Pancreatitis in dogs: how can you help?

Updated 08 May 2024
Read time: 3 mins
article author
Written by Elle Padgham
Lead Copywriter

Pancreatitis in dogs is a painful condition caused by inflammation of the pancreas; an organ that sits near the stomach. The pancreas produces hormones including insulin to help control blood sugar and digestive enzymes that help break down starch and fat from the diet. Its key role in supporting the digestive system means that dogs can easily become ill when they are suffering from pancreatitis.

Symptoms of pancreatitis in dogs

Symptoms of pancreatitis in dogs include:

  • Lethargy/depression
  • Loss of appetite
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhoea
  • Abdominal pain/tenderness

If your dog shows any of these symptoms for more than 24hrs, or they keep coming back, you should take them to the vet. Your vet might be able to diagnose based on the symptoms alone but may need to perform blood tests or an ultrasound to rule out other causes.

The severity of pancreatitis in dogs can range from mild to severe, but the condition is relatively common, with some breeds being more prone than others:  

Miniature Schnauzers, Yorkshire Terriers, Cocker Spaniels and Miniature Poodles are all more susceptible to pancreatitis. 

What causes pancreatitis in dogs?

There are many possible causes of pancreatitis in dogs, including endocrine diseases (such as underactive thyroid) medications, acid reflux, obesity and a high-fat diet. Identifying the specific cause can often be difficult, but once the condition is triggered, the pancreas releases digestive enzymes into its own tissue, causing pain and inflammation.

The condition will often be chronic or long term; once a dog has suffered from a bout of pancreatitis, they are much more prone to it in the future. The best defence against a repeat occurrence is to look out for symptoms and control the factors that you can to reduce risk.

Treating and preventing pancreatitis in dogs

Treatment for pancreatitis in dogs is focused on providing pain relief and if possible, addressing the underlying cause. While there’s no definite way to eliminate the chance of pancreatitis in dogs, there are some steps you can take with your dog’s diet to reduce the risk:

  1. Don’t let your pooch become overweight! A healthy lifestyle and weight are just as important for dogs as they are for humans.
  2. Dog pancreatitis diet = avoid high-fat! When choosing a dog food for pancreatitis, look for a food that is low in fat, Ideally no more than 8-10%.
  3. With pancreatitis in dogs, the pancreas will be less efficient at fulfilling its purpose in aiding digestion. Choose a dog food that isn’t too high in fibre, contains easily digestible ingredients and added pre/probiotics to help stable digestive function. Pre/probiotics help support digestion by increasing 'good' bacteria in the gut; these can become depleted if your dog suffers from pancreatitis. We’ve had feedback from many of our customers with pancreatic dogs on our Bionic Biotic supplement. Prebiotic FOS (a natural prebiotic) increases the activity of ‘friendly bacteria’ in the gut and aids the ratio of good to bad bacteria ensuring that the digestive system works properly. Customers tell us feeding Bionic Biotic has eliminated the need for feeding digestive enzymes. 

When it comes to pancreatitis in dogs, it is always best to check food and supplements with your vet. Each case of the condition can affect your dog differently because as we know, each dog is different.

Comments (2)

My dog suffers with pancreatitis, which of your food would you recommend for her? She is a 12 years old Shiba Inu
Thank you

Vanessa - Aug 03 2023
Pooch Admin

Hi Vanessa,
For dogs with pancreatitis, it is generally recommended that they stick to a low-fat dog food, to help prevent future flare ups. Foods should contain less than 18% fat, and some vets will recommend diets containing less than 10% fat for dogs who seem very sensitive to dietary fat or who’ve had severe pancreatitis episodes in the past. Our gastrointestinal food contains 15% fat, so is potentially appropriate for those with pancreatitis, depending on what your vet has recommended.

Team Pooch - Aug 07 2023

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