Canine Pancreatitis is inflammation of the pancreas that can occur in two very different forms. Acute pancreatitis is sudden while chronic pancreatitis is characterized by recurring or persistent form of pancreatic inflammation. Cases of both can be considered mild or severe.

The pancreas is composed of two sections: the smaller endocrine portion, which is responsible for producing hormones such as insulin, somatostatin, and glucagon, and the larger, exocrine portion, which produces enzymes needed for the digestion of food. Acinar cells make up 82% of the total pancreas; these cells are responsible for the production of the digestive enzymes. When pancreatitis occurs, the pancreas releases enzymes and other substances into the surrounding area of the abdomen. These substances cause localized inflammation that damages the pancreas and nearby organs and can lead to life-threatening complications

Acute pancreatitis can trigger a buildup of fluid, particularly in abdominal and thoracic (chest) areas, acute renal failure, and cause inflammation in arteries and veins. The inflammation triggers the body's clotting factors, possibly depleting them to the point of spontaneous bleeding.It is this form which can be fatal in animals and in humans.


Although the exact cause of pancreatitis is often unknown, there are several contributing factors.

Hyperlipemia: Hyperlipemia (high blood fat content) is a condition in which the amount of fat in the blood is elevated. Hyperlipemia occurs normally for a short period after a meal then returns to the correct level. However, some pets, like some people, have a metabolic problem which prevents the proper clearing of the fat from the blood stream. Some research studies have shown recently that hyperlipemia contributes to the development of pancreatitis.

Obesity: Many dogs with pancreatitis are overweight. Dogs also are more likely to develop pancreatitis after eating a meal with a high fat content, especially fatty table scraps. Therefore, dietary fat intake and the nutritional status of the animal are important factors in this disease.

Infectious Disease: Bacterial or viral infections can contribute to the development of pancreatitis in the dog or cat. Bacterial infections are often contracted by consuming spoiled or contaminated food or water. Viral infections usually result from contact with other infected animals.

Trauma: Any trauma or injury that involves the abdomen in the dog or cat can contribute to the development of pancreatitis. For example, pets injured in automobile accidents commonly develop pancreatitis.


 Most animals present with common gastrointestinal signs of upset, such as:
      Not eating
      Painful abdomen, hunched appearance (more common in dogs
      Fever or below-normal body temperature
      Dehydration, evaluated by noting sunken eyes, dry mouth, and increased skin turgor (skin tents when pinched)
      Abdominal pain
      Hunched posture

These signs are not specific for pancreatitis, and can be seen with many gastrointestinal diseases and conditions. All or some of the signs may be noted in an individual patient with pancreatitis.

The majority of dogs that develop pancreatitis are middle aged or elderly. (although the problem may have been brewing earlier in their lives) It is not unusual for a single pet to have multiple digestive tract problems in addition to pancreatitis. Pets that are already suffering from diabetes, Cushing's disease or hypothyroidism are more prone to pancreatitis.


When your pet is suffering from the shock of a sudden case of severe pancreatitis, your veterinarian will concentrate on stabilizing it first. Treatment for shock from any cause is quite similar. So even if your veterinarian is still unsure of the diagnosis, the initial treatment plan will be quite similar. That plan will concentrate on keeping your pet’s circulatory system functioning adequately, maintaining your pet’s body temperature and providing its tissues with adequate oxygen. This will require intravenous fluids and, perhaps, oxygen and other heroic efforts.

Dogs who are experiencing pain can be treated with pain relievers such as meperidine or butorphanol.  In addition, some pets will receive treatment for DIC, bicarbonate, potassium, corticosteroids, and even transfusions.

Medications are often given to decrease the amount of vomiting. If vomiting is severe, food, water, and oral medications are withheld for at least 24 hours. Depending upon the dog's response, food intake can be started again after a day or more. The dog is generally fed small meals of a bland, easily digestible, high-carbohydrate, low-fat food. In some cases, it may be necessary to use tube feeding to provide proper nutrition.

If the pancreatitis was caused by a medication, the medication should be stopped. If it was caused by a toxin, infection, or other condition, the appropriate therapy for the underlying condition should be started.

In rare instances where there are intestinal complications or the development of a pancreatic abscess, surgery may be necessary.


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