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Pancreatitis in Dogs

Pancreatitis in Dogs

The term pancreatitis refers to inflammation of the pancreas, an important abdominal organ that has roles in digestion and the control of blood sugar levels. Pancreatitis may be mild or severe and life threatening, and it may also be chronic or acute in nature.

The exact cause of pancreatitis in dogs is not always known. Contributing factors include fatty diets or meals, being overweight, other diseases such as diabetes or hyperadrenocorticism, hypothyroidism or epilepsy, toxicities, various drugs, trauma to the pancreas, obstruction to the pancreatic duct, certain parasites, liver disease and intestinal diseases. There may even be autoimmune causes of chronic pancreatitis. 

Pancreatitis is a little different in dogs and cats, so please refer to our article about pancreatitis in cats to learn more about this disease in our feline friends.

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Dog breeds affected by Pancreatitis?

Pancreatitis can occur at any age in any breed of dog. According PetSure claims data, it is most frequently seen in dogs between 2 and 8 years old.  In the 2020 calendar year Pancreatitis was most prevalent in the following dog breeds (PetSure claims data): 

Breed 

Prevalence

Miniature Schnauzer 

1.54%

Australian Terrier

1.11%

Bull Terrier

1.05%

Miniature Poodle

1.02%

Schnoodle

0.95%

Bichon Frise

0.92%

Boxer

0.92%

Pomeranian

0.88%

Lhasa Apso

0.79%

Australian Silky Terrier

0.77%

*Prevalence = Total number of unique claiming pets / total number of insured pets across 12-month period. Excludes breeds with less than 500 active pet insurance policies.

Signs of Pancreatitis in Canines

The symptoms of pancreatitis in dogs varies depending on the severity of the disease. However, it is very common for dogs with pancreatitis to have vomiting and signs of abdominal pain. Other signs of pancreatitis can include lethargy and loss of appetite, restlessness, and diarrhoea. Sometimes dogs with pancreatitis may have blood in the diarrhoea or vomit. With very severe, acute pancreatitis, the signs may be quite dramatic and can include collapse and fever. There may also be signs of other diseases such as diabetes, or liver disease such as jaundice (yellow discolouration of pale tissues such as the gums or eyes). If you are concerned that your pup might have pancreatitis, get in touch with your vet for advice to discuss treatment.

Diagnosing Pancreatitis 

Diagnosing pancreatitis typically involves the Veterinarian taking a thorough history of the patient’s behaviour, diet, and other signs like vomiting. A history of a fatty meal, such as a big bone or other table scraps is often an important clue that a dog may be suffering from pancreatitis. A thorough physical exam may reveal pain in the abdomen, dehydration, or fever. Further tests may be recommended including blood and urine analyses, an cPLI or Canine Pancreatic Lipase Immunoreactivity test, X-rays, or ultrasound of the abdomen and in some cases biopsies of the pancreas. These or other tests may also be indicated to help discover any other underlying diseases that may present. 

Management of Pancreatitis

Management of canine pancreatitis depends on the severity of the illness. Unfortunately, there is no specific treatment, so management is largely supportive. This means managing the symptoms to help alleviate any pain, nausea, and dehydration while the body heals. This can mean hospitalisation with intravenous fluid therapy, pain relief, anti-nausea, and anti-inflammatory medications. It is very common for dogs with pancreatitis to require lifelong dietary changes to help prevent a recurrence of the disease. Any concurrent or underlying diseases also need to be treated.

How much does it cost to treat?

According to PetSure claims data from 2020 (calendar year), the average, single treatment cost relating to pancreatitis was $523, with the highest, single treatment cost being $17,860. The overall treatment cost of managing pancreatitis will vary depending on the treatments that have been recommended and your pet’s response to those treatments.

Disclaimer: Reimbursement for these claims would be subject to limits, such as annual benefit limits or sub-limits, benefit percentage, applicable waiting periods and any applicable excess. Cover is subject to the policy terms and conditions. You should consider the relevant Product Disclosure Statement or policy wording available from the relevant provider.

Resources & Articles

  1. IDEXX Pet Health Network, “Acute Pancreatitis in Dogs, Accessed on 12 April 2021.
  2. Nelson, R & Couto, 2003, Small animal internal medicine, 3rd edition, Mosby, USA. 
  3. Rothrock, K, 2020, Vincyclopedia, Pancreatitis, Accessed on 17/05/2021

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Kylie Mitchell is a veterinarian with over 17 years experience in animal health and welfare, including in the veterinary and pet insurance industries

She has three rescue cats (Noah, Bei Bei and Meeka), four very old cockatiels and a pond-full of fish.

Kylie's pets

Noah
Noah
Bei Bei
Bei Bei
Meeka
Meeka