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By Dani Charba, CVT |


This article will give you some basic knowledge on what pancreatitis is, clinical signs you may see at home, how we diagnose pancreatitis, and treatment for your pet. Pancreatitis is an acute (more commonly seen in dogs) or chronic (more commonly seen in cats) inflammatory condition of the pancreas. The pancreas has two major functions, to secrete enzymes that break down nutrients a pet eats, and to secrete insulin (how to use the nutrients a pet eats). (Brooks)

Clinical Signs/ Causes

Some of the most common signs or symptoms that you may see at home include but are not limited to:

  • Vomiting

  • Diarrhea

  • Appetite loss

  • Painful abdomen

  • Weakness

  • Fever

  • Lethargy

  • Dehydration

  • Or a combination of any of these

While these clinical signs/ symptoms can be related to other conditions, pancreatitis may be one of the add-on tests that your doctor recommends based on clinical signs and previous diagnostics evaluated. Below I will go into more detail on the diagnostics used to diagnose pancreatitis. (Steiner)

Causes of pancreatitis can range and sometimes be idiopathic (unexplained). Some causes could be:

  • Trauma to the pancreas from surgical procedure that caused inflammation and eventually pancreatitis.

  • Meals too high in fat can cause pancreatitis- while we love to give out babies treats and snacks many table scraps are high in fat, so try to limit or withhold from feeding human food!

  • Obesity- can be at higher risk due to altered fat metabolism.

  • Some breeds are predisposed to pancreatitis- most commonly Miniature Schnauzers.


The first step to a diagnosis of pancreatitis is blood work because it can tell us the most about organ function. Some of the blood tests that can be run include:

  • Complete Blood Count (CBC)

    • Evaluate the white blood cells, red blood cells, platelets, hemoglobin, and hematocrit. Most commonly done with chemistry.

  • Chemistry (Serum Biochemistry)

    • Evaluate the organs and system's functional capacity. If lipase and amylase values are increased your veterinarian may recommend doing a cPL or fPL to verify if your pet has pancreatitis. Most commonly done with CBC.

  • Pancreatic Lipase Immunoreactivity (PLI/SNAP cPL or fPL)

    • Evaluate a pancreas-specific lipase value and will give either a normal or abnormal reading for the pancreas. This test can be done in clinic at CBAH with results in about 15 minutes.

Another diagnostic tool that may be utilized by your veterinarian is imaging, more specifically radiographs and ultrasound.

  • Radiographs

    • While it can be difficult to diagnose pancreatitis with radiographs, sometimes we can see a widening of the duodenum against the stomach indicating that the pancreas is swollen. Most likely we would choose to do blood work prior to radiographs to better confirm pancreatitis.

  • Ultrasound

    • Ultrasound can provide a better view of the pancreas and other organs around the pancreas to check for swelling or any abnormalities. While on a normal ultrasound it can be difficult to see the pancreas however if your pet has pancreatitis an ultrasonographer may be able to see it more easily. (Steiner)


Early diagnosis of pancreatitis can lead to successful management and treatment. Some treatments that may be offered may include:

  • Fluid Therapy- your pet may be hospitalized with us for 1-3 days and kept on intravenous fluids to help balance electrolytes and maintain normal hydration.

  • Analgesics- medications for pain control

  • Antiemetics- medications to help with any vomiting or stomach cramping

  • Antidiarrheals- medications for controlling diarrhea

  • Antibiotics

  • Anti-inflammatories

  • Appetite Stimulants- if your pet is not eating we may send home medications to stimulate them to eat

  • Gastrointestinal Food- low in fat and very bland to help soothe the stomach

Some or all of these treatments may be offered to you depending on the clinical signs and severity of your pet.(Ward)

The prognosis of your pet depends on the severity of pancreatitis that they have been diagnosed with. Most dogs and cats with mild pancreatitis can recover with treatment, but may still have pancreatitis flare-up in the future if they eat something too high in fat or are predisposed to pancreatitis.


Inflammation of the pancreas is known as pancreatitis and can have many different symptoms/clinical signs. Some of the most common are vomiting, diarrhea, fever, appetite loss, and lethargy. If one or more of these symptoms are noted in your pet your veterinarian may want to run blood work with a pancreatitis test added on. Many things can contribute to pancreatitis including foods high in fat, obesity, trauma, or predisposition to pancreatitis. Treatment can be a range of things depending on the severity of pancreatitis and what symptoms your pet is showing. If you have concerns about your pet or think they may have pancreatitis you should schedule with your vet as soon as you can to get them further evaluated.


Brooks, W. DVM. “Pancreatitis in Dogs”, Veterinary Information Network, Inc., Accessed February 25, 2022.

Steiner, Jorg. DVM. “Pancreatitis in Dogs and Cats”, Merck Veterinary Manual, Accessed February 23, 2022.

“Pancreatitis in dogs”, North Downs Specialist Referrals, Accessed February 25, 2022.

Xenoulis, P. DVM. “SNAP Tests for Pancreatitis in Dogs and Cats: SNAP Canine Pancreatic Lipase and SNAP Feline Pancreatic Lipase” Elsevier ScienceDirect, Accessed Febraury 25, 2022.

Ward, E. DVM. “Pancreatitis in Dogs”, VCA Animal Hospitals, Accessed February 23, 2022.

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