Pancreatitis in Dogs

pancreatitis in dogs

Sadly I know from personal experience how deadly pancreatitis in dogs can be.

It can hit fast and furious, so please keep reading to learn what it is, how dogs get it, how to treat it and what you can do to prevent it from happening to your dog.

If your dog has lost interest in food and is vomiting, often it’s just a passing thing. He may have picked something up out of the grass outside, or found something on your kitchen floor that seemed like a good idea at the time, but is now making him ill. On the flip side, it could also mean pancreatitis.

What function does the pancreas serve

The pancreas sits behind the stomach and produces and secretes digestive enzymes, essential for food digestion. It also produces insulin, which helps control metabolism and blood-sugar levels.

What is pancreatitis?

Pancreatitis is an inflammation of the pancreas. Digestive enzymes, which usually lie dormant until they reach the small intestine, are activated prematurely in the pancreas, and start digesting it. It can come on suddenly (acute), all about pancreatitis in dogsor keep reappearing (chronic). Basically, chronic pancreatitis is multiple attacks of the acute form.


  • Loss of appetite
  • Vomiting/projectile vomiting
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Stomach ache
  • Diarrhea
  • Lethargy
  • Dehydration
  • Fever
  • Swollen abdomen
  • Elevated heart rate


The exact cause of your dog’s pancreatitis may not be known, but there are several known causes that include, but are not limited to:

  • a side effect of medication
  • result of eating fatty/greasy foods
  • hypothyroidism
  • high amounts of lipids or calcium in the blood
  • Cushing’s Disease
  • Trauma to the pancreas
  • Older dogs
  • Overweight dogs
  • Genetics

What is interesting, and what also makes watching what your dog eat even more important is – even if your dog does not ordinarily eat a high fat diet, just eating a large amount of fatty food in one go can cause acute pancreatitis.

Dogs can usually recover from mild cases, but severe cases are more worrisome, and can lead to the death of your dog, as it did to one of mine.


Your vet can get a pretty good indication of whether or not there is a possibility of pancreatitis, based on what you tell him about your dog’s condition, and symptoms.

He will perform blood tests and urinalysis, and other tests such as ultrasound, x rays… are a possibility.


If it is a side effect of medication, your vet will discontinue the medication immediately.

Even if the exact cause is not known, your vet will still:

  • Treat dehydration
  • Provide pain relief
  • Provide anti vomiting medication
  • Take him off food to allow the pancreas to rest (how long is up to him – could be 2 or 3 days)
  • Withhold water if still vomiting
  • IV fluids
  • Electrolyte therapy
  • Possibility of antibiotics to fight infection

Depending on the severity of the attack, all this can be done in a few hours at your vet’s office, then your dog will be able to go home with some medication/electrolytes… (whatever your vet recommends).

A clinic/hospital stay of 1-3 days is usually in the cards in severe cases.

A low fat, bland diet will be prescribed, the length of time to be determined by your vet, depending on your dog’s condition. It may be just until he recovers, or a permanent move.

If you follow a more natural or holistic diet, and the recommended diet is not, voice your concerns, learn what ingredients should be avoided and why. Bring the packaging of the food you prefer, to see if it’s suitable.

Your vet may want to repeat some of the initial tests, to monitor recovery and progress.


You won’t necessarily be able to prevent pancreatitis from ever happening, but there are precautions you can take to minimize the likelihood:

Keep your dog at a healthy weight

Don’t let anyone give your dog human food or table scraps

Make sure your garbage is out of reach

Be sure your vet is aware of all medications your dog is taking, to ensure none of them could potentially cause another episode

Many cases happen over the holidays, when rich fatty food is in abundance. Be extra vigilant about what your dog is putting in his mouth, and keep an eye on anyone slipping him food. If after repeated warnings no one is listening, put your dog in another room. Better safe than sick.


Pancreatitis can be very unpredictable. I’ve known dogs who have had it most of their lives, but a strict diet kept it pretty much under control.

In my dog Bailey’s case I think his death was caused by a combination of factors that created a perfect storm – my amazing vet was away, not thinking it was pancreatitis at the first sign, too many people involved at the clinic I went to, and a seemingly obsessive desire on the part of one vet to euthanize my dog.

Bailey was finally treated by my vet, but sadly by the time he got to him, it was too late. He was kept comfortable on fluids for 3 days, but he was never going to recover.

Red had a couple of very mild episodes but some fluids and food restrictions and she was fine. 

Mild cases, or dogs that had a “one off” episode don’t typically require more than a good diet, and diligence on the part of the family.

Chronic pancreatitis can lead to other more serious issues, so you want to be very strict in following all recommendations made in your dog’s treatment to avoid going down that very slippery slope.

Pancreatitis in dogs – conclusion

Sometimes your dog being sick is just your dog being sick, and other times it is much more serious. If your dog is vomiting, call your vet’s office immediately. Let them know of your concerns, and be sure to mention anything your dog may have eaten. Pancreatitis can attack fast, and attack hard, so the sooner you start treatment, the better your chances of a positive outcome.

What has been your experience with pancreatitis in dogs? Do you know why he got it? What treatment plan was recommended? Has he had other bouts with it? Sharing helps others so please tell your story in the comment section below, or in the case of a senior dog on my Facebook page. 






  1. Linda cole

    My dog has been diagnosed with pancreatitis the ver kept him for two days giving him fluids through IV. He is now home and is still vomiting at least 10 times a day. He has had no food for almost 2 weeks. Maybe a little (one or two bites) will he starve with out food this long?

    1. Hindy Pearson (Post author)

      Hi Linda, I imagine you’ve spoken to your vet to let him know what’s been going on. I can’t understand why he hasn’t checked your dog again. That’s a seriously dangerous situation you need to be at your vet’s office tomorrow morning when it opens or at an emergency hospital now. I don’t mean to scare you but he needs medical attention urgently.

  2. Annie E Gagnon

    My dog is a longhaired, dashound, and cocker spanial mix, he is coming up on eleven in March 2019. At three years old he had an acute sign of pancreatitis, vomited a dozen times, in one 24 hour period! Was taken to the vet and an IV was administered to give him medications, then he went home at night, and returned the next day, the IV was left in his leg, wrapped with something so that he couldn’t get it out! This went on three days, and a lot of money later! Going forward he is ten years old, no other attacks, became diabetic, went blind, and still having two insulin shots per day, suddenly he started to bleed when going number 2, at first I thought it was going to pass, but nope, he lost a pint of blood, and rushed him to the vet, who in turn asked us to bring him to the Emergency Hospital for testing! I did, and it’s been a month, and he hasn’t bled since! I am so glad as it’s my furbaby~ I am just worried about how long he has~

    1. Hindy Pearson (Post author)

      You’re very fortunate the pancreatitis was caught early and treated so successfully. Oh my goodness, how scary that must have been when he started to bleed. Glad to hear it hasn’t happened again, but did they tell you the reason for it happening?

      1. Susan

        Did they say why the blood occurred mine has just passed blood im trying to get hold of clinic thanks

        1. Hindy Pearson (Post author)

          I’m not sure what you’re talking about when you mention blood. If your dog is peeing blood she might have a bladder infection. I would call the vet right away and explain you need to be seen immediately. Hope everything is okay.

  3. Tom

    Recently, my 13.5 year old cross Keplie/Fox terrier developed sever acute pancreatitis and deteriaoted rapidly.Withina day and half of first symptoms – she was barely able to walk, wasn’t able to retain any food or water and lost all energy.

    The vet advised that treatment was an option but did add that given her age – we need to really weigh it all up. Financially, we were looking at around a $1.5k to $2k vet bill. Treatment at her age would not be a guranteed sucess, considering the severity of her condition and her aging body. In the event of success, she was going to still experience discomfort in the months ahead. At a younger age, treatment would be a no brainer.

    With very heavy hearts, we decided to let her go and let her make her way to the rainbow bridge. We miss her everyday and the backyard is not the same without her.:(

    1. Hindy Pearson (Post author)

      I’m so sorry to hear that Tom. I can’t imagine why such a huge vet bill though.

      1. Rhonda

        The vet bill is for Emergency Medicine, i.e. IV fluids, pain meds, antiemetics, boarding. I’m currently going through this process with my 14 year old dachsund.

  4. Anita Fausel

    My morkle was diagnosed with diabetes two days ago. Had a sc an today and we are told he has panc reatites.His pan read is very swollen and inflamed. He is on anti onflam. Pain meds.,antibiotic and iv. Vet said very guarded on recovery.This came on so fast.He was fine 5 days ago.He is 10 yrs.old.Can we do anything else to help him

    1. Hindy Pearson (Post author)

      Acute pancreatitis comes on extremely quickly and could be a result of something he ate. Fluids help and I assume your vet recommended a low fat diet for him. Depending on how severe the attack is your dog may be on fluids from 1-3 days. Hope he’s feeling better by now.

  5. Anita Fausel

    Fluids seem to be making him feel better. Still eating a tiny amount. Pancreas is still enlarged and inflamed. Vet gives him 20 per cent survival. We visited today and took him for car ride.,he seemed to be so happy.Dont know what to expect..I think he rallied when he saw us. Praying

    1. Hindy Pearson (Post author)

      Fluids do help them feel better, but sadly they don’t always lead to the results we would like. It’s good he’s eating and hopefully things will improve but of course he does have to start eating or he will lose too much weight. I had this happen with 2 of my dogs and it’s tough. Prayers.

  6. Anita Fausel

    Thank you for your reply. Duke is doing much better. As a matter of fact he is always hungry. He is on insulin so I don’t know if it has to be adjusted. He is not out of the woods yet, but acting like his old self.

    1. Hindy Pearson (Post author)

      Glad to hear he’s doing better and has an appetite – always a good sign. Surely your vet has recommended you go back to check his dosage is correct?

  7. Anita Fausel

    Yes, his dosage was checked 2 wks ago and we go for testing pancreas in 2 wks. (LAST TEST WAS ALL DAY…TESTED LEVELS EVERY 2 HOURS) THANK YOU FOR REPLY.

  8. James Wahlquist

    Our little Chewbacca went to the ER Hospital for blood work and x-rays. He vomited the previous day but nothing since. He would not eat and only drank a little water. The Pet ER gave an anti-nausea injection and sent us home with meds for pain and something to help with stomach bloat. Pancreatic enzyme was 5800 (normal is around 1000). Our regular vet called this morning and had me bring him in. She advised an ultrasound to see if there was an infection, tumor or blocked duct. He is lethargic, wont eat or drink and struggles to lay down or walk. Chewy is 16 years old and was in perfect health until 2 days ago. The night before he started vomiting we were given a corticosteroid topical spray for his underside rash. We will know the ultrasound results today and then need to make some decisions. One article by VCA Pet hospitals suggest that corticosteroids can trigger pancreatitis. It is so incredibly hard to see our most loyal and loving “buddy” so sick and in pain.

    1. Hindy Pearson (Post author)

      Oh my goodness I had never heard that corticosteroids could trigger pancreatitis, I’m so terribly sorry to hear what’s happening with Chewbacca. Hopefully no food and fluids will help calm things down, and you’ll get some more answers from the ultrasound. Please keep us posted.

      1. James-

        Thank you for your compassion. Chewy is now home and happy to be with his humans. After 3 days of fluids and loving care by our long time Vet we are wiser about what we feed him. The ultrasound showed no critical issues so the culprit appears to be what we were allowing him to eat. Older dogs do not do well with high fat foods. Our Vet told us in a nice way that we may have been killing out little dog with kindness. So now he gets boiled chicken, baby food (Chicken & Broth) no fat cottage cheese, white boiled rice and a very expensive dog food ($5.00/can). Each day we have with Chewbacca is a gift. Good luck to everyone else who loves and is loved by our 4 legged friends.

        1. Hindy Pearson (Post author)

          That’s wonderful to hear. It’s incredible how much fluids can help, and you’re so fortunate her pancreatitis was caught in enough time for the fluids to help her. We do have to be so careful with the fat in our dog’s food. The good thing is, adding those other ingredients means you can make each can go further. Hope Chewy continues to thrive on his new diet and thanks for keeping me updated.

  9. anne patterson

    I just had my 12 year old Border collie treated for pancreatitus, first at my vet($800.00.)then at the emergency hospital which was $2600.00.She is home now and doing ok i think, to early to tell, but all in all, this will have cost over $3500.00 for three days of treatment. I cannot imagine what people do who do not have the money, i considered putting her down but i just couldnt do it, but at her age(nearly 13) im afraid this is just going to happen again. Every dog Ive had that has died at old age has racked up a huge vet bill then died anyway…i keep saying never again but then it just keeps on happening. I wish vets would just tell you the dog is to old and its kinder to put them down.But they just keep on recommending expensive treatments.

    1. Hindy Pearson (Post author)

      I have to say I’m quite concerned by the amount of money it cost. My dog had chronic pancreatitis and I’ve never seen bills of that amount. I understand an emergency hospital is expensive, but that’s outrageous.

      1. Ashley

        My 14 year old dog developed pancreatitis but the Crappy vets at Banfield didn’t detect anything( he stopped eating, lethargic) and it cost me a week of time. 2 days later: Another vet thought cancer but mild pancreatitis was also listed in ultrasound. Vet treated for cancer and nausea, but no fluids. 3 days later I took him to the ER for 3 nights bc I saw he was getting worse. Sadly We had to put him down as his organs collapsed. I blame the worthless Banfield docs who never really checked his stomach or why he couldn’t eat. We paid 5k between testing / hospital stay.
        I’ll never know if he could have made it if detected early when I brought him in immediately and it kills me!! I’d like to sue Banfield for negligence. My sweet little Norwich Nelson is missed tremendously!!

        1. Jessica

          I’m so sorry for your loss

  10. JS

    Thanks for sharing all the insights and I am sorry to hear about your dog, Bailey. My most dearest Kaya was put down recently so I know the trauma and heartache that comes with the passing and loss of a close friend.

    1. Hindy Pearson (Post author)

      Thank you, and I’m so sorry to hear about the loss of Kaya. I know how heartbreaking losing a much loved companion can be.

  11. Angela McPeak

    I have a 15 year old dashsund she recently got extremely sick so we went to the vet on Saturday morning and she was diagnosed with pancreatitis and plus her back has been given her a fit. Now the next two weeks she is on medication and a special diet and we have to watch her closely. I could not hold the tears back. She seem so pitiful and with her age we’re not sure what will happen. She has been in our family for 15 years. Hoping for a good outcome.

    1. Hindy Pearson (Post author)

      I’m so sorry to hear that. I hope the fluids and a new diet will help her recover. It’s tough to see them sick and feeling helpless to do anything. Keep me posted and hope she’s feeling better soon.

  12. Deb

    If a vet diagnosed a 4 yr old pom with pancreatitis 2 yrs ago & the owners of the dog aren’t following the vets orders for a low fat diet, and they continue to give it everything they eat. Can you please explained to them what is probably happing to their dog so I can show them . Because they won’t listen to me. The dog was having trouble breathing. Now it is on LASIK for the rest of its life. And they are still giving it people food & not a low fat dog food. Now it’s vomiting since yesterday.Can you please explained what they are doing to this poor dog.

    1. Hindy Pearson (Post author)

      Have you spoken to these people? Sounds like the dog is having another attack, and pancreatitis can be deadly. I don’t know anything about this situation but if you suspect an animal is being abused or mistreated in some way, there are things you can do to help.

  13. Barb

    Hi – I really needed to read these posts as I am feeling so much remorse for a decision I made last week regarding euthanazing my beautiful 11 year old rescue labbie Yoli who I homed 3 years 8 months ago. In the time I had Yoli she was on cortisone for her continuing skin and ear issues. Last week she was battling to walk, panting a lot and whimpering – she was still eating and weeing and pooing. As she was a big girl 45 kilos (100 lbs) I couldnt get her in the car and the vet came to fetch her. He told me she had pancreatitis and would need to be in hospital on a drip for a few days. I made the decision to have her put to sleep.

    1. Hindy Pearson (Post author)

      I’m sorry to hear about what you’re going through. I had that feeling with one of my dogs and it affected me for quite some time. Of course I don’t know what was going on with Yoli, but it certainly sounds like you did the right thing for her. It sounds like she was in quite a bit of pain if she was panting and whimpering, especially when walking. I know many people believe that just because a dog is still eating they’re okay, it isn’t always the case. They rely on us to care for them, and it sounds like you did the absolute best thing for her. You were very kind to open your heart and open to an older dog, and I hope you can start to focus on the wonderful life you shared and how lucky you both were to find each other.

  14. Barb

    Hi Hindy – thank you so much for your kind words and re-assurance – really appreciate them. Regards Barb

    1. Hindy Pearson (Post author)

      My pleasure.

  15. Elizabeth Allshouse

    My 13 year old Cavalier will only lick plain yogurt off my fingers. She was a wild woman until sept 26. Someone gave her too many treats from China. Now she’s in acute pancreatitis since the 26th. I’m determined to make her well, and the vet said it could take a month. But I sure miss hearing my baby bark.

    1. Hindy Pearson (Post author)

      I’m sorry to hear that, hopefully she’ll start feeling better soon. Has the vet recommended a particular food? What about anti-nausea medication?

  16. James Wahlquist

    Hi All:
    I wanted to give everyone an update on Chewbacca and his remarkable recovery from pancreatitis. It was a little over a year ago that Chewy got into some fatty rotisserie chicken from COSTCO. We left it out and he ate a lot of it .Chewy was 16 at the time. Once our Vet gave us the diagnosis she also told us that older dogs did not have a great cure rate and we should probably make some hard decisions. For 3 days Chewy was in pain, hunched up and finally put on IV medication and kept at our Vets office. She took him home with her at night and gradually introduced chicken & broth baby food. Chewy got to come home in 5 days after the ultrasound and enzymes indicated he was in recovery. A strict diet for the past 14 months consists of ID brand canned dog food (Chicken stew), low fat cottage cheese, boiled chicken breasts (2 frozen chicken breasts) boiled for 2 hours . Sometimes we make up more in a pressure cooker and freeze some for times we are out of down and have a dog sitter AND a few months ago we got the green light to use Kirklands canned chicken from COSTCO. (Comes in a 6 pack). Dogs like their humans like a variety of healthy foods once in a while. The Kirkland brand is a little spicy so we put in some plug-in air freshners . TODAY- at 17 (almost 18) Chewy is acting like a puppy. He has so much energy, is happy and is such a good companion to my wife and I. He still likes to sleep a lot but is so alert, active and never misses a meal. The Vet tells us that the strict food diet helped but the primary cause of his resurgence is he knows he is loved and he just was not ready to leave us yet. Oh-one last thing. Chewy gets clean, fresh and cold water 3-4 times a day. He drinks a lot which the Vet tells us is so important to get his vital organs flushed out. Best wishes to all dog lovers who have had to endure this horrible pancreatitis.
    James & Robin

    1. Hindy Pearson (Post author)

      Thanks for sharing, and yes you’re extremely lucky your dog made it through and is thriving. Pancreatitis is nasty, and not every case has a happy ending. Just curious about something – you say your dog gets water 3-4 times a day. Do you not leave a water bowl down for him?

  17. Alexina

    Last week on Thursday my 11 year old Doogie started with severe diarrhea.
    Did my thing with rice and boiled chicken. Didn’t get better and would not eating Took him to vet on sat. I’ve fluids blood work, meds and diagnosed with pancreatic. Took back Monday still not eating . More I’ve fluids. Appetite enhancement. And canned food. It is now wed Eve and my baby still hadn’t eaten. I’m emotionally spent. I am taking canned food blending it and syringe a small amount to him. He does drink water. I’m so afraid he’s going to die. How long should I let him go like this before I have to make the decision to let him go. He doesn’t appear to be in pain . I’m so sad go my baby . It’s been a week heard it can be up to a month.

    1. Hindy Pearson (Post author)

      I’m so sorry about Doogie. I’m not a vet but I can tell you from experience, pancreatitis is very painful. You really need to take him back to the vet ASAP. It’s a long time for your dog to not eat and if they’re going to start feeling better he should be responding to treatment after this much time. Again whether it’s time to say goodbye is a discussion you need to have with your vet today, but you know you can’t leave him in this condition. I know how tough this is, and we never want to let go but at the end of the day the only thing that matters is doing what’s right for our animals.

  18. mark

    i lost the most wonderful dog and best friend to what turned out to be severe pancreatitus. the week before he vomitted a lot of water and went into a fit .which we rushed him to the vet clinic after some tests they diagnosed him with diabetes but a week later he stopped eating and the next day he stopped drinking we took him to the vet clinic and where they said he had pancreatitus less than 24 hours later we were informed he now has kidney trouble as well as having pancreatitus and the we had to make the hardest decision of our lives. the vet said he was in so much pain he was on the equivalent strength of painkilers as morphine. and he advised us to consider putting him to sleep. in the end we made the har decision. its crazy how quick this actually happened and in such a short space of time. we had 13 wonderful years of him and just completely heartbroken now he’s gone. still so many questions unanswered and feeling of surely we could have done something else and was it the right decision

    1. Hindy Pearson (Post author)

      I’m so sorry to hear, I know how devastating it is to say goodbye. I can relate to the questioning about whether you did the right thing or not, and the unanswered questions. If you’re not careful it can really eat you up inside as it did me. Pancreatitis is definitely a very painful condition and we rely on our vets to advise us because we value their expertise. I don’t know if you’ve gone back to your vet and had a chat about test results, numbers, what the situation was etc… When things happen so quickly it’s a shock and you aren’t able to process what’s going on. Now that you’ve had a bit of time go back and have a chat…that’s what I did. I hope you find the answers you seek and some reassurance.


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