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Pancreatitis in Dogs

Pancreatitis in dogs is the inflammation of the pancreas. It is an extremely painful condition which needs immediate veterinary attention if acute and is life-threatening. As the pancreas starts to malfunction, digestive juices leak out into surrounding tissue, the result will be acute pancreatitis in dogs and the body begins to digest itself. Pancreatitis in dogs and cats is unfortunately very common and is very likely to be the result of feeding a dry diet. We believe a raw diet can help significantly with avoiding this awful disease.

What is pancreatitis in dogs?

Pancreatitis in dogs can either be acute (rare) or chronic (most likely). Acute pancreatitis in dogs is a crippling, painful disease whereby abnormal pancreatic function causes the release of digestive enzymes into the pancreas, surrounding organs and tissue. Essentially the body starts to digest itself. At this stage, it is termed necrotising pancreatitis. It has a sudden onslaught and without rapid veterinary intervention and aggressive treatment, your dog is unlikely to survive.

How does the pancreas function?

The pancreas is a solid v-shaped glandular organ situated below the stomach, tucked in along the duodenum. Its main responsibility is to release enzymes that help the body digest protein and absorb all the essential nutrients from the food that is eaten. The pancreas releases hormones into the blood which metabolise as sugars to produce insulin. These hormones are very important as insulin lowers the blood sugar in the body and glucagon raises them, this needs to be correct for the body to work efficiently. 

Secretion from the pancreas contains the enzymes amylase, lipase and protease, which are essential to break down protein in the small intestine.

Types of pancreatitis in dogs

  1. Acute pancreatitis

Acute pancreatitis in dogs is rare and is an incredibly crippling and painful disease whereby abnormal pancreatic function causes the release of digestive enzymes into the pancreas surrounding organs and tissue. 

  1. Chronic pancreatitis

Chronic pancreatitis in dogs takes time to develop and is more likely to occur in dogs over two years old. It is characterised by an inability to secrete digestive enzymes. Symptoms will not appear until 85-90% of the pancreas has shut down.

  1. Necrotizing pancreatitis

Necrotizing pancreatitis in dogs causes a progressive reduction in capillary flow after acinar cell injury which is thought to be caused by decreased pancreatic blood flow due to heart failure. The intestine is thought to contribute to inflammation due to intestinal ischemia (restricted blood flow).

The difference between acute and chronic pancreatitis

A dog will often display these symptoms with acute pancreatitis:

  • A haunched abdomen

  • Diarrohea

  • Vomiting

  • Depression

  • Loss of appetite

  • Sunken eyes

  • Blood in stools

  • Fever

  • Dehydration

A dog will often display these symptoms with chronic pancreatitis:

  • Lack of appetite

  • Vomiting

  • Lethargy

  • Looking restless

  • Colitis

  • An arched back


The conclusion here is that if you suspect your dog has/or is developing pancreatitis, it is essential to get to the vet as soon as possible.  It is such a painful disease and cannot be treated at home.

Feeding a lower-fat raw diet for recovery with pig pancreas added can help significantly and in our opinion, a high carbohydrate, highly processed diet is the worst possible food for a dog with this crippling disease.

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