A Quick Overview of Everything You Need to Know About Acute Pancreatitis in Dogs

Acute pancreatitis is one of the most serious conditions that your dog can face, and you should understand the risk factors and learn to pick up on the signs that you should get your pooch to an emergency vet as soon as possible.

Here's a quick overview of everything you need to know about acute pancreatitis in dogs.

What Is Acute Pancreatitis?

The pancreas sits just behind the small intestine and the stomach, and it helps your dog digest food by producing pancreatic enzymes and glucose. Pancreatitis refers to a condition in which the pancreas becomes swollen and inflamed. In some cases, this will occur slowly—a condition known as chronic pancreatitis. However, acute pancreatitis appears suddenly. Both conditions are serious, but acute pancreatitis demands more immediate medical attention.

What Are the Risk Factors for Acute Pancreatitis?

All types of pancreatitis are more common if your dog has certain pre-existing conditions, including diabetes, Cushing's syndrome and hypothyroidism. A high-fat diet can also cause pancreatitis, as can being overweight.

However, acute pancreatitis is generally caused by a large influx of fatty foods at once, especially if fatty foods are not normally consumed. This is one reason why the condition is so common around the holidays—people like to give their dog a treat by feeding them fatty meats from their plates. Many dogs will also develop acute pancreatitis after stealing a large amount of fatty food, often from the garbage.

What Are the Signs of Acute Pancreatitis?

A dog with chronic pancreatitis will probably appear lethargic and tired, and a dog with acute pancreatitis may share those signs. However, they are also likely to exhibit more severe symptoms. Vomiting is common—your dog may seem completely unable to keep any food down. They may also experience diarrhoea.

Signs of pain are often evident, and the stomach may appear slightly swollen. To compensate for their pain, dogs will often walk in a slightly odd way, with the spine arched upwards. When lying down, they may curl up to protect their stomachs.

How Is Acute Pancreatitis Treated?

Acute pancreatitis can be fatal, so you need to get your dog to a vet as soon as possible. A medical professional will be able to screen your dog's blood and perform other tests to determine the severity of the condition. Treatment will depend on several factors, but medication and intravenous fluids will generally be provided, and your dog may have to stay in the veterinary clinic for a day or two.