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Pancreatitis is a Serious Medical Condition in Dogs and Cats      

Dr. Al Townshend

Pancreatitis is a medical condition caused by inflammation of the pancreas. It is an all-too-common problem for dogs and cats that can be life-threatening. While the symptoms are similar in both the canine and feline, the causes and treatment are different.

Part of the pancreas is concerned with controlling blood glucose and insulin production. The most common problem with that part of the pancreas is diabetes. The rest of the pancreas produces digestive enzymes essential in breaking down protein, fat, and carbohydrates. When too many enzymes are made, they can damage the pancreas.

Signs of Pancreatitis

Initially, the signs of pancreatitis are acute and can be severe. Symptoms can include pain, vomiting, diarrhea, apprehension, and discomfort can alert the Guardian to a problem requiring their veterinarian. Costly hospitalization and intense critical care are often needed to resolve the crisis. A close working relationship with a trusted veterinarian is essential.

Once the condition has occurred the first time, there is an increased risk of reoccurrence if precautions are not taken.


Certain breeds have an increased genetic risk of pancreatitis; the Miniature Schnauzer, Miniature Poodle, and Cocker Spaniel. Additionally, pancreatitis is more common in middle-aged to older dogs, overweight dogs, and females. Excessively fat foods and treats are common causes in dogs, which frequently increases the cases of pancreatitis around holidays and other celebrations.

Canine Support

Guardians must understand that the condition can reoccur, especially in certain breeds and overweight pets.

  • Overweight and obese pets should be on a strict weight management regimen regarding diet and exercise. Getting weight off and maintaining a slightly lean body condition is the most crucial thing a Guardian can do to reduce the risk of a reoccurrence.
  • All dogs that have suffered from pancreatitis need to be on low-fat diets, including both food and treats. Many low-fat foods and treats are available to feed and use as toppers in dry, wet, and even raw and almost raw (freeze-dried and dehydrated) types of food. Lower fat meat sources such as fish, chicken, and turkey are also good considerations.
  • Often, frequent smaller meals help reduce the threat of a reoccurrence.
  • Regular daily exercise encourages normal metabolism, production, and utilization of the digestive enzymes causing the problem.
  • Supplementing can speed recovery and should be given for the long term to reduce the risk of the problem reoccurring. 
    • Many believe that pancreatic digestive enzyme supplements (amylases, proteases, and cellulases) can reduce the need for the pet’s pancreas to produce excess and make the pet more resistant to a reoccurrence. 
    • Pre and probiotics can improve digestion and reduce the risk of reoccurrence. Probiotics and digestive enzymes are a great combination to improve digestion and prevent a reoccurrence of pancreatitis.
    • Omega 3 fatty acids in fish oils, coconut oil, hemp seed oils, and CBD oils may seem counterintuitive at first because of their high-fat content. Still, Omega 3s can help lower blood lipid levels. A small amount of any one at about half normal levels is thought to be helpful. Check out our selection in-store and online.
    • Vitamin C, vitamin E, beta-carotene, and methionine may help prevent pancreatitis.
    • Milk thistle, slippery elm, and other natural herbs and spices that reduce inflammation and support the immune system can increase resistance and protect against reoccurrence.


There does not appear to be any specific genetic or age risk for cats, although it is most commonly seen in middle-aged domestic short-haired cats. It is not as common in overweight cats as it is in dogs. Diet does not seem to play a role in causing the problem. Most believe that other medical conditions such as inflammatory bowel disease, liver or bile disease increase the risk of pancreatitis in cats.

Feline Support

Feline pancreatitis is a severe condition that in most cases requires hospitalization and intensive therapy to save the kitty. Eating is essential during hospitalization and at home. Liver disease and liver failure are common in cats suffering from pancreatitis and who do not eat. 

  • Highly digestible, highly palatable protein-focused nutrition is key. Frequent smaller meals can reduce the risk of vomiting. Grain-free wet foods and toppers, raw and almost raw (freeze-dried and dehydrated) foods, are all foods to consider.
  • Maintaining hydration is also essential.
  • Balanced vitamin and mineral supplements containing vitamin B12, B complex, folic acid, and cobalamin help stimulate appetite and support digestion and absorption of nutrients.
  • Probiotics supplements can improve digestion and absorption of nutrients and support the immune system.
  • Supplements that support the liver and gallbladder can improve recovery, help correct other issues, and reduce the risk of reoccurrence.
  • Fish oil or hemp seed oil supplements can improve palatability, reduce inflammation, and support immune and overall health.
  • Milk Thistle, slippery elm, and other natural herbs and spices that reduce inflammation and support the immune system can increase resistance and protect against reoccurrence.


Pancreatitis can be a terrible disease for both the pet and the Guardian family. It is a painful condition that can lower the quality of life and be fatal, especially for cats. The condition is expensive to treat and can be an emotional toll on the family. Making the best choices is essential for these pets’ recovery and long-term help.

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