Vet check: Pancreatitis in Dogs

Dr Abbie Tipler is back this month to chat to us about Pancreatitis in dogs. It is a fairly common disease, especially in dogs who are overweight. Dr Abbie works at Mosman Vet in Sydney and once again has taken some time out of her busy schedule to answer all our questions!

1. What is Pancreatitis?

Pancreatitis is inflammation of the organ called the pancreas. The normal function of the pancreas is to secrete enzymes that are involved in digestion. These enzymes help our pets to digest their food, however this function can occasionally go into drastic overdrive and start to essentially digest the pancreas itself! This causes inflammation and swelling of the pancreas organ which can be so severe that the swollen pancreas can place pressure on other vital structures. Acute pancreatitis can be life-threatening if not treated.

Dog pancreatitis

2. What causes pancreatitis?

The causes of pancreatitis in our beloved dogs is not 100% understood. However, we know it is more prevalent in dogs with endocrine problems such as diabetes and Cushing’s disease (another function of the pancreas is hormone production so this links together). There are a few breeds that are a little more predisposed — like Schnauzers and Terrier breeds — and overweight dogs or dogs fed fatty foods are at higher risk as well. Very often, in the veterinary history (questions we ask owners), it ‘leaks out’ that the dog may have sneaked a couple of sausages from the BBQ or had some left over cheesecake. Whoops!

Dog pancreatitis

3. What are the common symptoms of pancreatitis?

The symptoms of pancreatitis can be severe and painful. Remember that dogs are very good at hiding their pain! So we need to sometimes watch for other hints that our dog has pancreatitis, such as vomitting, a hunched stance or not eating. The signs that we see as veterinarians are increased heart rate, cranial abdominal pain with palpation (fancy word for ‘feeling’ things), dehydration and occasionally symptoms of shock if things have progressed.

4. What are the common treatments for pancreatitis?

The mainstays of treatment for pancreatitis involve pain relief, fluid therapy to treat dehydration and shock & antinausea injectables to help prevent further vomitting and fluid loss. Very often dogs require 2-3 days in hospital (longer in very severely affected patients).

5. What are the long-term needs of a dog with pancreatitis?

The longterm needs of patients fall into 2 categories:

  1. Treating any underlying problems, for example any endocrine problems or weight issues. As a side note to all you dog lovers, don’t love your dog too much!! Cut back on the treats, ensure regular exercise, and yes, I know those eyes are super cute, but the pancreas does not want that steak curry!
  2. Not to labour the point, but a low-fat diet in the longterm is also essential for any dog that has had an episode of pancreatitis, as dogs that have had one episode can be prone to recurrences.

Abbie and Mr TuffyAbbie and her cat Mr Tuffy

About Dr Abbie Tipler

Dr Abbie Tipler graduated from Massey University in New Zealand in 2004 and has been working as a Small Animal Veterinarian ever since. She has a special interest in Small Animal Surgery and in 2010 obtained her Membership in Small Animal Surgery from the Australian College of Veterinary Scientists. She has international experience including three and a half years working in a busy orthopaedic referral practice in London. She has also worked in New Zealand and of course Australia, where she has now joined the Mosman Vet’s team. She lives in Mosman with her husband and two ragdoll cats.

If you have any questions for Abbie about your dog’s health please send us an email at [email protected]

Please note: Puppy Tales provides these articles for information purposes only. For any health problems with your pet always seek immediate veterinary advice from your local veterinarian.

Lisa Miller

Lisa Miller is a blogger, digital strategist, business coach, zoologist and crazy dog-lady! Lisa lives in Sydney, Australia with her husband, two kids, two dogs and two cats. That equates to a lot of fun and vacuuming. Her dog’s names are Cresswell and Edwina (or Cress and Eddie).