Dog Pancreatitis Diet

Sad Dog

Pancreatitis in dogs is a serious condition. While the medical definition of “inflammation of the pancreas” sounds mundane, it’s a potentially life-threatening condition and horribly painful. 

So, what does a devoted pet parent need to know? Let’s start with a quick overview of the pancreas and move on to the symptoms, risk factors, and preventive measures. 

What is the Pancreas? 

The pancreas is a small but mighty organ that aids digestion and regulates blood sugar in dogs. It produces digestive enzymes that help break food into molecules your dog’s body can use for energy, cell repair, metabolism, and other vital functions.

In healthy digestion, these enzymes flow from the pancreas to the small intestine via a special pancreatic duct pathway. However, the enzymes occasionally escape this path, which causes an early activation, and they start eating the pancreas. As you can imagine, this is painful. 

What Is Pancreatitis? 

As the enzymes nibble away at the pancreas, they cause inflammation, which we call pancreatitis. During this digestive disruption, the pancreas may release insulin and glucagon. These hormones regulate blood sugar, and as you probably know, if blood sugar spikes or lowers, that negatively impacts your dog’s health. Unregulated blood sugar can lead to diabetes mellitus and other health problems. 

If pancreatitis isn’t caught early, the pancreatic enzymes can damage area tissues and cells, leading to organ failure and sepsis, a dangerous infection. In the most severe cases, pancreatitis is life-threatening. 

5 Signs of Pancreatitis 

how to comfort a dog with pancreatitis blog

Recognizing the symptoms of pancreatitis is critical because swift veterinary care can save your dog’s life. Clinical signs of this life-threatening condition include: 

1. Abdominal pain

Your dog can’t tell you its stomach hurts but might show discomfort by pacing. If your dog seems restless and doesn’t want to lie down, this is a sign something’s wrong. 

2. Vomiting and diarrhea 

If your dog has these common gastrointestinal symptoms, try to discover what your dog ate recently. If you find your dog ingested fatty table scraps, seems lethargic, uncomfortable, and doesn’t want to eat, these could be signs of pancreatitis. 

3. Fever, rapid heartbeat

Fever is a natural response to inflammation as it’s usually the body’s response to fighting infections. Pancreatitis can also affect the circulatory system, which in turn can speed up the heartbeat.

4. Dehydration 

Vomiting and diarrhea can dehydrate your dog’s body. Some signs of dehydration include:

  • sunken eyes
  • sticky gums
  • elevated heart rate
  • increased panting
  • loss of skin elasticity

If you can pinch your dog’s skin between the shoulder blades and it doesn’t immediately bounce back, that’s a sign of dehydration.

5. Jaundice 

If your dog’s skin, gums, or the whites of the eyes look yellow, that’s a symptom of a chemical imbalance and requires prompt veterinarian attention to diagnose the cause. 

Related reading: How to Comfort a Dog with Pancreatitis

Is It Pancreatitis?

While none of these symptoms only relate to pancreatitis, you know your dog best. Take the vomiting and diarrhea. We all know some dogs are indiscriminate eaters and often run into tummy troubles. Others have sensitive stomachs, and changing the dog food can upset your dog’s tummy.

You don’t want to panic whenever your dog has an upset digestive system. Still, it’s worth calling the veterinarian if vomiting and diarrhea occur with any of these other symptoms. If you know your dog gobbled down some high-fat content, you want to make sure your pup isn’t in danger. 

Pancreatitis won’t go away on its own, and your dog will benefit from a fast response.  

Acute vs. Chronic Pancreatitis 

A sudden pancreatic inflammation, which is typical of an acute pancreatitis attack, can cause your dog to vomit, have diarrhea, and be lethargic. If you know what your dog has eaten in the past few hours, you may be able to track the inflammation to the Easter ham or other foods. 

Get your dog to the DVM for prompt care that may include anti-nausea medicine and IV fluid therapy. 

Some dogs experience long-term inflammation and repeated flare-ups of a pancreatic attack. Chronic pancreatitis can damage the pancreas and enzyme production. While there’s no cure for this condition, you can control it and limit flare-ups by feeding your dog a healthy, low-fat diet, taking enzyme supplements, and monitoring your dog’s health. 

Pancreatitis Treatment 

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Pancreatitis typically requires a multi-prong approach to alleviate symptoms, reduce inflammation, and prevent complications. Your veterinarian may use X-rays, blood tests, and other tests to diagnose your dog’s pancreatitis. 

Once diagnosed, your veterinarian may use IV fluids to rehydrate your dog and medications to reduce the inflammation and help your pup feel better. Once the danger subsides, there’s a maintenance plan that usually includes a low-fat diet and keeping your pup at a healthy weight, 

Pancreatitis Risk Factors

A high-fat diet is one of the primary pancreatitis triggers. This includes fatty foods like bacon, fatty foods, and high-fat table scraps. Veterinarians say they see an uptick of pancreatitis around holidays when dogs either help themselves to fatty foods found in the trash or well-meaning family members offer too many tasty tidbits from rich holiday foods.  

Other risk factors include: 

  • Obesity—Excess body fat often leads to general inflammation and metabolic imbalances, which can lead to diabetes mellitus and other problems. (Related reading: How to Tell If Your Dog Is Overweight)
  • Dogs with severe health conditions—Pups with diabetes, hypothyroidism, or frequent gastrointestinal problems can be predisposed to pancreatitis. Some medications, such as corticosteroids and antibiotics, can increase the risk. Always talk with your veterinarian about the risk factors of medications.
  • Specific breeds—Genetics means certain dog breeds, including miniature schnauzers, cocker spaniels, terriers, and poodles, are predisposed to this painful condition.
  • Trauma or past surgery–Past injuries or surgery could impact blood flow or damage the organs, leading to future health problems, including pancreatitis. 

Pancreatitis Prevention 

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Understanding the risk factors and causes of pancreatitis in your pup can help prevent this painful condition. While the symptoms are similar to those of many other health concerns, if your dog fits the “at risk” profile and presents with low energy and appetite, you can dig deeper into its diet to uncover any risky foods. 

Overall, pancreatitis prevention is all about having a healthy lifestyle, following a veterinary diet, and awareness of the condition so you’re aware of the risks. 

Healthy weight

Extra weight can reduce your dog’s metabolism, lead to inflammation, and contribute to joint pain. Maintaining a healthy weight can improve your dog’s quality of life and lifespan.

Low-fat diet

Choose a high-quality food to feed your dog. Opt for a taste of cooked chicken breast vs. high-fat foods like bacon. Many dogs love sweet potatoes. Be sure you include foods with omega-3 fatty acids, as these have anti-inflammatory properties and multiple health benefits.

Daily exercise 

Daily exercise improves your dog’s circulation and mobility and helps maintain a healthy weight. The right amount of exercise depends on your dog’s breed and age. Border collie puppies need much more exercise than Shih Tzu pups. 

Regular veterinarian care

Annual or bi-annual veterinary checkups are essential for your dog’s healthy life. Your veterinarian can spot potential concerns before they become big health problems. They can also advise you on your dog’s diet and what’s appropriate for your dog at his stage of life. 


Educating yourself about potential dangers like pancreatitis helps keep your dog safe. When you understand the symptoms and risks, you can better gauge when you need to rush to the veterinarian. 

Dog Pancreatitis Diet

Meeting your dog’s dietary needs is critical to your dog’s health. Maintaining the right balance of carbohydrates, proteins, and healthy fats ensures your dog has the building blocks needed for a healthy lifestyle. 

Some veterinarians recommend probiotics to improve digestion, small meals, and a prescription dog food diet. There’s prescription dry food/kibble and fresh, high-quality pet food that’s nutritionist and veterinarian-approved. If your dog is at risk of a bout of pancreatitis, discover the right diet or prescription food to prevent it. 

Awareness of the disease, the clinical signs, and your dog’s risk factors go a long way toward preventing the disease. Feed your dog a healthy, low-fat diet and stay away from high-fat foods to help your dog avoid this painful disease. 

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