What is Pancreatitis?

This is inflammation of the pancreas due to overstimulation. The pancreas is a large gland that is responsible for producing the enzymes that help digest fats and protein. When overstimulated, more enzymes than necessary are produced and they can begin to digest parts of the pancreas itself. It is very painful. In the most severe cases, bacteria from the intestinal contents can cause infection and form a pancreatic abscess. The bile duct can also be blocked, leading to a build-up of bile and liver damage. Severe cases can be fatal.

What are the signs?

Pancreatitis is most commonly associated with middle-aged and older dogs fed high fat diets and human food. Licking fat from BBQ grates and scavenging through rubbish bins have also caused previous cases.

Signs of pancreatitis include:

  • Vomiting and off food
  • Abdominal pain (tense abdomen)
  • Unsettled/uncomfortable at night
  • Yelps when picked up
  • History of fatty meal

These signs are quite common. There are also lots of other reasons for dogs to vomit and have a painful abdomen. To definitely diagnose pancreatitis, a blood test is required to measure the amount of pancreatic enzymes produced.

Treating Pancreatitis

Treatment depends on the severity of the symptoms and the blood results. Severe cases require hospitalisation and IV fluids and antibiotics. Less severe cases can be treated at home. All cases of pancreatitis must maintain a sensible, low fat diet. Some cases recover well then, when returning home, return to their previous diet and have a relapse in symptoms. Often the second time around is much more severe.


Before buying any dog food, read the back of the packet and look for the CRUDE FAT %. If you cannot find this, do not buy the food. DRY FOOD is better to use because the crude fat % is the amount of fat in dry matter. In tinned food (wet food) there is less dry matter, so the amount of fat per tin depends more on how wet the food is than how lean the feed is! The lower the crude fat % the better for long term health of pancreatitis patients. Below 5% is what we aim for. Hills’ I/d or Waltham’s intestinal support are recommended.

PS. Low fat treats are still ok, but only in moderation. Low fat Rice Crackers (plain flavour) taste good, but always check the packet for fat content.