Preventing Canine Pancreatitis Through Proper Diet

Canine pancreatitis is a condition where the dog's pancreas becomes inflamed due to digestive enzymes eating through the living tissue. If allowed to progress, other tissue becomes involved, potentially causing involvement with the liver and creating other problem conditions such as diabetes mellitus. While some dogs may be predisposed to pancreatitis, prevention through proper dietary measures can keep your dog healthy.

Causes of Canine Pancreatitis

There are several known causes for canine pancreatitis, each causing the premature release of enzymes and the destruction of pancreatic tissue.

Improper diet is the most common cause of pancreatitis. A diet high in fat and low in fiber creates the right environment for the enzymes to be released and tissue to become inflamed. Hormonal imbalances caused by diseases such as diabetes mellitus and hypothyroidism can predispose your dog to pancreatitis. Pancreatitis can be brought on by certain medications. Two known causes are antibiotics containing sulpha, and chemotherapy agents. Trauma to the pancreas, either from an accident or from surgical manipulation, can bring on a case of pancreatitis.

Preventing Pancreatitis Through Diet

The highest percentage of pancreatitis cases are brought on by improper diet. Whether caused by table scraps being added in with their dog food or too many special treats, a diet too rich in fat can trigger the enzymes to attack the pancreas. Veterinarians report a high number of pancreatitis cases occurring during the holidays, when well-intentioned owners share their holiday meals with the dog.

In order to prevent the onset of pancreatitis, an average adult dog should have a diet lower in fat, with a moderate amount of fiber. Fat content in the diet should fall between 9 to 15% for an average adult dog. While fiber requirements are hard to define, there should be enough fiber in your dog's diet to help his food move through the digestive tract efficiently. Food moving through your dog's system properly prevents the digestive enzymes from backing up through the pancreatic ducts and causing inflammation of the pancreatic tissue. Dogs who are predisposed to pancreatitis are frequently fed a prescription diet that is formulated to provide proper amounts of nutrients, while limiting the amount of fat provided.


Because many commercial dog treats have a high fat content, it's important to limit the number given on a daily basis. The amount of fat in these treats shouldn't impact your dog's digestive tract so long as they're given in a reasonable amount. Some dog owners create low fat homemade treats in order to have as little impact on their dog's digestion as possible.

Providing your dog with a healthy diet is not only important in controlling his weight, but is also critical as a preventive measure against the onset of disease. Feeding a diet low in fat and with a moderate amount of fiber not only works at preventing pancreatitis, but provides a balanced food source that can be maintained throughout his healthy life.