Pancreatitis in Cats and Dogs

Pancreatitis is inflammation of the pancreas, an organ in the abdomen. The pancreas has two functions.   

It produces hormones to control the amount of sugar in the body. One of these hormones is insulin. If the pancreas is not producing enough insulin, the pet will develop diabetes

The second function of the pancreas is to produce digestive enzymes. These enzymes go into the intestine to digest the food your pet eats. If there aren’t enough enzymes, a condition called pancreatic insufficiency develops.  When the pancreas becomes inflamed, your pet develops pancreatitis.

Causes of Pancreatitis

Pancreatitis can be caused by several things. Eating fatty foods can trigger it in dogs. This doesn’t usually happen in cats. Trauma, such as being hit by a car, an infection and some drugs can all be possible causes. In most cases, the cause isn’t known. 

Signs of Pancreatitis in Pets

Pets with pancreatitis are sick.  They don’t want to eat and are lethargic.  They may be dehydrated.  Dogs are often vomiting and usually have pain in their belly.  They often show the pain with a hunched back or by stretching out the front legs while keeping their butt in the air. This is called the praying position. 

Cats usually don’t vomit or have obvious pain.

Diagnosis of Pancreatitis in Pets

Diagnosing pancreatitis can be a challenge. The signs that pets show can be the same for many diseases.  Blood tests may show signs of the inflammation, but often don’t pinpoint the pancreas as the source, so imaging via ultrasound or doing a biopsy is often necessary.  

Treatment of Pancreatitis

Treatment starts with hospitalization on IV fluids. The pet is usually not given food so that the pancreas can “rest” and heal itself. Pain medicine should be given and medicine for vomiting is given, if needed.  Antibiotics may be given to prevent complications. 



Pancreatitis can be a life-threatening disease. If your pet is acting sicker than usual, see a veterinarian quickly.  Don’t feed fatty foods to your dog. If your pet has had pancreatitis, a low-fat diet may prevent a recurrence. 

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