Inflamed Pancreas in Dogs

Canine pancreatitis is a common condition caused by inflamed pancreas. It is a painful condition that can even be fatal. Breeds such as Yorkshire terriers, miniature poodles, Cocker spaniels and Schnauzers are more predisposed to this condition. Pancreatitis is also more common in female dogs and elderly pets.

The Pancreas

The pancreas is located behind the stomach on the right side of the abdominal cavity. It is a V-shaped organ that produces digestive enzymes and insulin. Hence, this organ is part of the digestive system as well as the endocrine system. The pancreas gets inflamed when there is a leakage of the digestive enzymes (by damaged pancreatic cells) into the organ itself. This results in the digestion of the pancreatic tissues leading to inflammation and death if the condition is left untreated.

Symptoms of Canine Pancreatitis

Pancreatitis in dogs can show the following symptoms:

  • Pain in the abdomen
  • Distension of the abdomen
  • Loss of appetite
  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting
  • Fever
  • Dehydration
  • Depression
  • Arching of the back
  • Panting
  • Stools that are greasy and yellow in color
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Auto digestion and permanent damage of organs near the pancreas by the digestive enzymes that are released 
  • Fatigue

Causes of Canine Pancreatitis

There are various factors that are responsible for causing pancreatitis in dogs such as obesity, the ingestion of medications such as sulpha drugs and chemotherapy drugs. Trauma, abdominal surgery, metabolic disorders, infections and nutrition also lead to pancreatitis. Besides this, high levels of fat (hyperlipidemia) and calcium (hypercalcemia) in the blood can cause inflammation of the pancreas. A diet rich in fat or deficient in carbohydrates can also give rise to canine pancreatitis.

If you’ve been stung by a scorpion you may develop pancreatitis. Health conditions that cause changes in the metabolism of fats such as diabetes mellitus and hypothyroidism can also lead to the inflammation of the pancreas.

Diagnosis of Canine Pancreatitis

High levels of lipase and amylase in the blood can indicate inflammation of the pancreas. However, blood tests showing high levels of these amino acids are not specific as they can also indicate renal disease or dehydration. The specific pancreatic canine lipase test is generally recommended by veterinarians as it is 83 percent accurate. Radiographs and ultrasound are also helpful in diagnosing pancreatitis along with a physical exam and an evaluation of the pet’s medical history.

Treatment of Canine Pancreatitis

The best treatment for canine pancreatitis is to rest the pancreas by withholding food, water and oral medications for a couple of days. Withholding oral intake of food and drink stops the production of digestive enzymes and allows the inflammation to subside. It’s essential to maintain electrolyte and fluid balance by administering intravenous fluids during this period of fasting. Pain killers are administered to manage the pain, antiemetics are administered to control the bouts of vomiting and antibiotics are administered to fight off any infection.

All these can be administered intravenously or subcutaneously. After a few days, small meals that are bland and rich in carbohydrates should be given to the affected pet. Diets that contain no fats are ideal for pets suffering from pancreatitis. In case of complications, surgery might be required.

Pancreatitis can be a fatal condition. Hence, early diagnosis and treatment are essential. The prognosis is good in mild cases. It’s important to put your pet on a weight reduction program and feed him a nutritious diet to keep him healthy.