Pancreatitis in dogs is caused by swelling and inflammation of the pancreas. It is a particularly painful condition that is often misunderstood by both vets and pet parents since the causes are not often clear. However, vets do have some idea of the causes that can contribute to this condition, it’s symptoms, and other conditions that can be caused as a result of it.

Dogs with pancreatitis tend to experience mild bouts that can easily be treated by a vet, however, in more severe cases it can become very serious or even fatal. That’s why it’s so important for pet parents to know how to spot the tell-tale signs and symptoms of pancreatitis when to seek treatment, and what they can do to prevent it from occurring in their dog.

What is Pancreatitis?

The pancreas is an organ that produces the enzymes that aid with digestion and allow the body to absorb fats from food. Without the pancreas, a dog would not be able to absorb the nutrients from his or her food. Pancreatitis occurs when the pancreas becomes swollen and inflamed. There are two types of this condition: acute and chronic.

Acute pancreatitis occurs when the dog experiences symptoms that appear suddenly, with no previous signs of this condition. On the other hand, the symptoms of chronic pancreatitis tend to manifest themselves more slowly over time.

Acute pancreatitis can be sudden and surprising for pet owners, and both forms can cause a lot of pain and discomfort for the dog.

When Pancreatitis Becomes Fatal:

The term fatal pancreatitis refers to when the condition becomes serious enough to lead to fatal complications that eventually result in the dog passing away.

This may happen if the condition becomes extremely severe, or if it reoccurs several times in which the dog may be more susceptible to developing other fatal conditions including diabetes mellitus or maldigestion syndrome.

The good news is that both of these conditions can be treated and managed, however, they need to be spotted and treated early.

Symptoms to Look Out For:

Symptoms can vary depending on whether the dog is suffering from mild or severe pancreatitis. Mild pancreatitis symptoms can include general discomfort or inability to get comfortable when lying down, dehydration, pain or distension of the abdomen, a loss of appetite, vomiting, yellow-coloured diarrhea, signs of being in pain when the abdomen in touched, hunching when standing or walking, or a fever.

Dogs that are experiencing more severe pancreatitis might also display the symptoms common in mild cases. However, it’s likely that they will also show more serious symptoms that can be life-threatening if left untreated. Some more serious symptoms to look out for include an irregular heartbeat, breathing difficulties, sepsis, or hemorrhages.

If You Think Your Dog Has Pancreatitis:

If you have noticed any of the above symptoms and suspect that your dog has pancreatitis, the first thing to do is call your vet or take your dog to an emergency vet if it’s out of hours.

If your dog is currently stable, the vet will likely ask you to bring them in for an appointment as soon as possible. On the other hand, other arrangements or a home visit might be recommended for a dog who is not stable.

It’s important to act quickly and contact your vet as soon as possible if you suspect that your dog has pancreatitis. This condition can deteriorate very quickly and lead to serious pain and discomfort for the dog.

How is Pancreatitis Diagnosed?

To get an accurate diagnosis for your dog, your vet will look at various different important factors including lab testing of blood, a physical exam, and look at your dog’s medical history.

Medical History: Since dogs that have experienced pancreatitis before are more likely to experience it again, your vet will be interested to see your dog’s medical history to see if there is anything that could indicate they are at a higher risk.

Other medical conditions and medications that your dog is currently taking will also be taken into account since they can also increase the risk of this condition.

Physical Exam: Your vet will conduct a thorough physical exam to confirm any physical symptoms that you may have noticed on your dog such as abdominal swelling. This exam typically consists of an exam of your dog’s stomach area to check for any tenderness and bloating.

Your vet will also take your dog’s temperature, listen to her heart, and check for any other signs of illness by inspecting the eyes, ears and mouth.

Blood Testing: Your vet might recommend that your dog has a blood test. This will involve drawing some blood before it is tested in a lab for the presence of pancreatic enzymes.

There are various factors which can lead to a diagnosis such as elevated pancreatic enzymes such as amylase and lipase, or a higher white blood cell count than normal. Your vet may also recommend an x-ray or ultrasound.

How to Treat a Dog With Pancreatitis:

There are various treatment options available that your vet may suggest to help keep your dog comfortable and help them recover from this condition. Pain relievers and antibiotics are usually prescribed and typically given via injection.

In more severe cases, your vet might recommend keeping your dog overnight where he can be given IV fluids. You may also be asked to go 24 hours without giving your dog any food or water to rest the pancreas before slowing introducing food and water again.

Once your dog can start eating again, it’s usually recommended to give them bland food that does not contain any fats; this is often given on prescription or your vet can recommend certain foods. In some rare cases, typically where other complications arise, surgery might be required.

Keeping Your Dog Comfortable:

With the right treatment and care, most dogs will recover from this condition and be able to live a happy and healthy life once again. However, as a pet parent, the last thing that you want is to see your beloved friend in pain so you might be wondering what you can do to help them recover and make the experience less painful for them.

This guide from Bella & Duke, a leading raw pet food brand, on How to Comfort Dogs With Pancreatitis can be a good place to start with plenty of actionable tips you can use to make your dog’s life easier throughout this distressing experience.

If you want to know how to comfort a dog with pancreatitis, the best thing that you can do is follow the advice of your vet. Make sure that your dog does not have access to any fatty foods that may cause further inflammation, and give them a soft and comfortable space to rest in. Make sure that your dog keeps drinking to ensure that they do not get dehydrated, which can lead to further complications.

If your dog is lethargic and struggling to get up to drink, you might want to move their water bowl to their bed or use a syringe to gently give them small but frequent amounts of water.

Pancreatitis can be a painful and sometimes serious condition for dogs, so learning how to spot the signs and when to seek help is important for any pet parent.