Prognosis for Pancreatitis in Dogs

A pug is digging through the trash and mud.
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Canine pancreatitis can prove fatal or it can be a one-time or chronic occurrence. Your dog's prognosis depends on several factors, especially whether he suffered an acute attack of pancreatic inflammation or his condition is chronic. With dietary changes and careful management, the latter can mean a better prognosis. However, as the American Kennel Club Canine Health Foundation warns, "Pancreatitis can be a very unpredictable disease."

Acute Canine Pancreatitis

Acute pancreatitis might result from raiding the trash, trauma, reaction to medication -- or for no specific reason. Whether your dog experiences the acute or chronic form of the disease, he's likely to display similar symptoms. These include vomiting and diarrhea, appetite loss, lethargy, dehydration, breathing issues and abdominal pain. A key sign involves your pet in the "praying position," with his hind end up and his head and forelegs down. Get your dog to the vet immediately if you suspect he has pancreatitis. Without treatment, his prognosis is poor.

Acute Pancreatitis Treatment and Prognosis

There's no cure for the condition, so treatment consists of supportive care, including pain medication and intravenous fluids. Your vet will allow your dog's system to rest for several days before he's permitted to eat again. Mild pancreatitis usually responds to treatment, but if your dog's condition progresses to the hemorrhagic form, he could go into shock and succumb to the disease. Multiple organ failure can occur. Once your dog has gone through a bout of pancreatitis, you want to ensure it never happens again. Keep him at a healthy weight, as fat dogs are more prone to pancreatitis. Avoid giving him table scraps and feed a low-fat, veterinarian-recommended diet.

Chronic Pancreatitis

A dog recovered from acute pancreatitis might develop chronic pancreatitis, which ranges from attacks indistinguishable from the acute phase of the disease to general mild discomfort. Each recurrence, severe or mild, does further damage to the pancreas. Prognosis can depend on whether the dog suffers from any other diseases, including diabetes or inflammatory bowel disease.

Chronic Pancreatitis Treatment and Prognosis

In addition to a low-fat diet, your vet might recommend adding digestive enzymes to your dog's food to treat or avoid pancreatic insufficiency. Canines with this condition can't digest nutrients from their meals, and literally starve even though they're eating plenty of food. He'll require this additive for the rest of his life. Dogs with mild, chronic pancreatitis can have a good prognosis with careful management, but the prognosis for any animal with severe pancreatitis is "guarded," according to the Merck Veterinary Manual.