Canine pancreatitis

by Robert B. Duncan
Spring Branch Veterinary Hospital


What is Pancreatitis?

Pancreatitis is inflammation of the pancreas

What does the pancreas do?

The pancreas is an organ which is located at the beginning (anterior) portion of the intestinal system.  Its two major functions are

  • Excretion of digestive enzymes into the small intestinal system to help break down fats, proteins, and carbohydrates as part of the digestive process.
  • The production and release of insulin to help regulate blood glucose levels.

How do dogs get pancreatitis?

Dogs can get pancreatitis for unknown reasons but commonly there will be a history of recent ingestion of “people food”.  Foods high in fat such as beef and bacon grease are often culprits in initiating pancreatitis.  Also, Miniature Schnauzers are predisposed to pancreatitis as they commonly have high levels of fat molecules in their blood (hyperlipemia).

What are symptoms of pancreatitis?

Symptoms usually include vomiting, decreased or absent appetite, abdominal discomfort, and lethargy.

What happens if my dog gets pancreatitis?

Dogs are usually able to be successfully treated with hospitalization, intravenous fluids, pain medications, and sometimes antibiotics.  Pancreatitis, however, is a potentially lethal disease.  It can also be expensive to treat as some pets require a week or longer of hospitalization.  After having pancreatitis, a dog can become a diabetic if the insulin-producing portion of the pancreas has been damaged.

Is there anything I can do to help prevent pancreatitis?

Many times the cause of pancreatitis is unknown and thus unable to be prevented.  However, feeding only a high quality dog food, preventing access to garbage, and taking special care around food-oriented events and holidays can go a long way in preventing this disease.