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Ask Our Vet: Best Ways to Care for a Dog with Pancreatitis

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For many dog owners, understanding and effectively managing canine pancreatitis can seem like a daunting task. In the clinic I commonly see owners frequently trying to grapple with what causes pancreatitis and the appropriate measures they can take to help. This article aims to simplify this complex condition; providing a comprehensive guide into home remedies for dog pancreatitis and how owners can best care for a dog that might be suffering. 

We’ll delve into the causes of pancreatitis in dogs, from dietary indiscretion to more chronic conditions like obesity. We’ll also cover essential feeding guidelines when dealing with canine pancreatitis, including the importance of a low-fat diet and how to avoid common dietary triggers. 

How to Comfort a Dog with Pancreatitis

Comfort a Dog with Pancreatitis

Pancreatitis is an uncomfortable condition for dogs to deal with; it can be intensely painful and many dogs will suffer from symptoms such as vomiting or diarrhea. Creating a tranquil atmosphere can aid in providing comfort to dogs suffering from pancreatitis. Here are some tips for keeping a dog suffering from pancreatitis comfortable:

  • Hydration is Key – Make sure your dog stays hydrated. Water is their best friend, so keep it fresh and available at all times.
  • Warmth – Wrap your dog in cozy blankets or use a heating pad to soothe their achy belly.
  • Talk to the Vet – Stay in touch with your vet to manage your dog’s pain effectively. They might prescribe meds to ease the discomfort. Trust the experts.
  • Show your pup some extra TLC – A gentle stroke or sweet words can work wonders in making them feel better. 

Feeding Your Dog with Pancreatitis

Small dog with a bowl of dry food

If your dog has pancreatitis, their diet will likely need some adjustments. Low-fat, high-fiber meals will reduce the strain on their pancreas – It’s all about reducing the workload and promoting healing. Look for diets that list their fat content as less than 10% of the constituent components. 

Change the frequency that you feed your dog – go for smaller portions, more often. Aim for 4-5 snacks daily. This way, you avoid overstimulating the pancreas and give it chance to recharge before the next meal.

Remember, every dog is different. What works for one might not work for another. Discuss which diet options will be right for your dog – there are many veterinary prescription diets available.

Home Remedies for a Dog with Pancreatitis

  1. As we have discussed, the first step in managing a dog with pancreatitis from home is changing their diet. Feed them a low fat diet, little and often. 
  2. Consider adding probiotics to their diet. These little helpers can restore balance in their tummy and improve digestion, they can also help prevent gastrointestinal infections and reduce inflammation. 
  3. Omega-3 fatty acids can also be a great addition to your dog’s diet if they’re suffering from pancreatitis. At first adding ‘fatty acids’ to their diet may seen counterintuitive, but these good fats won’t trigger your dog’s pancreatitis. Instead, they have anti-inflammatory superpowers that can benefit dogs with pancreatitis. These omega 3 oils are great because they come in an easy to serve pump bottle, ensuring you can give your dog the correct dose. 
  4. Adding certain vitamins to your dog’s diet can help reduce the risks of them developing pancreatitis. Vitamin E is an antioxidant that can lend a helping paw, while B vitamins support overall metabolic health. Give your dog these multivitamin chews to cater for all of their vitamin needs.

Remember, these remedies are not magic potions, and they don’t replace proper veterinary care. They’re just supportive measures you can take at home alongside vet treatment. Pancreatitis is a serious condition, so always consult your vet before introducing any of these remedies into your dog’s diet. 

Causes of pancreatitis in dogs – and how to help your dog

Pancreatitis in Dogs

Pancreatitis is a multi-factorial disease – meaning there is rarely one cause to blame; usually there’s a combination of the following factors that all play a role in your dog developing pancreatitis. 

A high fat diet

The pancreas is responsible for releasing enzymes that aid in digestion. When a dog’s diet is loaded with fat, the pancreas has to put in extra effort to break it down before it can be absorbed and used by the body.. This over-working can lead to pancreatitis, which is characterised by inflammation of the pancreas. 

In some cases, a single high-fat meal such as table scraps from a holiday dinner, can trigger an episode of pancreatitis – especially in dogs that are already overweight or have other health conditions.

Implementing a low fat diet is therefore essential for reducing the risk of pancreatitis; choose high-quality commercial dog food that lists fat at a value of less than 10% on the packaging. Limit the number of treats that your dog receives as many of them are high in fat and instead choose healthy alternatives like fresh vegetables and lean protein sources like chicken, turkey and fish. 


Obesity is a known risk factor for pancreatitis in dogs. Dogs that are overweight often experience elevated levels of fat in their bloodstream – this stimulates the pancreas to produce more digestive enzymes and eventually cause it to become overworked. This stress on the pancreas manifests itself as inflammation. 

Excessive fat stores in the body also release pro-inflammatory substances. Over time these increase the stress put on the pancreas, resulting in inflammation. 

A balanced diet, limiting the number of treats and plenty of exercise are essential in keeping your dog in a good body condition, and therefore important for reducing the risks of pancreatitis. If you’re struggling to manage your dog’s weight, talk to your local vet. They can offer valuable advice on keeping your dog in good shape and also explore possible medical conditions that may contribute to your dog’s obesity.


Certain viral or bacterial infections can trigger pancreatitis. Infectious agents can spread to the pancreas through the bloodstream or the bile duct, leading to inflammation. Dogs with gastroenteritis, or an infection of the gastrointestinal system, are particularly prone to pancreatitis; bacteria in the gut can cause inflammation of the surrounding tissues – this often affects the pancreas. 

Keeping your dog up to date with their vaccinations, keeping good hygiene and trying to discourage scavenging can all help in preventing these infections from occurring. But unfortunately, infections can still happen and usually result in an acute, fairly severe form of pancreatitis. In these cases, veterinary intervention is essential – the sooner supportive treatment is started, the better the outcome for your dog. 

Endocrine diseases

Hormonal diseases like hypothyroidism and diabetes mellitus can also contribute to pancreatitis. 

Dogs with hypothyroidism have a reduced metabolic rate and are therefore more prone to high cholesterol levels and obesity, key contributing factors for pancreatitis. Dogs with diabetes suffer from high blood sugar levels; this can interfere with many body systems including the pancreas. 

Disclaimer: This content is not a substitute for veterinary care. Always consult with your vet for health decisions. Learn more.

If your dog has an endocrine disorder, it’s essential to manage the condition effectively under the guidance of your vet. Regular check-ups, a balanced diet, and appropriate medication can all help control these disorders and reduce the risk of associated complications, including pancreatitis.

Medication and toxins

Certain medications and toxins can result in inflammation of the pancreas. Chemotherapy agents like azathioprine, certain anti-seizure medications, diuretics and steroids are all examples of drugs that have the potential to cause pancreatitis. These medications can either directly inflict damage on the pancreas or disrupt its normal functions indirectly. Additionally, exposure to certain toxins can also harm the pancreas, triggering excessive production of digestive enzymes and subsequent inflammation. 

If your dog is taking any medication known to heighten the risk of pancreatitis, it is vital to remain vigilant for symptoms of this condition. Be vigilant for signs such as decreased appetite, vomiting, diarrhea, and abdominal pain. 

Blunt trauma

Blunt trauma, such as that sustained in a car accident or a significant fall, can lead to pancreatitis in dogs. Trauma can result in injury to the pancreatic tissue or disruption of blood supply, leading to inflammation and subsequent pancreatitis. 

If your dog has encountered any form of blunt trauma, it is important to seek veterinary attention asap. Even if they seem fine initially, complications like pancreatitis can still develop. Your vet can perform tests to assess your dog’s overall health and determine whether any internal damage has occurred. 


Certain breeds are recognized as being more prone to developing pancreatitis. For instance, Miniature Schnauzers have a higher risk of developing pancreatitis, potentially due to a genetic predisposition. Other breeds that have been reported to be at higher risk include Cavalier King Charles Spaniels, Collies, and Boxers. 

While pancreatitis is a multi-factorial disease, if you have a breed that is predisposed to pancreatitis, it’s crucial to monitor their health closely. Maintain regular veterinary check-ups, and take preventive measures such as ensuring they get regular exercise to reduce the risks of pancreatitis. 

What is the life expectancy of a dog with pancreatitis?

Care for a Dog with Pancreatitis

The severity and frequency of episodes play a big role in determining the life expectancy of a dog with pancreatitis. 

WATCH: 3 Important Tips To Care For an Old Dog [VET VIDEO]

Acute and mild cases of pancreatitis, if treated quickly and effectively, often lead to full recovery. Chronic cases may cause permanent damage over time, potentially shortening their life due to complications like diabetes or exocrine pancreatic insufficiency (EPI). These are both serious conditions that can arise from not treating pancreatitis soon enough. 

Between 27-42% of dogs with severe pancreatitis pass away within 30 days of being diagnosed – bear in mind that is is a worst case scenario for very unwell dogs that are hospitalised.

Early detection and proper treatment are therefore the key to a good prognosis. Regular vet visits should be scheduled, particularly if your dog has experienced pancreatitis before, to ensure early detection and prompt treatment.

A well-balanced, reduced-fat diet diet in addition to regular physical activity can enhance their life quality and duration.

When to Visit the Vet

Being overcautious is never a bad thing in the case of pancreatitis. If your dog has a history of pancreatitis and you suspect a potential relapse or notice the symptoms for the first time, it is advisable to schedule a veterinary appointment as soon as you can.

Lethargy, diarrhea, vomiting, or severe abdominal pain are all indications that should prompt you to seek immediate veterinary attention.

Your local veterinarian will conduct necessary blood tests, perform an ultrasound scan, and may even recommend hospitalization for a few days.. They’ll hook your pup up with fluids and pain relief, depending on how serious things are.

Pancreatitis is considered a life long condition and your pup may always be at risk. It’s important to stay vigilant to any signs of relapse and be very strict with limiting fatty foods in their diet. 

Frequently Asked Questions

How can I prevent pancreatitis in my dog?

Preventing pancreatitis in dogs involves a combination of dietary management and lifestyle modifications. This includes maintaining a balanced low-fat diet, keeping your dog’s weight in check and limiting processed food intake. Regular vet checks and investigating any other underlying conditions can also lower the risk of your dog developing pancreatitis. 

What should I feed my dog with pancreatitis?

Feeding a dog with pancreatitis generally involves providing low-fat, easily digestible meals. Stick to lean proteins and fresh vegetables. If in doubt choose a veterinary prescription low-fat diet. 

Can pancreatitis recur in dogs?

Yes, dogs that have suffered from pancreatitis before are at higher risk of developing it again. Be vigilant to any signs of a relapse and visit your vet immediately if you suspect your dog is on the brink of an episode. 

How long does it take for a dog with pancreatitis to recover?

The time for recovery is variable and depends on may factors including the age of dog, severity and cause of the pancreatitis and whether your dog is suffering from any underlying conditions. The sooner treatment is started the quicker your dog will recover – but that could be a 1-2 days or 1-2 weeks depending on these factors. 


  • Dr Alex Crow, Veterinary Surgeon

    Alex Crow, VetMed MRCVS, is an RCVS accredited Veterinary surgeon with special interests in neurology and soft tissue surgery. Dr Crow is currently practicing at Buttercross Veterinary Center in England. He earned his degree in veterinary medicine in 2019 from the Royal Veterinary College (one of the top 3 vet schools in the world) and has more than three years of experience practicing as a small animal veterinarian (dogs and cats).

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