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The pancreas is an organ responsible for making digestive “juice” (made up of enzymes) and hormones called insulin and glucagon that help regulate blood sugar. Digestive enzymes help break down foods.
“-itis” means “inflammation. Pancreatitis means”inflammation of the pancreas.”
Unfortunately, pancreatitis is quite common in dogs. It comes in two forms, acute and chronic. Acute means that pancreatitis comes on quickly for a specific reason, and if that reason is fixed, it goes away (or it happens spontaneously for no known reason and also resolves on its own).
Chronic usually means pancreatitis, and the problem causing it develops over time and may be more difficult to cure. This can happen when other diseases that are not curable lead to pancreatitis, or spontaneously.
Whether acute or chronic, inflammation of the pancreas usually happens the same way. In a normal pancreas, the digestive “juice” it makes stays inactive until it gets pumped into the gut, where it activates and chops up food.
In an inflamed pancreas, the digestive “juice” gets backed up in the pancreas. After getting stuck, it’s activated inside the pancreas and does exactly what it’s designed to do and digests the pancreas itself.
This can be a minor issue that self-corrects quickly, or it can be a very serious health issue — sometimes even fatal.
If you suspect your dog may have pancreatitis, tell your veterinarian immediately. Professional oversight is a must to ensure your dog has the best possible chance of recovering!
What Causes Pancreatitis?
Frustratingly, most cases of pancreatitis in dogs are “idiopathic.” This is a medical term used to mean “we’re not sure what caused it.” What we do know is that there are several known risk factors that make a dog more likely to get pancreatitis. These include:
- Breed-specific risk (Miniature Schnauzers, Yorkshire Terriers, Cocker Spaniels, Dachshunds, Poodles, and sled dogs)
- Dietary indiscretion (dogs that eat everything)
- Dogs with very high-fat content in their diet
- Dogs with very high-fat content in their bloodstream
- Severe trauma, like being struck by a vehicle
- Certain infections
- Adrenal glands that make too much cortisol (a natural steroid)
- Use of corticosteroids and certain other drugs
One thing you can do to help prevent pancreatitis in your dog is to limit the fat content of their diet and take measures to prevent them from eating things other than appropriate food or treats.
How Do I Know If My Dog Has Pancreatitis?
Pancreatitis is only possible to diagnose with special tests that your veterinarian can perform or order. The symptoms overlap with many other conditions. If your dog is showing any severe symptoms on this list, be sure to check with your vet right away. Even if it’s not pancreatitis, it’s likely a serious problem that needs to be professionally addressed.
Signs and Symptoms
- Lack of appetite
- Abdominal pain/tenderness
- Lethargy (tired, fatigued, not wanting to move as much as normal)
How Is Pancreatitis Diagnosed?
Your veterinarian may use some or all of the following to help narrow down the diagnosis of pancreatitis:
- The history of your dog’s symptoms and behavior changes
- Physical examination
- Blood tests (labs) to help look for inflammation, rule out infection, and look for pancreatic lipase immunoreactivity or PLI.
- Radiographs like X-rays to help rule out other causes for your dog’s symptoms
- Biopsy (obtaining a sample of the pancreas with a needle to look for signs of pancreatitis)
How Is Pancreatitis Treated?
Treating pancreatitis usually involves supportive care. This means doing everything possible to help your dog’s body adjust to the problem and fix it on its own. There is not a good direct treatment for pancreatitis.
Supportive care can involve the following:
- Fluid therapy to correct and prevent dehydration
- Specific therapy if the cause is known (infection, etc.)
- Nutritional support along with an anti-vomiting medication and appetite stimulant medication to help with nausea and increase appetite
- Ultra-low fat diet
- Treatment for abdominal pain
- In chronic pancreatitis cases, steroids or cyclosporine may be used
In all cases, it’s best to identify pancreatitis early and start treating complications as quickly as possible. The sooner monitoring for severe symptoms starts and the faster they are treated, the more likely your dog is to recover.
Does CBD Work For Dogs With Pancreatitis?
CBD’s role in many conditions is not as a cure, but as part of supportive care. CBD’s anti-anxiety, relaxing, and pain-relieving properties are ideal for any condition that causes undue stress, pain, and anxiety in a dog.
There is a growing body of research proving what many pet owners and veterinarians have known for years: That CBD is capable of easing pain, inflammation, and inducing a more relaxed state in dogs, and that it does so without the drawbacks of the prescription medications commonly used for pain and inflammation in dogs.
Note: Any time you start a new therapy, medicine, supplement, or nutraceutical, especially in a dog that is diagnosed with something serious like pancreatitis and/or who is using medications or other supplements, you should double-check with your veterinarian to make sure they’re aware and on board with your choice. The best thing you can do for any sick pet is to have a cooperative, communicative relationship with a caring and informed vet.
What CBD Is Best for My Dog’s Pancreatitis?
Relievet CBD oil is ideal for two reasons:
- Our CBD has weight-based dosing, meaning a minimum amount of fat from the carrier oil is introduced to your dog’s diet, meaning it is consistent with a pancreatitis ultra low-fat diet. You can use just a few drops to get a science-backed, USDA-organic grade dose as long as you buy the strength appropriate for your dog’s weight.
- Our CBD oil is specifically formulated to be absorbed through the tissue of your dog’s mouth. If your dog isn’t eating much due to their illness, they will still absorb much of the dose from our products without needing to swallow the oil. This is ideal for conditions like pancreatitis where your dog may not want to eat or swallow and still need relief.
How Much CBD Should I Give my Dog?
1-2mg/kg is an ideal dose for most dogs most of the time and is the most-studied dose in the published literature for pain and inflammation.
See more on how to dose CBD in our article on the topic here.
What Can I Expect After My Dog’s Pancreatitis Is Treated?
Dogs with mild pancreatitis can usually anticipate good outcomes. This is part of the key in noticing it early and providing immediate care. The sooner any underlying conditions are treated and supportive/symptomatic care is provided, the more likely your dog will bounce back and the lower the risk of long-term damage.
The Merck Veterinary Manual states that for serious cases, the “prognosis in severe cases of pancreatitis is guarded…in dogs…Systemic complications such as hypothermia, acidosis, hypocalcemia, and single- or multiple-organ failure are considered risk factors for a poor outcome. It can be challenging to identify severe cases early during the disease process and prevent complications in those animals.”
Bottom line? If your dog shows the signs or symptoms of pancreatitis, call your vet immediately. Cooperate and communicate with them, tell them what you’re seeing, and facilitate anything they say needs to be done quickly. After you know what’s going on and you’re told your dog needs to rest and recuperate, consider CBD as an option to enhance or augment the supportive process, giving your dog that much-needed rest to recuperate.
Pancreatitis is an inflammation of the pancreas that can be acute or chronic. While its direct cause is usually unknown, dogs at higher risk can be identified by several risk factors, including dietary indiscretion, the use of certain drugs, and certain infections. Diagnosis involves lab tests, imaging, symptom history, and physical examination, and treatment usually involves supportive care. CBD can help enhance supportive care, helping dogs rest and be more comfortable while recuperating from their illness.