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Symptoms of Pancreatitis in Dogs

Source: PetWave, Updated on July 16, 2015

Symptoms of Pancreatitis

The pancreas is responsible for producing and secreting a number of enzymes that are essential to the digestion of proteins, carbohydrates and fats. Other substances produced by the pancreas help to neutralize the acidic environment of the upper gastrointestinal tract. The pancreas is also responsible for making and releasing insulin into the blood stream, which facilitates the normal cellular uptake of glucose. When the pancreas becomes inflamed, it releases digestive enzymes prematurely, triggering a cascade of internal events. The signs of acute pancreatitis occur suddenly and are severe. Chronic pancreatitis normally causes more mild symptoms that wax and wane with time.

Symptoms of Pancreatitis

Owners of affected dogs may notice one or more of the following clinical signs:

    Vomiting (emesis; usually profuse)
  • Lack of appetite (inappetence; anorexia; refusal to eat)
  • Lack of thirst (refusal to drink)
  • Weight loss
  • Weakness
  • Depression
  • Lethargy
  • Diarrhea
  • Dehydration
  • Abdominal pain (usually severe and sudden in onset)
  • Tucked-up belly (“prayer position”)

These symptoms can fluctuate, be continuous, resolve on their own or flare up occasionally. As the disease progresses, one or more of the following may also occur:

  • Abnormal stool color and consistency (odd yellow color; “greasy”)
  • Swollen abdomen
  • Fever
  • Heart arrhythmias
  • Difficulty breathing (dyspnea)
  • Shock
  • Inflammation of the organs surrounding the pancreas
  • Systemic infection
  • Internal hemorrhage

Pancreatitis can be an extremely serious condition and usually requires immediate medical attention. The most severe form of the disorder, called fulminant necrotizing pancreatits, can be fatal in a matter of hours.

Dogs at Increased Risk

There is no confirmed age or sex predisposition to the development of this disease in domestic dogs, although many authorities suggest that older dogs and females are most commonly affected. Some breeds appear genetically predisposed to developing pancreatitis, particularly Miniature Schnauzers, Miniature Poodles and Cocker Spaniels. Dogs that are taking certain medication, as well as those with Cushing’s disease (hyperadrenocorticism), diabetes mellitus, hyperlipemia and/or hypothyroidism, reportedly have an increased chance of developing pancreatitis. Obese spayed females and dogs fed a fatty diet also seem predisposed.

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