All Pets Veterinary Clinic


The pancreas is an organ that secretes enzymes that help to digest food. Inflammation
of the pancreas is called pancreatitis. While pancreatitis can occur in dogs and cats,
it is much more common in dogs. There are generally two types of pancreatitis--acute,
or short term, and chronic, or long term. The remainder of this article will look at
each, and discuss signs, diagnosis, and treatment.

Acute Pancreatitis

Signs. Acute pancreatitis occurs when the digestive enzymes leak into the
tissues surrounding the pancreas. Peritonitis is the result. An animal that has acute
pancreatitis will generally be vomiting, depressed, anorexic, dehydrated, and possibly
in shock. The animal will probably have a very painful abdomen.

Diagnosis. The initial diagnosis of acute pancreatitis is based on the clinical
signs and history. Typically, the animal has recently gotten into trash or has been fed
some sort of high fat table scraps, like left over Thanksgiving dinner! Bloodwork and
radiographs may also be done to help confirm the diagnosis.

Treatment. Treatment should be aimed at giving the GI tract rest. Thus, the
animal should not be given any food or water for several days. During this time, it
is often necessary to support the animal with IV fluids. Antibiotic therapy should also
be started.

Prevention. Since most acute pancreatitis is due to dietary indiscretion, the
best way to avoid it is to avoid giving animals too many table scraps and to discard
old food in such a manner that will keep dogs and cats out of the trash.

Chronic Pancreatitis

Signs. Chronic pancreatitis or Exocrine Pancreatic Insufficiency (EPI) can
occur when there is a loss of the normal digestive enzymes over time. This is
typically a problem in German Shepherds, but can occur in other breeds as well. As
a result of lowered enzymes, there is a decreased ability to absorb nutrients from food.
The affected animal will generally lose weight, despite a normal or increased appetite,
and have soft stool or diarrhea.

Diagnosis. Diagnosis may be difficult since there are many other things that
can cause weight loss and diarrhea. There are several tests available including the
trypsin like immunoassay (TLI) test, the plasma turbidity test, and the fecal digestion

Treatment. Once diagnosed, replacement enzymes can be given to help correct
the problem. An oral powder or pill given before each meal will help the animal to
properly digest itís food.

The information provided is for educational purposes only and is not
intended to take the place of your regular veterinarian. Please do not hesitate
to contact your regular veterinarian if you have questions regarding your pet.

Karen Blakeley, DVM, MPH
14 December 2002