The pancreas is an organ located near the liver. It has two major functions:
Pancreatitis means inflammation of the pancreas. Pancreatitis can be acute (sudden onset) or chronic (evolving over a long period). There are links between these two forms of the disease. On the one hand, dogs with chronic pancreatitis can experience episodes of acute pancreatitis, and on the other hand, repeated episodes of acute pancreatitis can lead to chronic pancreatitis.
In the case of chronic pancreatitis, the lesions progress over time and can irreversibly alter the function of the pancreas. This can lead to pancreatic exocrine insufficiency (in case of impaired function 1) or diabetes mellitus (in case of impaired function 2).
The reason why pancreatitis develops is often unknown. However, certain contributing factors may be present such as obesity, the consumption of fatty foods, hormonal diseases, the taking of certain medications. Pancreatitis is reported more frequently in breeds like Miniature Schnauzer, Dachshund, Miniature Poodle, Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, Cocker Spaniel and Yorkshire Terrier.
Although acute and chronic pancreatitis are sometimes linked, the clinical signe are usually different.
The clinical signs of acute pancreatitis appear suddenly, including vomiting, loss of appetite, depression and severe abdominal pain. The severity of the clinical signs can vary greatly from one case to another. Some dogs require hospitalization in intensive care. The inflammation can be completely reversible.
In the case of chronic pancreatitis, clinical signs such as vomiting, loss of appetite and depression are intermittent. Even if symptoms resolve, inflammation may continue to progress quietly.
The diagnosis is not always easy to make, especially for chronic pancreatitis. It is based on the combination of several elements such as anamnesis, clinical signs, exclusion of other diseases and abdominal ultrasound.
Treatment is primarily symptomatic, involving management of pain, nausea/vomiting, dehydration, and refeeding until completely resolved. It is important to start treatment as soon as possible, this improves the chances of recovery. The elimination, immediate or later, of a possible contributing factor is also part of the treatment. The severity of the clinical signs as well as the prognosis are very variable.
In the most severe cases, various complications can darken the prognosis. But in the majority of cases, if the treatment is put in place quickly, the prognosis is generally good.
Dr Emilie Vangrinsven
Diplomate from European college of veterinary internal medicine | PhD U-Liège
Assistant at the Liege University in the university clinic for PETs | Author and co-author of numerous scientific publications