Quality of Life for a Dog with Pancreatitis

My 10 year-old otherwise healthy terrier mix has been diagnosed with Pancreatitis. He's already been in the hospital for 2 days and recovery is off and on. He eats, then no appetite. Symptoms go, he seems better then they return. Does this have an end and a return to quality of life? What is the reality for his future? I do not want to drag things out and I don't have the funds to keep up recurring supportive care, visits, etc. Thank you for what you do.

Usually with therapy, a low fat diet and careful monitoring many dogs can recover and have a normal quality of life with Panreatititis. It can be a challenging diagnosis because so many other factors can influence the clinical signs that establish the diagnosis. A diagnosis of pancreatitis is often given because of vomiting and nausea—but other factors can influence the intestines and the specific canine pancreatic lipase (spec cPL) level in dogs that are ill.  Gold standard for the diagnosis is a biopsy of the pancreas but most of us veterinarians agree the risks and cost can strongly outweigh the benefit of such a procedure. So, that is not justified in ill animals—particularly when there are cost concerns.  Many veterinarians then will use Ultrasound, clinical signs and history as well as the spec cPL test to help with their diagnosis.  I would recommend a board certified radiologist do the ultrasound of your pet's abdomen and pancreas, and that you share with your veterinarian concerns about cost and longevity so your questions can be answered in your particular case.

—Merrianne Burtch, DVM, DACVIM, Internal Medicine Specialist