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Canine Pancreatitis

The pancreas is located along the base of a dog's stomach, right at the entrance to the small intestine. It produces digestive enzymes and insulin for your dog's body. In healthy dogs, these enzymes are activated after being released into the intestine, thereby allowing your dog to digest good. When the pancreas becomes inflamed (pancreatitis) the enzymes become activated while still in the pancreas, leading to "digestion" of the pancreatic tissue. This can be life-threatening and quite painful for your dog.


Pancreatitis is often triggered by a high-fat meal that has been ingested recently. If a dog consumes a large amount of fat from meat trimmings, a ham bone, or other fatty substances, pancreatitis can occur. Certain medications and chemotherapy agents can increase a dog's vulnerability to pancreatitis. Dogs with diabetes are predisposed to the condision as well. While any dog can suffer from pancreatitis, Miniature Schnauzers are the most common breed of dog to be diagnosed. 


  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Loss of appetite
  • Fever
  • Visible signs of pain

Your vet will obtain a diagnosis of pancreatitis using blood test, physical exams, a chemistry profile, x-rays and ultrasound. The Specific Canine Pancreatic Lipases Test, or spec cPL, detects the elevated enzymes in the pancreas to confirm the dianosis.

Acute and Chronic Pancreatitis

Acute cases--usually, those triggered by recent ingestion of a fatty meal--are treated in a supportive manner using IV fluids, electrolytes, antibiotics, and nausea and pain medications. Since pain can slow your dog's recovery by inhibiting the immune system response, pain management is very important in cases of pancreatitis. For dogs with chronic pancreatitis, a change in diet is usually warranted. Your veterinarian can prescribe a fat-restricted dog food and offer recommendations on exactly how to manage your dog's dietary needs moving forward.