Pancreatitis in Dogs | Paleo Ridge

Pancreatitis in Dogs

15th October 2020

Pancreatitis occurs when the pancreas becomes inflamed. This causes the digestive enzymes produced by the pancreas, to leak into the abdomen, when this happens digestive enzymes attack surrounding tissues and organs. The inflammation this causes is extremely painful for your dog.

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What Causes Pancreatitis In Dogs?

Pancreatitis is a condition that leads to inflammation of the pancreas. Symptoms can range in severity from quite mild to very serious. A common risk factor is an extremely high fat intake, that causes acute inflammation of the pancreatic tissue. Scavenging is another common risk factor. It is clear that there are a range of factors that contribute to the development of pancreatitis.

Pancreatitis can be either acute or chronic, meaning that it may present itself either with no previous symptoms (acute), or can develop slowly over time and flare up repeatedly as a recurring condition (chronic). Symptoms may develop quickly in affected dogs. Your dog is at greater risk of pancreatitis if they already suffer from one of the following:

  • autoimmune disease
  • infections such as Babesia Canis or Leishmania
  • concurrent hormonal diseases (diabetes, hypothyroidism, hypercalcemia)
  • cushing’s disease
  • cancer
  • certain drugs (sulfa antibiotics, seizure medications, chemotherapy)

There are other factors than contribute to the onset of acute or chronic pancreatitis:

  • existing medical conditions including diabetes, hyperthyroidism, epilepsy or cushing’s disease may lead to higher risk factors for pancreatitis in dogs
  • obesity can contribute to pancreas issues, this is due to altered fat metabolism in obese dogs
  • a physical trauma to the abdomen or area surrounding the pancreas may trigger pancreatitis
  • bacterial or viral infections, especially when left untreated for long time, can lead to pancreatitis
  • metabolic problems can lead to a condition known as hyperlipemia, which means that fat cannot properly be broken down in the bloodstream. This in turn can lead to pancreatitis

Pancreatitis occurs when the pancreas becomes inflamed. This causes the digestive enzymes produced by the pancreas to leak into the abdomen, when this happens digestive enzymes attack surrounding tissues and organs. The inflammation this causes is extremely painful for your dog. This usually results in nausea, lack of appetite, vomiting, abdominal pain and sometimes diarrhoea.

While pancreatitis can affect any breed, age or sex of dog, there is a higher prevalence of pancreatitis in Cocker Spaniels, Dachshunds, Miniature Schnauzers, Poodles and Yorkshire Terriers.

Currently there is no treatment available that cures pancreatitis, but your vet will establish a clear path of treatment that is supportive and includes pain management. Pancreatitis is confirmed with certain blood tests carried out by your vet. This will check the levels of digestive enzymes in the blood. In healthy dogs, normal levels are around 200 or less. A dog suffering an acute or chronic attack can have levels between 1000 and 2000.

Read more here Guest Blog: Raw Feeding Cured My Dog's Pancreatitis

The Pancreas

The pancreas is a vital organ that lies on the right side of the abdomen adjacent to the stomach. The pancreas produces enzymes to assist in food digestion and hormones such as insulin, which regulates blood sugar or glucose metabolism. The digestive enzymes are secreted into the small intestine and the hormones enter the bloodstream. The pancreas is the main digestive organ of the body. Whilst a small percentage of the pancreas produces hormones that regulate blood sugar; around 95% of it produces enzymes for digestion.

Enzyme functions:

  • amylase digests carbohydrates
  • lipase digests fat
  • protease digests protein

These critical enzymes travel to the small intestine to aid in digestion. If the pancreas becomes inflamed, enzymes are released before they have a chance to get to the small intestine, this causes inflammation to the pancreas and surrounding area. These digestive enzymes can also begin to digest the pancreas itself, causing severe pain in your dog.

Acute Pancreatitis in Dogs

Acute pancreatitis refers to the rapid onset of inflammation, this causes the pancreas to swell and leak digestive enzymes into surrounding tissues. Acute pancreatitis presents rapidly with no previous symptoms. In some cases a cause can be identified, but in most no direct cause is established. This condition is extremely painful for your dog and could cause very serious issues if left untreated. Acute pancreatitis can be a life-threatening emergency, it is essential to act quickly to establish a course of action with your vet. Currently there is no treatment available that cures pancreatitis, but your vet will establish a clear path of treatment that is supportive and includes pain management.

Symptoms can include

  • loss of appetite
  • weakness and lethargy
  • blood in faeces
  • excessive water consumption, especially if followed by vomiting
  • fever
  • dehydration
  • diarrhea
  • nausea and vomiting
  • weakness and lethargy

Most dogs recover without any long-term consequences. Some dogs may only suffer one attack of acute pancreatitis in their lifetime, and never be affected again. Others may experience multiple attacks over time with rapid onset. It is important to note any potential triggers in the fight to prevent any further episodes. If your dog is exhibiting signs of acute pain along with some of the symptoms listed about, you should call you vet straight away.

Chronic Pancreatitis in Dogs

Your dog may develop a chronic pancreatitis. This differs from acute attacks as it happens slowly over time. It usually only becomes apparent once the pancreas has been sufficiently damaged and symptoms start to show. It can produce intermittent mild signs of illness, such as:

  • occasional vomiting
  • colitis
  • lack of appetite
  • intermittent diarrhea

Most dogs recover without any long-term consequences. However, with severe or repeated episodes of pancreatitis, one or more of the following problems may develop:

  • if a significant number of cells that produce insulin are destroyed, diabetes mellitus can result
  • if a significant number of cells that produce digestive enzymes are destroyed, a lack of proper food digestion may follow. This is known as exocrine pancreatic insufficiency (EPI) and can be treated with daily administration of an enzyme replacement powder
  • in rare cases, painful adhesions between the abdominal organs may occur as a consequence of pancreatitis

Dogs with chronic pancreatitis are more likely to develop the secondary conditions listed above. Management of these conditions is a very important factor in treatment success. If your dog is exhibiting signs of acute pain along with some of the symptoms listed about, you should call you vet straight away.

What do I feed?

It is generally advised to feed low fat raw dog food as part of the recovery for pancreatitis. It is essential to remove carbs from the diet, this will reduce stress on the pancreas and help it to recover. It is clear from emerging research that fat is not the enemy, but the type of fat and how it affects the levels of blood fats. If your dog is just switching to raw, having suffered acute or chronic pancreatic, it may not be necessary at all to restrict fat content. We do advise low fat if your dog is currently experiencing pancreatitis. Once fully recovered, slowly introduce other flavours and monitor for signs of pancreatitis.

Paleo Ridge have an extensive range of low fat raw dog food, starting at 4% fat. Generally anything under 8% is considered low fat.

These are just a few of our low fat options:

Classic Turkey (1kg)

Classic Lamb Tripe and Turkey (1kg)

Paleo Plus Lamb & Mint (500g)

Ground Breaking Research

Ground breaking recent research carried out by veterinarian and researcher Mark Roberts, in conjunction with K9 Naturals at the Massey university in New Zealand, had turned current thinking on its head.

Science says…

Research headed up by K9 Naturals in-house Nutritionist Mark Roberts, at New Zealand’s Massey University put pen to paper on whether a high-fat diet indeed leads to pancreatitis. Over eight weeks, they compared the levels of triglyceride blood fats of dogs eating high-fat diets, versus dogs consuming high-carbohydrate diets. At the researches conclusion, the high-fat group showed lower levels of blood fats than the high-carb group. Furthermore, the research measured a key marker of pancreatitis in dogs called pancreatic lipase – and showed that dogs eating lots of animal fats all had levels within the normal healthy range. Maybe it’s the type of fat rather than its quantity which determines the risk of pancreatitis?

So… How can a low-fat, high-carb diet cause high levels of blood fat?

Food is fuel

It’s all down to how a dog’s body processes fat and carbs. Carbs are broken down to glucose – or sugar – which dog’s store in their body, eventually raising blood fat. Fats, on the other hand, are used by dogs as a source of energy – so when your pup is bounding around the park it’s burning them off, meaning they don’t make much of an impact on glucose levels.

Fattening up

Fancy that! Not all fat is as naughty as we might think and animal fats especially even have health benefits for our precious pooches. That’s one of the reasons K9 Natural only uses 100% raw animal ingredients – high in fats and protein and low in carbohydrates.

The diet we offer is just as nature intended and is backed up by a healthy dose of scientific research. We’ve got to hand it to our furry friends and trust their instincts… it turns out they know best!


With health trends on the rise globally, busting the myth that ‘fat makes you fat’ is a serious point of discussion. Most understand that the fat you eat doesn’t automatically settle itself as fat tissue in the body anymore than eating more protein will build body-builder worthy muscles. But does this myth translate to our furry friends? We again put instinct vs. domestication head to head with research for the truth. Domestic dogs evolved from their wild wolf ancestors around 15,000 years ago. Back then, they were well and truly living off the land, eating raw meat full of protein and fat – there’s that F word! – and low in carbs. Essentially consuming a diet where fat was the dominant energy source, but not just any fat – animal fat. You see, like sugar, not all fats are created equal. Just like consuming a bag of sweets from the seven eleven isn’t on the same level of sugar as an apple, fat derived from animals is not on the same level as butter. Think of animal fats for dogs like salmon is for us humans – healthy, nutritious and full of fuel for our body.

However, not only are fats a contentious topic for fear of developing a pudgy pooch, many fur parents worry about the risk of developing pancreatitis when feeding a diet high in fat.

Research carried out by Veterinarian and researcher, Mark Roberts in conjunction with K9 Naturals, at the Massey university in New Zealand.

Further Reading

14th July 2021

The Raw Feeding Veterinary Society Ltd (RFVS) would like to reassure its members and followers and, in particular, its colleagues in first opinion veterinary practices, that the article published in the media on Saturday 10th July should not give undue cause for alarm.

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13th July 2021

PFMA is aware of research from a team at the University of Porto and Lisbon focusing on a potential link with raw meat diets for dogs and drug resistant bacteria in dogs.

Whilst the dog food products tested were selected from the Portuguese market, as this was covered in the UK press, PFMA would like to provide reassurance and guidance to UK pet owners.

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