When to Put Down a Dog with Pancreatitis (the Right Time)?

when to euthanise dog with pancreatitis

Important Note: This article has been checked and verified by a professional veterinarian for accuracy. However, you should always seek advice from your own vet before making any decisions on euthanasia as there are never black and white answers for this decision.

Before I explain when then the right time to euthanize a dog with pancreatitis is, please be aware that this is my personal opinion. The final decision is one you have to take with guidance from a vet. But, with that in mind, I hope my notes below help you make the right decision for all involved.

Bear in mind, in most instances, canine pancreatitis is treatable, despite it being a serious disease.

Euthanizing a dog with pancreatitis

When your dog starts to vomit or has occasional bouts of diarrhea, you hope they’re not coming down with something serious. The same applies when they suddenly go off their food. While these are symptoms of many illnesses that plague our dogs, you may not expect a diagnosis of pancreatitis.

When to put down a dog with pancreatitis? The right time to euthanize your dog could be when your dog’s quality of life is such that they can no longer get joy from the things they used to. If they are in pain, it’s particularly relevant to seek the impartial view of a vet.

Please note, that it’s only very serious cases of pancreatitis that lead to this point, mostly it will be treatable so don’t rush a decision without professional advice.

The right time to put down a dog with pancreatitis

When to put down a dog with pancreatitis is a question that should be discussed with your vet.

If this medical condition is caught in its early stages, your vet will try to find the underlying cause and implement a treatment plan. However, if left untreated, it can lead to severe organ failure, septic shock, and even death in extreme cases.

Read on more to find out what it means when your dog is diagnosed with pancreatitis. I’ll take you through all the signs, how your vet will diagnose it, and what you can do to help your fur-baby cope. I’ll also talk about when is the right time to put down a dog with pancreatitis.

What is pancreatitis in dogs?

Pancreatitis is a condition when the pancreas becomes inflamed. This little organ is found near the stomach and next to the liver. It plays an important role in digesting food. The pancreas also helps to control blood sugar.

The pancreas aids food to be broken down and absorbed. But, it also plays a vital role in producing a number of hormones. One of these include insulin which plays an essential role in lowering the blood sugar. Insulin also allows for efficient storage of fat.

Pancreatitis can be acute or chronic. Acute pancreatitis can be serious and lead to death if not caught in time. Chronic pancreatitis, on the other hand, is a milder condition with occasional, unpleasant flare-ups.

What triggers pancreatitis in dogs?

There are many reasons your dog could be suffering from pancreatitis. Acute pancreatitis is often brought on by a diet high in fats. While you may be feeding your dog the right diet with his kibbles, if he’s been getting hand-outs at the table, he may be getting more than his fair share of fats.

Acute pancreatitis is often seen in dogs who scavenge for food. In other words, they’re always in the bin searching for leftovers and scraps of tasty morsels you’ve thrown away from a meal.

There are a number of other things that can trigger acute or chronic pancreatitis in your dog and these include:

  • Drugs used after a surgery.
  • Certain medications to treat other medical conditions.
  • An injury or trauma to the pancreas (or other parts of the body).
  • An autoimmune disease.
  • Exposure to certain insecticides and pesticides.
  • An infection elsewhere in the body.

Overweight dogs are also known to be prone to pancreatitis. While there are a number of causes, oftentimes it’s difficult for vets to pinpoint the exact cause or triggers.

Are some dog breeds more prone to pancreatitis?

While not definitive, pancreatitis has been seen more commonly in certain breeds. Yorkshire terriers and Miniature Schnauzers are known to be prone to acute pancreatitis.

Chronic pancreatitis is more common with Cocker spaniels, boxers, collies, and Cavalier King Charles spaniels.

What are the symptoms of pancreatitis in dogs?

The symptoms vary slightly between acute and chronic conditions. With acute pancreatitis you can expect your dog to:

  • Experience intense stomach pain and hunch his back as if to protect his tummy
  • Fever and dehydration
  • Diarrhea and vomiting
  • Loss of appetite and lethargy
  • Listlessness
  • Bloody feces
  • Stretching into a “prayer” posture
  • Yawning excessively
  • Licking of the lips excessively
  • Trouble sleeping

It’s essential to get your dog to the vet as soon as these symptoms present. A severe case of pancreatitis can lead to organ failure, septic shock, and even death – if not diagnosed early, when you put your dog down with pancreatitis will need to be a quicker decision.

If your dog is prone to chronic pancreatitis, the following symptoms will present:

  • Occasional diarrhea and vomiting
  • No interest in food during flare-ups
  • Colitis (inflammation of the colon)

These flare-ups are intermittent with milder symptoms. However, your dog will be uncomfortable during these bouts. If this condition persists without any form of treatment, your dog could develop diabetes.

How is my dog diagnosed with pancreatitis?

It’s not easy for a vet to diagnose pancreatitis in your dog based on symptoms only. Your vet will also run a number of different tests. These could include an ultrasound, blood tests, and a spec-cPL test. Based on the results, your vet should be able to have a clearer picture of what is going on with your dog.

How is pancreatitis treated in dogs?

You’ll need to be extremely vigilant about what your dog is eating and your vet may put your dog onto a special, low-fat diet.

Depending on how severe your dog’s pancreatitis is, he may be hospitalized. This allows the vet to observe your dog closely and manage any dangers such as organ failure. If your dog is dehydrated, your vet may introduce intravenous fluids.

Anti-nausea and pain medication can be given to your dog to help him through flare-ups of pancreatitis. While your dog may lose his appetite, it’s always a good idea to encourage him to eat something. You could try wet dog food or even baby food.

Treatment is often supportive especially if your dog has been diagnosed with chronic pancreatitis.

When do I need to put my dog down with pancreatitis?

Every dog owner dreads the day when they have to decide when to put their dog down. While euthanizing is one of the most humane ways to end a dog’s life, it’s still very distressing. If your dog has been battling with pancreatitis, you may be thinking it’s best to put him or her down.

When to put your dog down with pancreatitis depends on a number of factors and these should always be fully discussed with your vet. These factors can include:

  • Your dog has acute pancreatitis and his organs are failing or he’s gone into septic shock.
  • Your dog is having frequent, more acute attacks causing him to lose interest in food, be in constant pain, and becoming lethargic all the time.
  • Necrotizing pancreatitis when your dog’s pancreas starts to lead to chronic conditions such as exocrine pancreatic insufficiency (EPI) or diabetes.

The age of your dog is another factor and how strong they are to manage complications caused by pancreatitis. It’s important to know that dogs with mild, infrequent cases of pancreatitis have a good prognosis and can live for many years comfortably.


Pancreatitis can only be confirmed by your vet and based on certain symptoms such as mentioned above. You may have also noticed your pooch becoming lethargic. Such symptoms should never be ignored, and you must take your dog to the vet. Your vet will need to do a full examination to confirm pancreatitis.

A diagnosis of pancreatitis can sound scary and you may be wondering what exactly this means for your special fur-baby. If your dog is very ill, you may even think about putting your dog down. This is distressing and not a decision to be taken lightly… but the good news is that in many cases, pancreatitis is treatable and manageable.

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Image in header licensed via Storyblocks.com.

Marc Aaron

I write about the things we've learned about owning dogs, the adventures we have, and any advice and tips we've picked up along the way.

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