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Canine Pancreatitis: Symptoms of Pancreatitis in Dogs

Abdominal pain followed by diarrhea and loss of appetite are some of the most common symptoms of canine pancreatitis.
DogAppy Staff
Last Updated: Feb 23, 2018
Closeup of white and brown dog with its mouth open
The pancreas is a small glandular organ that is located near the stomach. Its main function is to produce enzymes that help digest food. Canine pancreatitis is a painful condition which results in inflammation (swelling) of the pancreas. As a result, the digestive enzymes start leaking causing moderate to severe abdominal pain.
Type of Canine Pancreatitis
Canine pancreatitis can be, either acute (severe) or chronic. The former occurs suddenly and requires immediate treatment; while, in latter case, the symptoms worsen gradually, leading to irreversible damage to the pancreas.
Initially, the symptoms are mild, but with the passage of time, they become severe and unbearable. Abdominal pain is a common symptom of canine pancreatitis. Other mild symptoms include:
  • Lack of appetite
  • Hunched up posture with shoulders forward and head bent down.
  • Diarrhea
  • Depression
  • Vomiting and nausea
  • Swollen abdomen
  • Fever
  • Color of stool changes to odd yellow.
As the condition worsens, the symptoms observed are:
  • Dehydration (dehydrated canines have sunken eyes and dry mouth)
  • Difficulty in breathing
  • Heart arrhythmias
  • Inflammation of organs that surround the pancreas.
  • Infection and hemorrhages throughout the body.
Behavior of Dogs Affected with Pancreatitis
  • Dogs with pancreatitis are unable to walk properly due to abdominal pain.
  • Also, the dog does not rest in one position for long. While lying down, the dog often shifts the resting position to reduce abdominal discomfort.
  • Your pet is likely to moan or wail upon holding because of abdominal discomfort.
  • Despite no physical activity, the dog may be seen breathing heavily.
There are a number of factors that can trigger this disorder in dogs. Digestive enzymes secreted by the pancreas are supposed to get active only in the small intestine. However, if these enzymes get prematurely activated in the pancreas, then it may result in swollen pancreas. An unhealthy diet can also lead to the development of pancreatitis in dogs. Dogs fed on table scraps are more susceptible to this disease. Dogs suffering from hypothyroidism and epilepsy have higher chances of developing pancreatitis than their healthy counterparts.
The common causes of pancreatitis in dogs are as follows:
  • Obesity
  • Trauma, such as a severe abdominal injury.
  • High fatty meals
  • Unhygienic food (eating garbage food)
  • Infections that damage the pancreas.
  • Certain synthetic drugs such as corticosteroids, used to treat conditions like canine arthritis, and potassium bromide, prescribed for seizure control.
  • Metabolic disorders, such as hyperlipidemia, where the amount of fat in your dog's blood stream is high. The pancreas try to remove these fats by secreting excessive digestive enzymes. This results in inflammation of the pancreas.
  • Diabetes
Medications that are commonly used to treat pancreatitis in dogs include antibiotics, analgesics and antiemetics. These medications help to control the pain. In order to prevent recurrence of pancreatitis, dogs should not be given foods with high fat content. Giving rest to the pancreas is essential to cure this disease. This is possible only when food or water is not taken orally for 2 to 5 days or more. The dog is put on intravenous fluids until the episodes of vomiting stop. Surgical intervention will be required, in cases of intestinal complications or severe inflammation of the pancreas.
A blood test confirming high amount of lipase and amylase enzymes circulating in the bloodstream is an indication of pancreatitis. More specifically, the test that determines abnormally high amount of pancreatic lipase is said to be a reliable test when it comes to diagnosing canine pancreatitis.
Fulfilling the dog's nutritional needs will help the pancreas to heal. A high fiber and low-fat diet will go a long way in managing the illness and help your canine's pancreas to recover.