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Chronic Pancreatitis in Dogs

Posted October 23, 2011 in Dog Diseases & Conditions A-Z

The pancreas has many functions, including the production and secretion of digestive enzymes and the production of insulin. Digestive enzymes are critical for the absorption of food. Insulin aids in the control of the metabolism and blood-sugar levels. Pancreatitis refers to “inflammation of the pancreas” and there are two types of this disease: chronic, which means “recurring,” and acute, which means “sudden.” When the pancreas becomes inflamed, digestive enzymes that are normally inactive until they reach the small intestine become activated in the pancreas instead, resulting in pain and swelling as the pancreas actually begins to digest itself. Dogs with chronic pancreatitis essentially have multiple attacks of acute pancreatitis. In some situations, the symptoms can be less severe but because the condition is chronic, the long-term impact can be more severe. The pancreas is located in the upper abdomen, near the stomach, liver and right kidney.

Dog in grass

There are many suggested causes of pancreatitis including obesity, high-fat diets, liver disease, certain medications, toxins, and infection. Even if your dog doesn’t normally eat a high-fat diet, the introduction of a large amount of fatty food all at once can cause pancreatitis. Pancreatitis can occur in any dog but some breeds are more susceptible to this disease than others, including the miniature schnauzer, miniature poodle, and cocker spaniel. Additionally, pancreatitis is more common in older dogs, overweight dogs, and females. Dogs that get into garbage are much more likely to develop pancreatitis, so be sure to keep trash out of your dog’s reach!


Dogs with pancreatitis will often stop eating and drinking because of the pain associated with this disease.

Other symptoms you may see are:

  • Upset stomach and abdominal pain
  • Swollen abdomen 
  • Abnormal posture; arching of the back
  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting
  • Lethargy
  • Fever
  • Restlessness
  • Gagging

Your veterinarian will take a complete history and perform a thorough physical exam of your pooch. Additionally, diagnostic tests will be required to identify if your pet has acute pancreatitis. These may include:

  • Chemistry tests to evaluate kidney, liver, and pancreatic disease and dysfunction, as well as sugar levels
  • A complete blood count to screen your dog for infection, inflammation, or anemia and other blood-related conditions 
  • Electrolyte tests to ensure your dog isn’t dehydrated or suffering from an electrolyte imbalance
  • Pancreas-specific tests to help diagnose or rule out the disease
  • X-rays of the abdomen and intestinal tract 
  • Ultrasound to image the

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