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Wrigleyville Veterinary Center

What is Pancreatitis in Dogs in Chicago, IL?

Close Up Image of a Brown Dog's Paws

The pancreas produces hormones that assist with digestion and hormones that help aid in the processing of sugar. When the pancreas is inflamed, it leads to a condition called pancreatitis. Pancreatitis can be triggered by eating too many fatty foods and obesity.   

Most dogs successfully recover from pancreatitisIf you would like additional information about pancreatitis in dogs, this article can help.


The pancreas is an organ located on the right side of the stomach of dogs and most mammals. The pancreas generates enzymes to help digestion and hormones, such as insulin, which controls the glucose in the body. Digestive enzymes are released into the small intestine, and the hormones enter the bloodstream.

Pancreatitis is inflammation of the pancreas. When inflamed, the pancreas releases digestive hormones inside itself instead of into the small intestine. It leads to an overactive immune response that can trigger pain and damage to the pancreas and the surrounding organs.

Pancreatitis in canines can either be acute or chronic. Acute pancreatitis develops abruptly and is painful to the dog, but no permanent damage is done to the pancreas. Chronic pancreatitis occurs when inflammation in the pancreas is inflamed for a long time and can cause irreversible damage to the pancreas, which impairs its ability to release enzymes and insulin.

It interferes with the dog’s ability to digest food properly. There are two types of pancreatitis: mild and severe. If left diagnosed and untreated, mild pancreatitis can develop to precipitate more dangerous and often life-threatening symptoms.


There can be many possible causes of pancreatitis in dogs. There are many factors associated with the development of the illness:



It is not ideal for your dog to get one big helping of high-fat food in one sitting. It would be best to have them eat two meals a day, about 12 hours apart. However, you can also have them eat at breakfast, lunch, and dinner with the family.

The type of food you serve your pup should depend on their weight, age, and activity level. If your dog is obese, they are at a higher risk of developing pancreatitis. Hyperlipidemia, which is prevalent in overweight dogs, is another known cause of pancreatitis.

You should also know that if you give your pooch table scraps, they may be at risk for pancreatitis. The next time you have a slice of cheesy pizza or a piece of greasy bacon, avoid the urge to share them with your dog, even if they give you puppy dog eyes.



Endocrine diseases, such as hypothyroidism and diabetes, can cause pancreatitis. When a dog has diabetes, it means that their pancreas does not produce enough insulin. It is difficult to know whether diabetes causes pancreatitis or the other way around. Dogs that have diabetes and pancreatitis concurrently are at risk of serious complications.

Hypothyroidism in dogs occurs when there is insufficient thyroid hormone to regulate metabolism. Both diabetes and hypothyroidism can affect how fats are metabolized and trigger hyperlipidemia, which may prompt pancreatitis.



Some specific medications or toxins can cause pancreatitis in dogs:

  • Calcium

  • Cholinesterase inhibitors

  • Estrogen

  • Phenobarbital

  • Potassium bromide

  • Salicylates

Thiazide diuretics and vinca alkaloids may also lead to pancreatitis. Any medication or toxin that can trigger inflammation of the pancreas can cause a problem. Environmental toxins such as zinc have also been shown to lead to pancreatitis.



Certain breeds have demonstrated to have a higher incidence of pancreatitis:

  • Cocker spaniels

  • Dachshunds

  • Miniature schnauzers

  • Poodles

  • Sled dogs

  • Yorkshire terriers

Research has demonstrated that about 70 percent of these dogs with pancreatitis also have diabetes. Neutered dogs are also at a higher risk for developing pancreatitis.



Blunt force trauma, from being hit by a car or fighting with another animal, can injure the pancreas and trigger an inflammatory response. The inflammation stimulates the release of digestive enzymes in pancreatic cells. The enzyme release exacerbates inflammation and other symptoms.



The signs of pancreatitis are often challenging to establish due to them progressing gradually over time. However, there are specific symptoms you may want to watch out for:

  • Pain in the abdomen

  • Swollen abdomen

  • Chronic vomiting

  • Diarrhea

  • Lack of appetite

  • Dehydration

  • Weakness

  • Fever

You may also see that your pup has a hunched back when they have pancreatitis. If your dog demonstrates any of the above signs, you should observe them and be on the safe side. However, if there are multiple symptoms at once, you should get them to the veterinarian.


A timely diagnosis is essential to begin treatment, as pancreatitis is uncomfortable for dogs. If you see any symptoms of pancreatitis in your dog, get them to the vet as soon as possible. Your vet will run specific tests to determine if your dog has pancreatitis. If the pup has pancreatitis, they will usually have an elevated white blood cell count.

A particular pancreatic test can be given if the dog presents with the symptoms associated with the illness but displays normal enzyme levels. Radiographs may show changes linked with inflammation, especially if they are severe. Ultrasound studies typically provide a diagnosis of pancreatic inflammation.

Using an ultrasound to assist with a pancreatitis diagnosis allows the veterinarian to check for any additional complicating factors. An abdominal x-ray may help rule out other causes of disease. If the vet diagnoses that your pup has pancreatitis, they will devise a treatment plan.


Most dogs who have pancreatitis require hospitalization. Treatment involves intravenous fluid therapy. Fluid therapy will:

  • Rehydrates the body

  • Clears out toxins

  • Treats shock

  • Fixes electrolyte imbalance

If the dog is vomiting, food may be withheld until the vomiting subsides. If the dog is not vomiting, low-fat, highly digestible food may be given. Medications for pain may also be administered. It is essential to get these dogs to eat as soon as possible once their condition is stable. Most cases tend to improve once the dog starts eating food again.

Since these dogs do not have much appetite, the vet may give the dog a temporary feeding tube to ensure they receive the nutrition they need. Food should be gradually re-introduced.

Several medications may be administered to the pup to treat pancreatitis:

  • Maropitant to treat vomiting and nausea

  • Anti-inflammatory medicines, such as steroids for severe cases of shock

  • Anti-biotics if sepsis is present

  • Pain medication for abdominal pain

When the dog is discharged from the clinic, they are typically sent home with one or more of these medications. Their pet parents are often told to feed them only low-fat digestible food, sometimes prescribed.


Pancreatitis occurs when the pancreas is inflamed. With pancreatitis, the best outcomes are associated with prompt medical care. If you see your dog demonstrates any of the symptoms mentioned in this article, do not hesitate to get them to the vet.

If you have any questions regarding your dog’s health, please give us a call at (773) 698-7525 or Request an Appointment. We are more than happy to help you and your pet here at Wrigleyville Veterinary Center.