"Learning more about the most common pancreatic problems in the dog

"Learning more about the most common pancreatic problems in the dog

Health & Safety

The pancreas is an important bodily organ, both for dogs and for people. It is classed as a glandular organ, and forms an integral part of the wider digestive system as part of hormone production. Some of the core hormones produced in the pancreas include glucagon, polypeptide and of course, insulin, which anyone who is familiar with diabetes will be very much aware of.

The pancreas also secretes digestive acids and enzymes, which help the dog’s body to process and absorb vital nutrients, such as carbs, lipids and proteins. While the pancreas is all running properly and is in good health and doing everything that it should, it will probably not be something that the average dog owner gives much thought to; but when something goes wrong with the pancreas, this can lead to a much wider range of problems with a whole range of different implications, some of which can be very serious.

Some of the most common and widely known issue that can affect the pancreas include pancreatitis and diabetes, as well as pancreatic insufficiency syndrome.

It is a good idea for all dog owners to build up a basic understanding of these three most common of pancreatic conditions, in order to be able to identify early on if something is amiss, and know how to deal with it. Read on to learn more about some of the most common pancreatic problems in the dog.


Diabetes mellitus is perhaps the most widely known and commonly recognised condition that can affect the pancreas, and most people are at least peripherally aware of the condition, even if they do not really know what it involves.

The pancreas is, as mentioned, the organ of the body that produces insulin, which is what the body uses to regulate the glucose levels of the blood and keep everything working smoothly.

Diabetes comes in two forms; type one, in which the pancreas simply does not produce enough insulin in the first place, while type two means that the pancreas does produce insulin, but the body is not able to use it effectively.

Dogs that develop diabetes will need careful monitoring and correction of their natural blood/sugar levels and insulin production, as well as potentially, supplementary administration of insulin and a special diet.

Some of the core symptoms of canine diabetes include:

  • A continual thirst, and desire to drink more water.
  • An increased need to urinate as a result of this.
  • Poor coat condition and possibly, thin, fragile skin.
  • Sudden weight loss, despite a normal appetite.
  • Dehydration.
  • Potentially, vomiting or general sickness.

Diabetes can affect any dog, although it is more common in older dogs, and dogs that are overweight.

Diabetes can affect dogs at any age, but older dogs and dogs that are obese are at higher risk. Certain breeds of dog also seem to be more prone to developing diabetes than others too, such as the Bichon Frise.


Pancreatitis is another of the more common conditions to affect the pancreas, which causes the pancreas to become inflamed and painful, and the digestive enzymes produced by the pancreas itself naturally actually begin to attack the pancreas. Pancreatitis can be either acute, which means that it develops suddenly and quickly, or chronic, which refers to a more long-term condition that is slower to develop.

Pancreatitis is another disorder that is much more common in dogs that are overweight or fed a very fatty diet, and also, mature and elderly dogs are the most likely to be affected.

The symptoms of pancreatitis in the dog can include vomiting, oily or greasy stools, loos of appetite and a painful abdomen that may be taut and hard as well.

There is no way to actually cure pancreatitis properly or permanently, and management of the condition usually involves managing the pain and any side effects of flare-ups, feeding a balanced diet, and minimising the chances of further flare-ups from occurring, as stress and upset can make things worse.

Dogs that have suffered from one bout of pancreatitis, or have had any form of abdominal surgery are also more likely to suffer from related problems again in the future.

Exocrine pancreatic insufficiency

Finally, exocrine pancreatic insufficiency is a condition that occurs when the pancreas of the dog does not produce enough of the necessary digestive enzymes to successfully process their food and gain adequate nutrition from it, and this comes accompanied by a range of symptoms.

Signs to look out for include a dry, flaky coat that may appear brittle or fragile to the touch, weight loss, and other digestive problems such as soft stools or diarrhoea, or stools that are an unusual colour. Your dog might also be particularly gassy, which is one symptom that you are highly unlikely to miss!

Left unchecked, exocrine pancreatic insufficiency can lead to the destruction of the pancreas itself, which can often lead to an acute problem that results in a veterinary emergency.

Providing that the condition is caught in time, a change of diet, medication and supplements can all help to support normal pancreatic function.

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