Pancreatitis in Dogs

by Team Skipper's on August 02, 2022

Pancreatitis in dogs

Pancreatitis is a medical condition that both humans and dogs can get. Pancreatitis can become very severe, especially if left untreated. Although some dogs are more prone to getting pancreatitis, dogs of all ages and breeds can get it and unfortunately, pancreatitis is a relatively common condition in dogs.


What is pancreatitis in dogs?

Pancreatitis is an uncomfortable and painful condition that can affect several parts of your dog's body and is characterised by the inflammation of your dog's pancreas. A dog's pancreas is located on the right side of the abdomen and close to the stomach. The pancreas is a vital organ that releases specific enzymes into your dog's digestive system. These enzymes activate in your dog's small intestine and are what help your dog to digest and absorb the fats from their food. The second main function of your dog's pancreas is the secretion of glucagon and insulin to aid in controlling blood sugar or glucose metabolism. When a dog has pancreatitis, the enzymes activate instantly in the pancreas rather than the small intestine. Due to this, the pancreas can slowly deteriorate due to the effect of the enzymes.

There are two types of pancreatitis in dogs:


Acute Pancreatitis

This can come in a form of either mild or severe. A mild condition is often an edematous form, whilst the more severe condition is often a hemorrhagic form. An acute pancreatitis attack is sudden and means that it hasn't appeared before. The condition can become life-threatening to a dog if the inflammation spreads.


Chronic Pancreatitis

When a dog continues to have relapses of pancreatitis, which can be acute attacks, this is then called chronic pancreatitis. Unlike acute pancreatitis, where it appears suddenly, chronic pancreatitis slowly appears and can start with no symptoms appearing.


Symptoms of pancreatitis in dogs

Knowing the symptoms of pancreatitis in dogs is important; catching the signs early decreases the chances of severe damage to any of your dog's organs. Many of the symptoms can also relate to other medical conditions, and it is essential that you keep an eye on your dog when any symptoms appear. If any of these signs continue or more signs appear, it is vital that you go to the vet to have your dog checked.


Mild pancreatitis in dogs

  • Abdominal pain
  • Abdominal swelling
  • Fever
  • Dehydration
  • Repeated vomiting
  • Greasy diarrhoea/stool
  • Lack of appetite
  • Lethargic
  • Weight loss
  • Weak
  • Hunched back

Severe pancreatitis in dogs

  • (Any mild pancreatitis signs)
  • Increased heart rate
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Haemorrhages 


What causes pancreatitis in dogs

The exact cause of pancreatitis is not known. However, there are numerous factors that can cause pancreatitis, such as your dog's diet, medication, genetics, medical conditions, etc. Having an understanding of the causes of pancreatitis in dogs can allow you to make changes to factors like your dog's diet, which in turn can help with the prevention of pancreatitis.

Pancreatitis triggers

  • A high-fat diet
  • Obesity
  • Hypothyroidism or other endocrine diseases
  • Severe blunt trauma
  • Diabetes Mellitus
  • Certain medications or other toxins
  • Genetic predisposition.

How is pancreatitis in dogs diagnosed?


Your vet will check numerous things starting with:

Your dog's medical history: Your vet will see if there has been vomiting, loss of appetite, etc., in the past.

Blood tests: Your vet will take a blood sample measuring the pancreatic enzymes.

Physical examination: Your vet will look at your dog's stomach, gums, heart and temperature.

Radiographs or ultrasound: Your vet will look at these results to determine any other possible causes.

Treatment of Pancreatitis in Dogs 

Treatment for Pancreatitis


Currently, there aren't any cures for pancreatitis in dogs. However, there are medications to manage the pain and support any current conditions. Your vet will run a full examination to determine how severe the pancreatitis is and what medication and care is needed to help your dog.


The main aim of treating your dog's pancreatitis is to rest their pancreas and allow it to heal. Your dog may have to stay at the vet's depending on how severe their pancreatitis is. This can be a period of several days where the vet will monitor your dog until they have recovered. During treatment, many dogs make a full recovery with no long-term consequences; however, if your dog has gone into the vet with a more severe case of pancreatitis, the outcome is a little less predictable.

Below we have listed the different treatments your vet may decide to use.

Types of treatments for pancreatitis in dogs

  • Strong painkillers
  • Anti-sickness medicine
  • Fluid drip
  • Fasting
  • Nutritional support

What to Feed a Dog with Pancreatitis

Once your dog has been diagnosed with pancreatitis, your dog may need to go on a special low-fat diet depending on the severity. Being on a low-fat diet decreases the chances of the enzymes instantly activating in your dog's pancreas and causing inflammation. Overall, your dog's diet needs to consist of foods and treats that will reduce the workload of your dog's pancreas.


The pancreas' main role is to break down the fats from the food your dog digests. Reducing the fat intake in your dog's diet is one of the main ways to reduce the chances of a pancreatitis attack.


Another role the pancreas has is to break down carbs. Avoiding or at least reducing your dog's carb intake will help to reduce the workload of the pancreas. Filler carbs such as white potato, maize, white rice and more should be avoided.


Including foods that are easily digestible, such as fish, is essential for your dog's pancreatitis. When looking for a complete dog food, look for food that is bio-appropriate.


It is important to note that quality is more important than quantity. Therefore, look for high-quality animal protein in the complete dog food or treats.


It is recommended to try and avoid any complete dog food and treats that contain added sugars. Added sugars can cause unnecessary problems for your dog.

Foods for Dogs with Pancreatitis

Dogs with pancreatitis are normally fed a low-fat diet to give them time to heal from the disease. Digestibility is a high factor for dogs with pancreatitis. Providing them with the right nutrition which is light on their stomach is beneficial in their recovery. Skippers’ provides just the right nutrients and foods your dog needs to cope up during pancreatitis. Our range of chews and treats including our Whitefish Range, Salmon and Whitefish Biscuits, Fish Skin Cubes and Fish Skin Flatties are great to munch on for a dog with pancreatitis.

Dog Treats for Pancreatitis

Dogs with pancreatitis can have treats. However, it is highly recommended that you feed low-fat treats. Additionally, opting for more natural treats that have fewer ingredients will allow you to monitor what your dog is consuming and reduce the chances of flare-ups.

Here at Skipper's, a large net of our customers have dogs with pancreatitis, and their go-to treats are the Skipper's Whitefish range. All of these treats are low in fat and single ingredients. Another benefit to the Skipper's Whitefish treats is that some customers have found it has reduced the flare-ups of their dog's pancreatitis.

Shop Our White Fish Treats

Breeds most commonly affected by pancreatitis

  • Miniature Schnauzer
  • English Cocker Spaniel
  • Miniature Poodle
  • Cavalier King Charles Spaniel
  • Small terriers
  • Boxer
  • Collie
  • Yorkshire terriers
  • Dachshund

Can Dogs with Pancreatitis Eat Fish?

Fish is a high-quality protein source that is easily digestible and doesn't overload your dog's pancreas. However, it is recommended to feed fish which is low in fat. For example, Salmon may not be a good choice since it is an oily fish and has a higher fat content in comparison to others.

We recommend feeding Whitefish such as Cod and Haddock.

Check Out Our Whitefish Range

Frequently Asked Questions

What is dog pancreatitis shaking?

Pancreatitis is an uncomfortable and painful condition. Abdominal pain is a symptom they can experience, and as a result, your dog may shake.

How often does pancreatitis flare up in dogs?

Pancreatitis can flare up frequently or hardly ever. However, pancreatitis is mainly triggered by the food your dog has consumed. Therefore, if your dog has already suffered from an acute pancreatitis attack or has chronic pancreatitis, you are more likely to get frequent flare-ups if you are feeding foods to trigger the attacks, such as high in fat foods.

What are the long term effects of pancreatitis in dogs?

Although there are medications the vet can prescribe and treatments the vet can do, when pancreatitis has reached a certain severity, it can cause consequential effects on your dog's pancreas, liver, and bile ducts. In a more serious case, the damage caused by pancreatitis can cause diabetes and maldigestion.

What foods should I avoid feeding my dog with pancreatitis?

You should try to avoid feeding any foods that are high in fat, reduce your dog's carb intake and try to stick to more high-quality and easily digestible foods. Foods that are high in fat, such as Lamb, Pork and Cheese, should be avoided. We recommend trying to feed low-fat natural treats and get your vet's advice regarding the most suitable complete dog food for your dog.