to other organs, it can become fatal.
  • Chronic pancreatitis comes on slowly, with no symptoms at first, and may result from repeated occurrences of acute pancreatitis.

Treatment of Pancreatitis in Dogs

Treating pancreatitis in dogs is about managing pain and other symptoms, along with resting the pancreas. Treatment for acute pancreatitis may include:

  • Withholding food and minimizing water intake for 24 hours or longer
  • Medication that stops vomiting
  • Intravenous (IV) fluid to maintain fluid and electrolyte balance
  • Pain relievers
  • Low-fat, highly digestible diet
  • Hospitalization for 2-4 days

Treating chronic pancreatitis may include:

  • A low-fat diet with no table scraps
  • Lipase and amylase levels checked often
  • Feeding several smaller meals throughout the day

Can Supplements Treat or Prevent Pancreatitis in Dogs?

If you suspect your dog has pancreatitis, you should always take them to the vet for treatment and not try to treat it at home. While you’re at the vet, though, you can ask if you should start your dog on one or more of the following:

  • Digestive enzyme supplements with pancreatin may help inhibit pancreatic secretions and reduce the work of the pancreas
  • Fish oil (about 1,000 mg per 10 pounds of body weight) may help lower blood lipid levels
  • Vitamin E (5 to 10 IU)
  • Beta-carotene
  • Vitamin C
  • Methionine

Preventing Pancreatitis in Dogs

The best way to help prevent pancreatitis in your dog is to be very mindful of what you feed them. Choose a dog food that’s lower in fat and avoid giving fatty table scraps or treats. Additionally, you should secure your trash (or your dog) when you aren’t around to supervise to make sure they don’t help themselves to a fatty meal from the garbage can.

Final Thoughts of Pancreatitis in Dogs

Hopefully, now you can recognize the symptoms of pancreatitis in dogs and know how to help prevent your dog from getting it. If your dog has signs of pancreatitis, don’t just wait for them to get over it – seek veterinary attention.

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