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Pancreas, Pancreatitis and all the In-between

Updated: Mar 10, 2023

Dogs are carnivores. It’s worthy to note that they are also very resourceful predatory scavengers, and, as such, they can survive eating foods that are essentially detrimental to their health and longevity. Yes, in theory, your dog can live off of kibble and canned pet foods (which are extremely high in carbohydrates) and they may even appear to be quite healthy and happy on this type of diet for their first few years.

Yet one of the things that remains very clear and consistent, is the fact that the signs of degenerative disease most often appear in dogs around the age of 5-6 years old that are fed a commercial pet food diet. Unfortunately pancreatitis is one such degenerative disease.

What is Canine Pancreatitis?

Pancreatitis literally means ‘inflammation of the pancreas’. A dog that has been diagnosed with pancreatitis is essentially suffering from an inflamed pancreas that is either damaged or stressed, which prevents it from functioning properly.

But wait, what is the pancreas and what does it do anyway?


This critically needed organ is tucked in along the duodenum (the first section of the intestine), under the stomach. It’s near the liver and the transverse colon.

We are going to get a little “sciency” with a touch of Biology 2.0 so stay with me.

The pancreas has both exocrine and endocrine functions. Let’s dive a little deeper shall we? I promise, you’ll love this stuff! 🐾❤️

The Exocrine Pancreas

Exocrine functions : secretes enzymes (which help in digestion) in to digestive tract. When your dog eats, the exocrine pancreas releases both bicarbonate and digestive enzymes. Side note ~ baking soda is your household sodium bicarbonate used in a similar chemical reaction when you bake. Science really is sweet! 🤩

Bicarbonate neutralizes the highly acidic stomach contents as they move into the intestines. (REMEMBER THIS LITTLE TIDBIT WHEN WE DISCUSS FUTURE TOPICS ON “PROBIOTICS”).

Then the digestive enzymes get to work … breaking down the food so the body can absorb and use it.

The Endocrine Pancreas

The pancreas is also a vital endocrine gland. It produces 10 different hormones. The two most important ones are insulin and glucagon.

Insulin has two main jobs:

  1. It allows glucose to enter the cells that need it for energy production. (Glucose is the sugar that’s the end-product of carbohydrate and protein digestion.) This lowers blood sugar by putting it inside the cells.

  2. It promotes the storage of fat.

Glucagon is the counterbalance to insulin. Everything has a Yin and Yang. When blood sugar drops too low, glucagon stimulates fat breakdown. It also triggers liver and fat cells to release glucose and raise blood sugar levels.

So now that we know what this secreting organ is, let’s circle back to “Pancreatitis” and how to identify it.

Symptoms of Pancreatitis

  • Fever

  • Vomiting

  • Diarrhea

  • Loss of appetite (anorexia)

  • Weight loss (more common in cats)

  • Dehydration

  • Fatigue and sluggishness

  • Mild to severe abdominal pain (may become more severe after eating)

  • Depression

  • Increased heart rate

  • Difficulty breathing

What Causes Pancreatitis in Dogs?

Canine pancreatitis is usually seen in middle-aged dogs that have spent a lifetime being fed a diet mainly consisting of cooked and processed foods. Some veterinarians believe it is because high-carbohydrate based pet foods, which are hard for pets to digest, overstress the pancreas, quickly depleting its enzyme reserves.

Pets on steroid treatments (which are commonly used to treat allergies in dogs or canine arthritis) are also susceptible to developing pancreatitis, as are overweight or obese dogs. Dogs that are regularly fed table scraps, which are usually very high in fat, are also susceptible.

In the words of Dr. Edward Howell in his book "Enzyme Nutrition":

"Enzymes are substances that make life possible. They are needed for every chemical reaction that takes place in the body. No mineral, vitamin, or hormone can do any work without enzymes. Our bodies, all of our organs, tissues, and cells, are run by metabolic enzymes. They are the manual workers that build our body from proteins, carbohydrates, and fats, just as construction workers build our homes. You may have all the raw materials with which to build, but without the workers [enzymes] you cannot even begin."

Food-based enzymes are obtained from dietary sources.

These are "living foods", known to contain the exact proportions of the enzymes needed to complete the digestive process. In other words, they do not require the additional release of digestive enzyme secretions from the pancreas or gastrointestinal tract.

Foods that are rich in enzyme content are believed to help to preserve the metabolic and digestive enzymes, which become depleted with age or when the diet is compromised by an over-abundance of processed, fatty-rich, cooked and refined foods. (Read that again, it’s a critical point.)

How to Treat Pancreatitis in Dogs

The common treatment for pancreatitis in dogs is the use of medication to treat the various symptoms, such as vomiting and diarrhea. Conventional veterinarians will usually prescribe a prescription dog food or recommend feeding a bland, low fat dog food. Unfortunately, these diets are again high in carbohydrates and not very appetizing for the animal.

It has been my experience that feeding a natural, raw food diet is very beneficial when treating pancreatitis in dogs. Raw, uncooked foods contain an abundance of live, active enzymes. These living enzymes help with the digestion process, and also reduce stress on the pancreas that is forced to produce additional enzymes to break down the food. This makes a raw food diet the best dog food for pancreatitis.

Again, it’s important to remember that dogs with pancreatitis should be fed a low fat dog food in order to reduce further aggravation to the pancreas.

Benefits of Feeding Raw Pancreas

  • it's part of a balanced raw food diet (pancreas is a secreting organ/offal),

  • it can be used medicinally for dogs that have EPI (Exocrine Pancreatic Insufficiency) or pancreatitis,

  • it's FABULOUS for digestion.

Serving Amount of Pancreas for Dogs

Feed 2 ounces of raw beef pancreas for every 20lbs of body weight, two times per day. Feeding more than 2 ounces twice daily isn't recommended.

Example feeding portions:

60 pound adult dog would get 6 ounces of raw pancreas twice daily.

72 pound dog would get 7 ounces of raw pancreas twice daily.

Rawsome Pets has locally sourced Beef Pancreas! Frozen and backed in 3 convenient portion sizes for all. But wait...ELK PANCREAS IS ARRIVING April 1! No it’s not a joke, we really are offering both Beef AND elk pancreas for our #rawsome friends!

We hope you found this article informative and will continue to do your own research to better thé Life of your entire family, fuzzy and “unfuzzed”.

~Angela & The Rawsome Pets Pack🐾❤️

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