a sad dog on the carpet

8 Common Symptoms of Pancreatitis in Dogs That You Should Take Seriously

It’s every pet parent’s worst fear: your once energetic dog becomes suddenly ill, and you’re at a loss as to why and how to help them. They refuse to eat, they start vomiting, and they just aren’t themselves. Now what?

Pancreatitis is one of those conditions that can take pet parents by surprise, leaving them feeling overwhelmed and helpless.What is pancreatitis? What are the common symptoms? And what can you do to care for your sick fur family?

sick young dog

What is Pancreatitis?

Pancreatitis is a painful and potentially serious condition that involves inflammation of the pancreas, an important organ in the digestive system.This vital organ is located in your dog’s abdomen, nestled next to their stomach.

The pancreas produces enzymes that help break down food and release hormones, like insulin, that regulate blood sugar. So when the pancreas is inflamed or stops working correctly, the results can wreak havoc on your dog’s body.

What Causes Pancreatitis in Dogs?

Pancreatitis can strike suddenly almost out of the blue (acute), or it can be a long-term problem (chronic). There are several triggers for the condition:
  • Diet. This is especially true after the holidays if dogs are given table scraps or leftovers of high-fat foods.
    dog begging for food
  • Obesity. This can put extra stress on the pancreas and increase the likelihood of inflammation.
  • Dietary indiscretion. In other words, your dog eats anything and everything (especially when you aren’t looking!) Spoiled food from the garbage or foreign objects can irritate their pancreas.
  • Underlying conditions. Things like hypothyroidism or diabetes can make your dog more prone to pancreatitis.
  • Trauma. Severe blunt trauma to the abdomen can trigger an attack. Medicines. Certain medications have been associated with a higher risk of pancreatitis.

What Are the Symptoms of Dog Pancreatitis?

Every dog is different, and each case may present itself differently. But here are some common symptoms of dog pancreatitis:
  • Abdominal pain
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Lethargy
  • Fever
  • Isolating themselves
  • Decreased appetite or not eating at all
  • Not drinking water, which can lead to severe dehydration
petting a dog
Although this is a list of common symptoms, many of these symptoms can easily be attributed to other health problems. That’s why pancreatitis in dogs can only be diagnosed by a veterinarian. In addition, each dog is unique and each case of pancreatitis is different. A mild case may present with a completely different combination of symptoms than a severe case. And, in extremely severe instances, shock and death can occur. So if you suspect your pup has a problem, don’t take matters into your own hands. Get your pup to the vet right away!

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Pancreatitis in dogs

Treatment for Pancreatitis in Dogs

Your veterinarian will do a thorough exam and may run several diagnostic tests to confirm your dog is suffering from pancreatitis. For example, they’ll likely do bloodwork, an abdominal ultrasound, and possibly a biopsy of the pancreas.

Once your dog is diagnosed with pancreatitis, your vet will also provide a treatment plan that might require hospitalization. Although this may be scary for you and your fur family, it\'s important for their recovery. Your vet will make sure they have the proper hydration and electrolytes through IV fluids. They’ll also suggest that your pup begin fasting, to allow their pancreas to recover. This is typically done for 24-48 hours.

Your dog will also be given medications to help with pain, inflammation, nausea, and/or vomiting. Once your pup is done fasting, they’ll be put on a bland, low-fat diet.

And, for long-term care, they may need to switch to a different dog food to support the health of their pancreas. If your dog’s pancreatitis is mild, your veterinarian may simply give you home care instructions.

How to Care for and Comfort a Dog with Chronic Pancreatitis

Dealing with a sick dog can be stressful. Our fur family can’t speak and tell us exactly what’s going on or how they feel, so as paw-rents, we can tend to feel helpless. But the sooner you seek treatment from your veterinarian, the more you’ll be empowered to care for and comfort your pup. So work closely with your vet to care for and comfort your pup during their recovery. Provide your dog with a calm, quiet place to rest and recuperate. They’ll need lots of rest and downtime to recover and allow their body to heal.
dog snuggled in blankets

If your dog is up for it, be generous with reassuring pets, cuddles, and snuggles. In general, dogs love close contact, so having special attention from their favorite human can help to comfort them.

We mentioned it earlier, but your veterinarian will likely provide dietary recommendations. Initially, especially after fasting, your pup may not want to eat or drink very much. Your veterinarian will likely advise you to monitor them closely. When you get the go-ahead from your vet, you can gradually re-introduce food in small but frequent quantities so as not to aggravate their pancreas. Then, be sure to carefully monitor how your pup responds. For example, can they keep the food down? Is the portion too large, too little? Take note and adjust accordingly. 

Dog mom, Pamela, used many of these tips to help her pup battle a worrying case of pancreatitis. Well-meaning houseguests fed the yorkie-mix table scraps. The fatty meal sent her pup’s pancreas into a tail-spin.Within a day, little Bisous was vomiting bile. “Her mood changed too. We could tell she didn’t feel good,” explains Pamela. “She just wanted to sleep and cuddle, and she wouldn’t eat anything. She drank very little.”

snuggling with dog

Thankfully, Pamela sought prompt veterinary care, followed the treatment plan, and within a day could see improvements. She also made sure to comfort Bisous by giving her a quiet place to recuperate and canceled her upcoming playdates. “When humans are sick, we’re not usually in the mood to be social. The same is true of dogs,” she said.

Naturally, we want to do all that we can to get our dogs onto the road to recovery. But what about natural supplements? Can a dog with pancreatitis take Omega-3 fish oil in their condition?

At first glance, the answer may seem to be no. After all, many cases of pancreatitis are triggered by high-fat diets. And Omega-3 fish oil is a fat, albeit a healthy fat.

But Omega-3 has powerful, natural anti-inflammatory properties. Since pancreatitis involves inflammation of the pancreas, managing and reducing this inflammation is key to helping your dog heal and recover.

As always, consult your veterinarian for their specific recommendations based on your dog’s condition. But notice the experience of Elvis, the Beagle. His nutritionist, Hannah, recounts, “Omega-3 has been a game changer! As you may know, dogs in this condition have very sensitive stomachs. Elvis couldn’t have any oils and was very sensitive to anything high in fat.”Weighing in at 23 pounds, Elvis couldn\'t even stomach an ⅛ of an egg without having a flare-up of pancreatitis. Yet he needed to have Omega-3 in his diet as part of his healing protocol. But due to his sensitive stomach, Omega-3 in the form of fish was simply out of the question.

Hannah explains the solution that worked for Elvis:“The only Omega-3 this dog can have is in powdered form, and that is where Pawsomely Healthy has come in. He’s been on this supplement for several years. He goes in for regular testing, and I’m happy to share that he’s doing well!”

Benefits of Omega 3 fish oil

In general, Omega-3 fish oil offers many health benefits to support your pup’s overall wellness. Go here to read more about this powerful, natural supplement.

As Hannah mentioned, our Omega-3 fish oil is spray-dried into a powdered form. This unique process allows it to keep its potency and purity so it stays fresh longer than traditional oils in pill or pump form. It’s also easy to use. Simply give your pup the entire capsule or sprinkle its contents onto their food.

Omega-3 Bottle

The Tail End

Pancreatitis in dogs is a serious, potentially life-threatening condition. There are 8 common symptoms to look out for, but an official diagnosis must come from your veterinarian. If you suspect your pup has pancreatitis, visit your veterinarian right away and work closely with their treatment plan. Discuss the potential use of Pawsomely Health’s spray-dried Omega-3 as part of your pup’s recovery. And most of all, continue to give your fur family the rest, love, and nurturing they need to overcome this health episode. In time, they’ll be back to their old selves.
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