Pancreatitis in Dogs and Cats

Pancreatitis, an inflammatory condition of the exocrine pancreas, occurs frequently in both cats and dogs.  While the true prevalence of pancreatitis in dogs and cats is unknown, recent studies would suggest that pancreatitis is rather common and under diagnosed condition in dogs, but especially in cats where pancreatitis can be difficult to diagnose.  Both acute and chronic forms are serious and can be life threatening, especially the acute form.

 What causes pancreatitis?

For the majority of cases, the cause is unknown. Acute pancreatitis is more common in dogs, particularly after eating high fat meals( such as pork) .  Cats more commonly have the chronic form, whereas not as life threatening as the acute form, it is more difficult to diagnose.

 What are the signs of pancreatitis?


*Not eating

*Painful abdomen, hunched appearance (more common in dogs)

*Fever or below-normal body temperature



*Dehydration, evaluated by noting sunken eyes, dry mouth, and increased skin turger (skin tents when pinched)

 How is pancreatitis diagnosed?

Your veterinarian will evaluate your pet’s history (i.e. getting into the garbage, eating a lot of food they normally don’t-especially fatty foods, ect.) do a thorough  physical examination, and likely do blood tests to rule out other diseases and to check pancreatic enzymes.  Radiographs may also be done to rule out gastric or intestinal foreign body or other GI diseases or conditions.

 What is the treatment for pancreatitis?

Treatment for this disease is usually supportive, usually via IV fluids, anti-vomiting and pain medicine. Generally the patient is kept NPO in the hospital 48 to 72 hours to address any other disease processes (infection, diabetes, etc) while letting the pancreas heal on its own time.  However, sometimes surgical intervention is needed to drain pancreatic abscesses or remove tumors.

In summary

In dogs, obese middle age to older animals have a higher incidence, as do females.  Even though exact causes are not known, there are identifiable risk factors and breed predilection for Schnauzers.

*Hyperlipidemia (high fat content in blood) – many times genetic with breed predilection (ie Schnauzers)

*High fat meal (trigger for hyperlipidemia) – ham, pork, bacon, meat drippings

*Obesity (especially dogs)

* Concurrent liver or gallbladder disease

* Certain drugs and toxins-i.e. some types of diuretics, antibiotics, and organophosphate insecticide


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