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What is Pancreatitis in Dogs?
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10 May 2021

What is Pancreatitis in Dogs?

Pancreatitis in dogs is a common yet serious health issue that affects dogs of all kinds. The condition refers to severe inflammation of the pancreas, which is the organ involved in the digestion of food and release of insulin. When left untreated, pancreatitis is potentially life-threatening. There's a number of risk factors and causes, however, it can appear out of the blue.

The sometimes spontaneous appearance of pancreatitis is just one reason it's so important to know the signs and causes so you can act quickly.


What are the symptoms of pancreatitis?

Symptoms can appear progressively over time or in a sudden manner, depending on the severity of the case.

  • Hunched back
  • Bouts of vomiting - either intermittently within a few hours or over several days
  • Pain in the abdomen
  • Bloating or appearing uncomfortable
  • Diarrhoea
  • Loss of appetite
  • Dehydration
  • Weakness/lethargy


What can cause pancreatitis in dogs?

  • A high-fat diet - this is one of the major causes of pancreatitis and it can occur when a dog has one large serving of high-fat food in a single sitting.
  • Obesity
  • Hypothyroidism
  • Severe blunt trauma
  • Diabetes
  • Genetic disposition is also a cause - certain breeds of dogs are associated with higher risks of pancreatitis.
  • Certain medications of exposure to toxins

While a high-fat diet or rumble through the garbage is one of the most common causes, a significant amount of pancreatitis cases in dogs have an undetermined cause.


How can you reduce the risk of pancreatitis?

While the exact cause of pancreatitis is unknown, there are some common risk factors that are likely to lead to the development of pancreatitis.

Human food is particularly dangerous, but even dog food that's too high in fat can be dangerous to dogs. It's important to remain vigilant of food your dog may get their paws on when you're not looking. Particularly around the holiday season and other festive occasions where well-meaning guests may try to feed your pet fatty cut offs or butter filled desserts.

Giving your dog table scraps is generally not advised for any reason - setting good habits early about table behaviour will reduce the chances they'll hassle guests at your next dinner party, keeping them healthy and safe.

If you're concerned about the fat content of your dog's food, our vet's can help.


What is the treatment for pancreatitis?

Treatment is most often given through supportive care, managing pain and preventing further complications. Depending on the severity of the case, patients can need several days or weeks of treatment, involving overnight stays in hospital. The most severe cases can require treatment from a specialist and intensive care attention.

  • IV fluid therapy is a common treatment method for this illness
  • Pain-control measures
  • Antinausea treatments
  • Stomach-protector medications
  • Nutritional support
  • Antibiotics in some cases


What are the complications of pancreatitis?

The prognosis of pancreatitis relies heavily on how the patient presents, how severe their illness is and how they respond to initial courses of treatment.

More mild cases have a better prognosis given aggressive treatment is provided as soon as possible. However, more severe bouts of pancreatitis can leave a dog in shock and with depression. These more severe cases can have fatal outcomes. In either circumstance, a timely response to any symptoms your dog is showing is crucial - giving them veterinary assistance improves the likelihood of a positive recovery.

Additionally, pancreatitis can become a recurring issue in some dogs and dietary changes will need to be addressed and committed to in order to reduce flare ups.

If you're concerned about your pet, it's best to get in contact with a veterinarian as soon as possible to prevent the issue from worsening or to diagnose the underlying issue - contact us on (07) 4630 8399 or by booking a consultation appointment online.

Outside of clinic hours, please contact an emergency vet if you're concerned your dog is showing symptoms of pancreatitis.

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