Pancreatitis in dogs is an inflammatory reaction within the pancreas that can result in abdominal pain, loss of appetite, and vomiting.  Pancreatitis in dogs is a painful and potentially life-threatening condition. It’s usually caused by the dog eating something it shouldn’t have, though there are other causes as well.

It’s one of those conditions that owners must be informed about before it strikes because the warning signs may not always be obvious at first, the symptoms might be mistaken for something less serious, and yet it’s potentially life-threatening.

When a dog’s pancreas is working normally, it releases enzymes to help with digestion. These enzymes become active only when they reach the small intestine. In dogs with pancreatitis, the enzymes activate as soon as they’re released and begin to irritate and damage the pancreas and its surrounding tissue and other organs.

A dog with pancreatis

There is no age or sex barrier. Pancreatitis can be either acute or chronic. Acute pancreatitis is sudden and often accompanied by abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting, and fever. Chronic pancreatitis develops gradually over time, without symptoms in the early stages. This type may lead to endocrine problems such as diabetes or thyroid dysfunction.

Causes of Pancreatitis in Dog

Pancreatitis is often variable. The severity of the disease will vary depending on the number of enzymes that were prematurely activated. The exact cause of this disease is not known, although it may be triggered by a high-fat diet, obesity, hypothyroidism, severe blunt trauma, diabetes mellitus, or certain medications or other toxins.

Pancreatitis has many potential causes, and dogs can present with illnesses ranging from mild to very severe. The signs of illness are not specific to the pancreas, so it is challenging to diagnose. Treatment is more effective when initiated early in the disease process.

Signs of Pancreatitis in Dog

If your dog has pancreatitis, it will have clinical symptoms that are more severe. These include Severe lethargy, abdominal pain, fever, continuous vomiting, severe dehydration, and lethargy (sleepiness). Sometimes dogs vomit without having nausea or abdominal pain. The vomit is usually yellowish-green to brown in color and continuous.

A dog with pancreatitis sign

Treatment of Pancreatitis

There is no special treatment for sudden onset pancreatitis. The main goal of treatment is to control pain, and the next step is preventing further complications. Many cases will also need anti-inflammatory drugs or medications to control vomiting or diarrhea. Antibiotics may be necessary if your dog has an infection.

Most dogs with this infection are hospitalized and given fluids and medications for two to four days while they slowly reintroduce food. Severe hemorrhagic pancreatitis, or if the dog shows signs of systemic shock, will require intensive care that includes aggressive doses of intravenous fluids and medications to counteract shock.

In your dog, this can be treated by giving IV fluid therapy when severe, monitoring the condition when it worsens, antiemetic medication for vomiting so you don’t have to worry about dehydration, resting the pancreas, and withholding food and water for 24 hours, and visiting your veterinarian regularly.

In order to successfully manage this, early diagnosis and prompt medical therapy are necessary. In cases of mild, edematous pancreatitis, the treatment is non-invasive and consists of rest for the pancreas in order to promote recovery.

 

A dog with pancreatitis undergoing treatment

The prognosis for dogs with this disease depends on the severity of the disease when it is diagnosed and how well the dog responds to treatment. Dogs that are lethargic or depressed have a very guarded prognosis.

Most of the mild forms of this disease have a good prognosis with aggressive treatment, but dogs not treated may progress to the hemorrhagic form and suffer severely. A dog with a severe infection has a deadly prognosis. The dog can die from a severe whole-body inflammatory condition, which results in multiple organ failure.

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