Pancreatitis In Pets

What is Pancreatitis?

Pancreatitis is a condition in which the pancreas becomes severely inflamed. The pancreas is a gland located inside the abdomen. It lies next to the first part of the intestine just past the stomach. When working normally, pancreas is involved in the digestion of food as well as the release of insulin.

What causes Pancreatitis?

Pancreatitis occurs when something causes damage to the pancreas. Digestive enzymes then leak from the pancreas. These enzymes then begin to digest the pancreas itself causing severe inflammation. Exactly why this process happens is not yet fully understood, however there are some known factors that contribute.


Acondition which pets have persistent high levels of fat in their blood. This is due to a problem with their metabolism in which they cannot clear the fat from their blood in a normal time.


Overweight dogs have a much higher incidence of pancreatitis. Dogs are also more likely to develop pancreatitis after eating a fatty meal.


Bacterial infections of the pancreas can develop after your pet has eaten some spoiled or contaminated food. Viral infections can also occur.


Any trauma to the abdomen is a potential cause of pancreatitis. Eg. Pets hit by cars.


Pets can develop cancer of the pancreas


Long term use of cortisone drugs in pets can predispose them to bouts of pancreatitis.

How do I know if my pet has Pancreatitis?

Your vet makes a tentative diagnosis of pancreatitis according to your pets’ health history, its current symptoms and by doing a physical examination. However, a blood test needs to be done to confirm the diagnosis.

Symptoms of Pancreatitis:

  • loss of appetite
  • vomiting & occasionally diarrahoea
  • abdominal pain
  • weakness, reluctance to walk

How is Pancreatitis treated?

The treatment for pancreatitis can vary. Most cases of simple pancreatitis are treated by allowing the pancreas to rest and recover. This is done by taking all food and water away from your pet. Pets are then normally admitted to hospital and are put onto an intravenous drip to prevent them from becoming dehydrated from the vomiting that can occur. Antibiotics are also sometimes administered. Most cases of simple pancreatitis take about 4-5 days to recover completely. Most pets are then put on a low fat diet for a period of time afterward.

Complications of Pancreatitis

In some patients, pancreatitis can become very serious. Unfortunately some pets can die from sudden severe pancreatitis as they go into shock. In other pets, serious complications can occur afterwards.

Some complications that can occur include: 


Occasionally following severe inflammation of the pancreas, bacteria can invade the pancreas, causing abscesses to form. These abscesses if large enough may need surgery to be removed.

Gall Bladder Blockage

The main duct through which the gall bladder (a sac in the liver filled with bile) empties, runs through the pancreas. When the pancreas is severely inflamed, it can cause this duct to become blocked. This causes a situation similar to gall bladder stones ie. The gall bladder continues to fill with bile; this means that bile builds up in the blood stream causing illness. In most pets, once the inflamed pancreas has settled down, the duct will re-open and the gall bladder will empty. However, in some pets this doesn’t happen and surgery is needed to re-open the duct.

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