How to Comfort a Dog With Pancreatitis

When your dog is suffering, it’s hard to stand by and watch it happen. You want to help your dog feel better and provide them with comfort. It is important to identify the signs that your dog is uncomfortable so that you can take action. Certain ailments your dog may face are incurable and the best way to preserve their quality of life is to do things that ease their discomfort and minimize pain.

If your dog has recently been diagnosed with pancreatitis, it is important to understand what your dog is feeling so that you can take steps to make your dog feel better. Learning how to comfort a dog with pancreatitis will ensure that your dog stays happy and pain-free despite its condition.

What is pancreatitis in dogs?

Pancreatitis is a disease in both humans and dogs. Pancreatitis is an ailment where the pancreas of your dog becomes swollen or inflamed. This inflammation can be mild or severe, but it most often affects the dog’s stomach.

No one is quite sure how pancreatitis happens in dogs, but some conditions factor in. Older dogs are far more likely to get pancreatitis. Dogs that are overweight are also more likely to suffer from pancreatitis.

Pancreatitis is often caused by a dog eating food that is high in fat. If you feed your dog an excessive amount of table scraps, they may be more likely to get pancreatitis. Bacon grease and other pure fats can trigger your dog’s pancreas to become inflamed.

Most forms of pancreatitis can go away on their own, but if your dog is continuously fed fatty foods, they may develop a severe form of pancreatitis that could result in death.

How do I know if my dog has pancreatitis?

The identifiers of pancreatitis most often are related to issues in your dog’s stomach.

  1. Dogs with pancreatitis often lose their appetite and will stop eating or will eat less. If you notice that your dog is leaving food in its bowl, it may be a good time to consult your veterinarian.
  2. Another identifier of pancreatitis is constant vomiting. If your dog is vomiting multiple times a day and not replenishing the food it has eaten, you need to call your veterinarian immediately.
  3. Another sign of pancreatitis in dogs is a tenderness of the stomach. If your dog yelps or cries when you touch their stomach, they may be experiencing discomfort from an inflamed pancreas. It can be painful for dogs to lay or put any pressure on their stomachs.
  4. If your dog shies away from being touched or won’t lay normally, you should take your dog in for an evaluation.
  5. If your dog feels too hot or too cold there may be something wrong with its health.
  6. If, in addition to vomit, your dog has diarrhea, they may need to go to the veterinarian to get fluids so they don’t become dehydrated.
  7. If your dog is sluggish or has no energy, you may want to keep an eye on their other symptoms to decide if they should see a vet.

Your veterinarian may be able to diagnose your dog based on the symptoms that they exhibit. If they are unsure, they may do a blood test or an ultrasound to see if your dog’s pancreas is swollen or inflamed.

What foods can cause pancreatitis in dogs?

The foods most likely to cause pancreatitis in dogs are those that have a high fat content. This includes cheese, processed meat such as sausages and fresh meat like pork. Both contain a high fat content and will trigger the pancreas to secrete more digestive enzymes, which will cause inflammation.

Check the nutritional content of your dog’s food. Anything over 12% fat is considered ‘high fat content’. Try to source dog food with a fat content of 7-10% as they will be much healthy and will reduce the chances of your dog’s pancreatitis flaring up.

Stop feeding table scraps if your dog is diagnosed with pancreatitis. Most human foods are cooked in oils and seasoned with salt. Both of these products will cause pancreatitis or worsen the symptoms if the dog already has the condition.

How can I help my dog with pancreatitis?

The treatment for pancreatitis in dogs can vary based on the severity of your dog’s condition. Most cases of pancreatitis in your dog are caused by underlying conditions.

If your veterinarian can identify one of these underlying causes they will treat that cause and your dog’s pancreatitis will go away. If your dog’s pancreatitis is due to a high-fat diet your dog could be put on prescription food that will help lower its fat intake.

If your dog’s case of pancreatitis is mild enough, your veterinarian may suggest that you withhold food or water from your dog for a short time to help their bodies regulate their own pancreas. In many cases there is not an effective treatment, so your veterinarian may give you options to help comfort your pet.

A veterinarian may be able to give your dog medications through injection or may decide to keep your dog on IV fluids if they have been vomiting frequently.

There are specific medications your veterinarian may suggest for your dog’s individual symptoms.  Although these options may seem severe there are many things you can do at home to help comfort your pet during this difficult time.

How to comfort a dog with pancreatitis at home

When your dog is experiencing discomfort you need to act fast to ensure the well-being of your pup. Comforting your dog at home can save money and maybe the best option if your veterinarian does not have a treatment option for your dog’s pancreatitis.

The most effective way to comfort a dog with pancreatitis is to change the feeding habits. Consider feeding your dog in smaller portions throughout the day so that the pancreas can work less hard for less time. Your dog will be able to process the food faster and your dog’s pancreas will not be forced to work overtime after large meals.

Limiting the number of table scraps in your dog’s diet greatly reduces their fat intake and therefore comforts their pancreas exponentially. Changing the food that you give your dog may also help comfort their ailment and could also improve the general health of your dog. If you notice a flare-up in your dog’s pancreas consider limiting their food so that the pancreas has time to calm down.

It has also been found in many studies that giving your dog small amounts of fish oil could help improve their pancreatic health and ease their overall discomfort. When done in small doses over time this will continue to prevent large flare-ups and your dog’s pancreas and may improve their gut’s general health.

How long does pancreatitis pain last in dogs?

The length of time a dog experiences pain from pancreatitis depends upon the severity of the condition, what medication (if any) they receive and how well their body responds to the treatment.

Mild cases usually resolve within 48 hours once treatment is administered. More serious cases may last a day or two longer.

Reducing your dog’s exercise may also help to reduce the time he spends recovering from his illness. Change his treats from processed biscuits to boiled chicken or veggie pieces like carrots or broccoli.

What can you do to ease the pain of canine pancreatitis?

A veterinarian will prescribe pain relief and anti-sickness medication to a dog diagnosed with pancreatitis.

As an owner, you can help by changing what you feed your dog. Changing on to a low-fat, low-sugar diet will reduce the inflammation caused by the condition and therefore, reduce a lot of the pain and discomfort your dog may be experiencing.

Also, consider changing from 2 main meals per day to 3 or 4 smaller meals. This will prevent your dog’s pancreas from being overstimulated.

What is the best food to feed a dog with pancreatitis?

Whether your dog is suffering pancreatitis or a symptom of an underlying medical condition, treating or managing pancreatitis is easily done with food. For sudden onset, it is best to fast the dog for 12 to 24 hours. After that, you can feed small portions of white or brown rice with boiled chicken. Pumpkin cooked and pureed is another great food for pancreatitis as it is easily digestible and provides a fast release of energy.

For dogs who are experiencing chronic pancreatitis, maintaining an easily digestible diet is best. Stick to chicken, rice, pumpkin, carrot, mashed sweet potato, oatmeal and cottage cheese. These bland ingredients provide fast-release energy, are gentle on the digestive system and are tasty which will encourage the dog to eat.

Exocrine pancreatic insufficiency in dogs

Exocrine pancreatic insufficiency (EPI) is a condition whereby a dog cannot produce sufficient enzymes to digest carbs, proteins and fats. This leads to a reduction in the absorption of nutrients, causing weight loss and other related health issues.

There are a number of causes of EPI:

  • Birth defect
  • Genetics
  • Infection of pancreas
  • Injury to pancreas

It is most commonly seen in German Shepherds and Cavalier King Charles spaniels, but any breed can be diagnosed with the condition.

Symptoms to watch for include weight loss with increased appetite, vomiting, diarrhea or soft, fatty stool.

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Hannah Elizabeth is an English animal behavior author, having written for several online publications. With a degree in Animal Behaviour and over a decade of practical animal husbandry experience, Hannah's articles cover everything from pet care to wildlife conservation. When she isn't creating content for blog posts, Hannah enjoys long walks with her Rottweiler cross Senna, reading fantasy novels and breeding aquarium shrimp.

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