Webvet

Webvet

Social Media Icons

Follow Us:

Main Content

Pancreatitis

Twitter Stumbleupon Mixx it! Print Email icon
Pin It
If you enjoy this article,
Go here to sign up for the mailing list to receive more articles like this.
2320080602163218iStock_000000160446XSmall

Pancreatitis is an inflammation of the pancreas in dogs and cats, which is found in the right side of the abdomen. The pancreas has two vital functions: to produce hormones such as insulin and to produce enzymes that help in digestion of food. Dogs of any age, sex, or breed, and occasionally cats, can get pancreatitis. The exact cause is not known, although it is often associated with corticosteroids or rich, fatty diets.

When your pet's pancreas becomes inflamed, digestive enzymes can spill into the abdomen, which can damage nearby organs, such as the liver, bile ducts, gall bladder, or intestines. Pancreatitis can occur suddenly in either a mild or severe form. Pets that recover from sudden episodes can also continue to have bouts of illness that return repeatedly.

Signs of pancreatitis in dogs or cats often vary and can depend on the other organs involved. Typical signs include vomiting, diarrhea, fever, and abdominal pain. Severe attacks can cause shock, collapse, and even death.

Diagnosis is based on physical signs, laboratory tests, and x-rays or ultrasound. Laboratory tests usually show a high white blood cell count, although this can be caused by other conditions that have similar signs. The presence of high levels of pancreatic enzymes in the blood is probably the most helpful diagnostic clue, but levels of these enzymes can also be normal in pets with pancreatitis. X-rays and ultrasound may show signs of inflammation around the area of the pancreas. Even with these tests, diagnosis can be difficult, and your veterinarian may refer you to a specialist or veterinary teaching hospital.

Management of pancreatitis depends on early diagnosis and prompt treatment. Withholding oral fluids and food can let the pancreas "rest." Your pet will likely need to be on intravenous fluids for a few days. Anti-inflammatory medications are sometimes prescribed. Pets that are in shock from a severe attack of pancreatitis need emergency treatment with intravenous fluids, antibiotics, and other medications.

Prognosis depends on how much of the pancreas has been affected, how severe the inflammation is, and how your pet responds to initial treatment. Pets that have severe or repeated attacks can develop long-term problems. For example, damage to the pancreas can result in a lack of digestive enzymes, so these must be replaced by enzyme tablets or powder given daily with food. Severe or chronic pancreatitis can also result in diabetes because the pancreas can no longer produce insulin.

Q&A

What does the pancreas do?

The pancreas, which is located on the right side of the abdomen, has two vital functions: to produce hormones such as insulin and to produce enzymes that digest food. 


What is pancreatitis in pets?

In pancreatitis, the pancreas becomes inflamed, thereby allowing digestive enzymes to spill into the abdominal cavity and damage nearby organs (eg, spleen, liver, or intestines). 


How is pancreatitis diagnosed in pets?

The diagnosis of pancreatitis is difficult and often involves laboratory tests and medical imaging.  The presence of high levels of pancreatic enzymes in the blood is probably the most helpful diagnostic clue, but is not conclusive. 


How is this condition treated?

Primary treatment involves several days of intravenous fluids without oral food or water, so as to “rest” the pancreas.  Pets that are in shock from a severe attack need emergency treatment with intravenous fluids, antibiotics, corticosteroids, and other drugs.


Can I expect a complete recovery?

Pets that recover from sudden episodes can have repeated recurrences.  Severe or repeated attacks can lead to long-term problems, such as a lack of digestive enzymes (which must be replaced by daily supplements) or diabetes.

Credit: Written and reviewed by John A. Bukowski, DVM, MPH, PhDand Susan E. Aiello, DVM, ELS
Did you like this article?
Go here to sign up for the mailing list to receive more articles like this.

Related content

All medical-related content on WebVet has been veterinarian approved to ensure its timeliness and accuracy.
Introducing Pet-Pods...

Veterinarian with small dog FREE downloadable PDF files providing a comprehensive review of some of the most timely pet health topics: Allergies, Fleas, Summer Safety Hazards, and Vomiting and Diarrhea.

Newsletter Signup

  
Get FREE Pet Insurance Quotes Now!

Search For A Vet

Crosby