dog pancreatitis

When our dogs become unwell, it can be worrying for us pooch parents. Especially when it’s a serious condition like pancreatitis. This disease can be extremely painful and even life threatening. And whether it’s a mild flare up or severe, it’s not something you can just treat at home. It’s always important to see a vet as quickly as possible.  

What is pancreatitis in dogs?

Pancreatitis in dogs occurs when the pancreas becomes inflamed or swollen. The pancreas is responsible for releasing enzymes that help digest food. Normally, the enzymes only become active when they reach the small intestine. But in dogs with pancreatitis, those enzymes activate before they reach the small intestine. This then causes damage and further inflammation to the pancreas, the surrounding tissue, and if left untreated can damage other organs too. 

Pancreatitis ranges from mild to severe. Mild cases can usually be managed by a change of diet and keeping an eye on those extra treats! But severe cases often need more intensive treatment. The condition can flare up and symptoms can ease fairly quickly, whereas chronic pancreatitis in dogs develops overtime and can stay for much longer periods. The disease often causes prolonged bouts of abdominal pain and vomiting.

Causes of pancreatitis in dogs

It can sometimes be difficult to identify the exact cause of pancreatitis. In many cases flare ups appear out of the blue. But there are a number of factors that make dogs at higher risk of developing the condition. Sometimes the disease can be brought on by a recent surgery, or it could be a side effect to a drug. However, the condition is most commonly triggered when a dog eats high-fat foods, such as bacon, cheese, butter and even high-fat dog treats. 

There are a number of health conditions that can predispose dogs to developing pancreatitis, and it’s not uncommon for the disease to develop alongside other conditions like diabetes too. Certain breeds such as Miniature Schnauzers, Dachshunds, Yorkshire Terriers and Poodles are more prone to the condition. But it’s also more likely to affect overweight dogs and older dogs.

Symptoms of pancreatitis in dogs

Symptoms of pancreatitis in dogs vary depending on the severity of the illness. It’s a good idea to familiarise yourself with the warning signs as they’re not always obvious at first. They can easily be mistaken for something less serious, so it pays to keep a watchful eye. But the typical signs of pancreatitis in dogs include: 

  • Vomiting 
  • Diarrhoea
  • Weakness and lethargy 
  • Loss of appetite
  • Dehydration 
  • Painful tummy – dogs with pancreatitis often adopt the prayer position. Where they stretch out the abdomen while the front of the body is low to the floor.  
  • Fever

What to do if you suspect your dog has pancreatitis?

If your dog is showing any of the symptoms above, see your vet as quickly as possible. Your vet will examine your dog, and they may need to undergo tests such as blood tests, an X-ray and ultrasound to check for pancreatitis. 

There’s no miracle cure for pancreatitis. The priority is managing your dog’s pain and making them as comfortable as possible until the episode passes. Early intervention is also key to help avoid any further complications. 

For mild pancreatitis, your vet may recommend you monitor your dog closely for the next 24 hours, and encourage them to drink plenty of water. This ensures they don’t become dehydrated. They may also recommend no food during this period. They will likely give your dog strong pain medication to keep them comfortable, as well as medication to help with nausea and vomiting. After the 24-hour period, your vet may suggest you encourage your dog to eat small, low-fat meals throughout the day. However, every case is different and you should always follow your vet’s advice for your dog’s circumstances.

If your dog has severe pancreatitis, your vet will likely recommend your dog stay at the vet practice for observation for a few days. Intravenous fluids are a common form of treatment to maintain normal fluid and electrolyte balance. And in some cases, a stomach tube may be necessary for dogs that aren’t eating on their own. 

After veterinary treatment, most dogs make a full recovery. But it’s not uncommon for dogs to experience flare ups throughout their lives. While in some severe cases it can be fatal. For recurring pancreatitis, the best method is usually switching to a new low-fat diet.

How can food help with pancreatitis?

Since pancreatitis is often caused by high-fat foods, offering a low-fat diet is key. Once your dog has experienced a bout of pancreatitis, the chance of it coming back is high. So whether it’s a one-off or they’ve had several episodes, it’s a good idea to offer their new low-fat diet for life.  

Offering a low-fat diet reduces the workload on the pancreas, helping reduce the likelihood of attacks. Your best bet is to aim for a diet with a maximum fat level of 10%. Also make sure it contains good quality ingredients so it’s easy to digest.

Cut out any high-fat or low-quality treats and table scraps. And ensure the whole family is on board. A small piece may seem like nothing, but if the whole family’s sneaking treats to Fido, it soon adds up. If you’re using supplements like fish oil, you should discuss with your vet first if it’s ok to continue. Lastly, be sure to keep human foods, bins and food waste bins secure or out of reach.

How tailored dog food can help ease symptoms

Here at we create unique recipes for pooches with pancreatitis. Since high fat levels can trigger repeated bouts of pancreatitis, we’ll limit the fat levels in your dog’s diet to less than 10%. So you’ll know your dog is on a diet that helps reduce the risk of flare ups and the pain that goes with them. We’ll also include a good balance of other nutrients such as prebiotics, keeping the food low fat to make sure it’s as gentle as possible on your dog’s digestion.
But this is not just dog food for pancreatitis. It’s also tailored to your dog’s nutritional needs to maintain their ideal weight and relieve joint pain, which is all wrapped up inside your dog’s favourite flavours. And now you can try your dog’s unique recipe for 50% off the first month. You’ll get all the nutritional goodness to help you manage your dog’s pancreatitis, with the added benefits for your individual dog’s needs. Sign up today and receive your first box for half the price.

Original article first published on, and republished here by kind permission of the author, Sophie Van Der Veken.