Life Threatening Pancreatitis in Dogs

Life Threatening Pancreatitis In Dogs
Article Featured on Canine Epilepsy Guardian Angels
Pancreatitis in dogs is life threatening. Dogs that get Pancreatitis can die unless emergency vet care is started immediately when you see symptoms. We want you to be fully aware of what you can do to avoid Pancreatitis.

Typical symptoms include, but are not limited to:

  • Vomiting
  • loss of appetite or not eating
  • abdominal pain
  • The dog, due to abdominal pain, may act restless, pant, cry, shake, stand with an arched back or lie down with his/her front end down and hind-quarters elevated.

Additional symptoms include:

  • fever
  • depression
  • diarrhea
  • severe weakness or collapse
  • dehydration or shock.

Risk factors for developing pancreatitis include a dog being overweight or obese, elevated fats (lipids) in the blood, recent eating of a high fat meal, and other diseases. Also, some medications are believed to predispose to pancreatitis. These medications can include corticosteroids, Phenobarbital and Potassium or Sodium Bromide.
A diagnosis of pancreatitis is based on several factors. First, your Vet will want to take your dog’s history and do a physical examination. Procedures for diagnosing pancreatitis commonly include blood work (such as a Complete Blood Count or “CBC”), serum chemistry to measure elevations in the pancreatic enzymes (amylase and lipase), and a urinalysis. X-rays or ultrasound of the abdomen may also be done to check the dog’s internal organs, as well as to check the pancreas for inflammation, abscesses, tumors or other disorders.
Diagnostic blood tests a Vet may conduct include a “cPL test”, which is a specific test for diagnosis of pancreatitis. Other tests used include a trypsin-like-immunoreactivity assay (TLI assay), and an ELISA test for trypsinogen activation peptide (also known as a “TAP” test). A TAP test is done to evaluate the levels of trypsin in the blood. These blood tests apply more specifically to pancreatic function than tests for amylase and lipase.
Pancreatitis treatment usually requires hospitalization at the Vet’s office or animal hospital for 3-4 days or more. While in the animal hospital, fluids and nutrients are given intravenously (also known as an “I.V.”) In order to give the pancreas time to “rest” and heal, food, water and oral medications are not given during this time. In addition, pain medications and antibiotics may be given as well.
Additionally, W. Jean Dodds, DVM, provides the following information regarding blood transfusions in treatment of pancreatitis:
“Pancreatitis can be helped to ‘cool down’ with transfusion of fresh-frozen plasma (3-5 cc per pound given once or twice daily). A Vet should consider giving plasma as often as is needed to neutralize the excessive trypsin released by the inflamed pancreas. They can even put the plasma directly into the peritoneal cavity to “bathe” the inflamed area to effectively neutralize any trypsin enzyme that has leaked out of the damaged pancreas and is “autodigesting” the tissues it contacts. If this blood product is not readily available where you are, please call my staff at Hemopet and say it’s an emergency need. Fresh-frozen plasma contains alpha-1 anti-trypsin to neutralize the trypsin produced and released by the pancreas, but in the case of pancreatitis, it is released into the surrounding abdominal tissues causing them to be autodigested.”
In simple terms, pancreatitis is an inflammation of the pancreas, a gland that produces enzymes that help digest food. When the pancreas becomes inflamed, it produces too much of the digestion enzymes. These “extra” enzymes then damage or destroy the pancreas, intestines and other organs.
Description of Pancreatitis for Vets: Pancreatitis is an inflammation of the pancreas, a gland that produces enzymes that break down proteins to help with the digestion of food. However, if these enzymes become activated inside the pancreas or leek out of the pancreas into the abdomen, they inflame and digest the pancreas and/or other surrounding tissues, and pancreatitis (or more serious digestion of the bowel) will develop
Pancreatitis is a very serious disease that can be life threatening and it requires immediate treatment. If you suspect that your dog may have pancreatitis, immediately take him/her to your Vet or take your pup to your local ER Vet for evaluation.
Your Vet will provide instructions regarding medications and a feeding schedule for your pup after an episode of pancreatitis. Be aware that a dog recovering from an episode of pancreatitis should be fed a food that contains no more than 10% fat.
Regarding diet for a dog post-pancreatitis, Dr. W. Jean Dodds states that “the liver cleansing diet would be best — even long term.
For those who cannot cook easily for their dogs, select a diet with not more than 10% fat. Fish and potatoes, fish and rice, chicken and rice, or even vegetarian kibbles are generally OK. If they only feed canned foods, which are too soft and mostly water, there will likely be a tartar build up problem. There are vegetarian baked dog biscuits, and people can just moisten and season their dog’s kibble and bake it into biscuits — many of our clients do that, if the company that makes the kibble doesn’t have a comparable biscuit.”
Dogs that have had an episode of pancreatitis should NEVER be given high fat treats such as rawhides, pig’s ears, pigars and other similar items. In addition, dogs that have suffered a bout of pancreatitis should not be given coconut oil or any other types of supplemental oils or fats.
Finally, your dog’s Anti-Epileptic medications may need to be changed after an episode of pancreatitis. Dr. Dodds explains “Because of the previous pancreatitis, the risk is much higher that bromide rather than Phenobarbital or other anticonvulsants would trigger another pancreatitis attack.” Dr. Dodds also stated “Keppra would be a good alternative to Bromide.”
Pancreatitis is a serious condition that can be life-threatening. Dogs with a mild case have a better prognosis than those who have a more severe case. If you suspect that your pup may have pancreatitis, take your pup to your Vet or call your local ER Vet as soon as possible for guidance and evaluation.
Except where noted, primary information was obtained from Carol D. Levin’s book, “Dogs, Diet, and Disease: An Owner’s Guide to Diabetes Mellitus, Pancreatitis, Cushing’s Disease, & More“ and
Dr. W. Jean Dodds, DVM, reviewed and also contributed to content.

Oregon Veterinary Specialty Hospital (OVSH) has been serving the Portland and Beaverton area community since 1979. Drs. Steven F. Skinner (Neurology, Neurosurgery) and Robert T. Franklin (Internal medicine.) We welcome referrals from veterinarians all over the Pacific Northwest. Our goal is to help your pet regain health and live a long and happy life.

Oregon Veterinary Specialty Hospital

9339 SW Beaverton Hillsdale Hwy,
Beaverton, OR 97005.
Phone: 503.292.3001
Fax: 503.292.6808
Email: [email protected]