Pancreatitis in Dogs & Cats

Causes of Pancreatitis

Pancreatitis is a complex condition and we often don’t know what causes it. There are several risk factors that can predispose your pet to develop pancreatitis, such as obesity, a high fat diet, certain medications, and concurrent medical conditions such as diabetes or hypothyroidism. Many cases of pancreatitis are triggered by the animal eating something outside their normal diet, like table scraps. This is especially common if your pet has a previous history of digestive problems or has had previous episodes of pancreatitis.

Symptoms of Pancreatitis in Pets

The signs of pancreatitis can often be vague and may only occur intermittently, especially in cats. Symptoms of pancreatitis in both dogs and cats include:

» Vomiting
» Diarrhea
» Lethargy
» Loss of appetite
» Abdominal pain
» Fever
» Dehydration

As you can see, these symptoms are very similar to many other common medical conditions in dogs and cats. If your pet displays these symptoms, it’s important to see your veterinarian right away to have the problem diagnosed. Your veterinarian will perform a full physical examination and will likely want to perform some diagnostic testing such as blood work and x-rays. This will help your vet rule out other causes for your pet’s symptoms to ensure that your pet receives the appropriate course of treatment.

Treating Pancreatitis in Pets

Unfortunately, there are no specific treatments for pancreatitis. When your pet is diagnosed with this condition, the treatment will be focused on keeping your pet comfortable
while giving your pet’s body time to recover. Common treatments for pancreatitis include:

» Intravenous (IV) or subcutaneous (SQ) fluids to correct dehydration
» Anti-emetic and antacid medications to reduce nausea
» Appetite stimulants to encourage your pet to keep eating
» Oral or injectable pain control medications to keep your pet comfortable
» Antibiotics if your pet has a fever or other signs of concurrent infection
» A bland, low-fat, or easily digestible diet

Mild cases of pancreatitis can often be treated on an outpatient basis, but you should always contact your veterinarian right away if the symptoms worsen or do not improve within 24-48 hours. Severe cases may need to be hospitalized overnight for intravenous fluids and more intensive care.

Your Pet’s Prognosis

Most cases of mild, sudden-onset pancreatitis improve quickly with medications and supportive care. Severe cases of pancreatitis have a poorer prognosis and may require hospitalization for several days. Unfortunately, some pets will develop chronic pancreatitis or may have recurrent bouts of the disease. This ongoing inflammation in the pancreas can lead to long term health problems, including developing secondary medical conditions like diabetes or pancreatic insufficiency. In these cases, long term management under the guidance of your veterinarian – including dietary changes, medications, and frequent follow-up visits – may be necessary. Pancreatitis is often a frustrating condition to deal with, but by working together with your veterinary team, it can be managed to minimize flare-ups and ensure your pet remains comfortable.