Pet Columns, Office of Public Engagement, College of Veterinary Medicine at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

U of I logoCollege of Veterinary Medicine

Back to search page.

Unbalanced Diet, Table Scraps Can Cause Pancreatitis in Dogs


Pet Column for the week of March 14, 1994


Office of Public Engagement
2001 S. Lincoln Ave.
Urbana, Illinois 61802
Phone: 217/333-2907
By Linda March
Information Specialist

Pancreatitis is one disease that emphasizes how important it is to feed your pet a
well-balanced diet of pet food, and to keep the animal away from table scraps and
garbage. Pancreatitis is a severe inflammation of the pancreas, an organ that aids in
digestion of food.

According to Dr. Lisa Down, a veterinarian formerly at the University of Illinois College of
Veterinary Medicine in Urbana, "a dog with pancreatitis may suddenly vomit, become
dehydrated, be lethargic and may have diarrhea. Of course these signs are common to
many disease processes, which makes diagnosis of pancreatitis difficult."

"A good history from the owner is very important," she notes. High amounts of fat in the
diet, a high-fat meal, or the dog getting into the garbage may cause pancreatitis. Pesticides
and some drugs' side effects are manifested as pancreatitis. There is a higher incidence of
this disease among miniature Schnauzers and in obese animals. If any of these apply to your
pet, let your veterinarian know.

Normally the pancreas makes digestive enzymes in an inactive form. These are changed to
the active form when they enter the small intestine. When a dog, or less commonly a cat,
develops pancreatitis, the active enzyme is made in the pancreas and the organ digests itself.
The damage to the pancreas may lead to diabetes and loss of some liver function.

"Once the pet is diagnosed with pancreatitis, the intestinal tract must be rested, so all food
and water are withheld from the dog for a time," explains Dr. Down. "If the pet is
dehydrated, intravenous fluids may be given. Pain medication may also be administered."
The animal normally responds to treatment in a few days and can gradually be put back on
food.

It is important to slowly introduce an easily digestible diet to avoid diarrhea.

If the dog has repeated episodes of acute pancreatitis or has signs of diabetes, the problem
may be chronic pancreatitis. Acute pancreatitis has a more sudden onset, but doesn't last as
long. There is little or no permanent damage to the organ. In the chronic form of the
disease, the pancreas does undergo permanent damage and possible loss of function.

If you have any questions about pancreatitis, contact your local veterinarian.