Canine pancreatitis is a potentially fatal disease and is difficult to diagnose. Presenting signs are common and nonspecific, including vomiting, anorexia and abdominal pain, and they mimic those of other conditions.

Early diagnosis improves patient outcome.



Until now, pancreatitis has been difficult to diagnose and monitor for two reasons. First, clinical signs are nonspecific and include vomiting, abdominal pain, anorexia, weakness and dehydration.1 Second, routine CBC and serum chemistry results are generally nonspecific in dogs with pancreatitis.

Pancreatitis should be considered in every dog that presents with vomiting, anorexia, and/or abdominal pain.


Baseline blood work often shows elevated enzyme levels and non-specific changes, such as an elevated white blood count. A canine pancreas-specific lipase test can confirm the diagnosis.


View a comparison chart (PDF) to see the difference between the Spec cPL Test and other diagnostic methods.


The canine pancreas-specific lipase test can detect acute, chronic, and mild cases of pancreatitis. It can also be used as a monitoring and screening tool for at-risk dogs. Measuring pancreas-specific lipase concentrations could be considered in the following scenarios:

Case TypePresenting Signs
Acute/severe emergency casesSevere vomiting, anorexia, lethargy and/or abdominal pain
Mild to moderate acute casesMild or moderate vomiting, anorexia, lethargy and/or abdominal pain
Nonspecific and chronic casesIntermittent or ongoing chronic vomiting or inappetence
Recovering from pancreatitisMay be nonclinical or clinical
Monitoring for recurrence or after management (e.g., diet) changeNonclinical
Dogs on potassium bromideUsually nonclinical, but predisposed to developing pancreatitis
Dogs on other medications including some chemotherapeutics (e.g., azathiprine), furoserride, tetracycline, aspirin, sulfa antibioticsUsually nonclinical, but may be predisposed to developing pancreatitis


Hess RS, Saunders HM, Van Winkle TJ, et al. Clinical, clinicopathologic, radiographic, and ultrasonographic abnormalities in dogs with fatal acute pancreatitis: 70 cases (1986–1995). J Am Vet Med Assoc 1998;213:665–670.

Appropriate diet therapy may reduce even minimal clinical signs, such as intermittent vomiting, and may also minimize recurrence. Aggressive fluid therapy, analgesics, early enteral nutrition and entemetics are often a part of the treatment plan.


Treatment Options for Canine Pancreatitis