Posted on: June 18, 2020 Posted by: Petsynse Comments: 0
Pancreatic cancer in dogs

The pancreas is a small organ at the backside of the large intestine. It is responsible to secrete juice called pancreatic juice that helps in digestion and maintaining the blood sugar level. The pancreas has two types of cells such as exocrine and endocrine cells. The exocrine cells produce enzymes while the endocrine cells produce a hormone that aids indigestion. The dog would not be able to break down food if the pancreas is not functioning properly.   


Pancreatic tumor:


Pancreatitis is a condition in which the pancreas which is a small organ at the backside of the large intestine and stomach gets inflamed and swollen due to excessive growth of cells. Pancreatic tumors are divided into two groups:


Exocrine tumors: 

These are tumors that originate from external cells. They are further divided into two types:

  1. Adenomas: these are non-cancerous
  2. Adenocarcinomas: these types of tumors are cancerous.
  3.  Endocrine tumors:
  4. These types of tumors are caused by internal cells.
  5. Pancreatic Abscesses: It is a collection of pus near the pancreas. It is said to be complicated pancreatitis. In some conditions, a mass can be felt in the dog’s abdomen. It leads to vomiting, stomach pain, diarrhea.
  6. Pancreatic pseudocyst: This is a medical condition when there is a collection of sterile pancreatic fluid enclosed by a tissue wall. This condition also refers to complications in the inflammation in the pancreas. The common sign is vomiting. The cyst can be easily seen in the ultrasound. Fluid from the cyst is withdrawn as part of its treatment. Surgery is required if the pseudocyst does not decrease in size.


Symptoms of pancreatitis:

If you witness the following mentioned symptoms in your dog. Do not waste time because your pet might have pancreatitis which can be fatal depending upon its severity. Few visible symptoms are as follows:


  • Weight loss
  • Diabetes mellitus (it is a condition when sugar starts to accumulate in the blood)
  • Icterus (it is the presence of jaundice in the sclera of the eye)
  • Vomiting
  • Ascites (a condition when fluids are accumulated in the peritoneal cavity)
  • Abdominal distension 
  • Depression


Non-clinical symptoms include:


  • Neutrophilia (abnormal increase in the number of a type of white blood cell)
  • Mild anemia 
  • Hyperglycemia (increased sugar levels in the blood)
  • Bilirubinemia (a condition in which bilirubin is in excess in the bloodstream.
  • Pancreatic insufficiency (when pancreas stop secreting digestive juice hence unable to digest food)


Causes of pancreatitis cancer?


It is not easy to locate the exact cause of pancreatitis. However, the most common reason is scavenging and sometimes it might be due to excessive use of foods high in fats. Other causes include:


  • Insulinomas

These are tumors in the pancreas which are produced due to excess insulin. Few noticeable symptoms can be a weakness, tremors, collapse, and seizures.

  • Gastrinomas

These are pancreatic tumors that occur as a result of the overproduction of the hormone gastrin. This hormone is responsible for the production of gastric acid in the stomach. However, if the level of gastric acid shoots up it results in perforation and gastrointestinal ulcers. Few clinical signs include bloody vomiting, weight loss, yellowish gums, etc. These cancers are very rare in dogs. However, if they occur, the treatments for these are very limited.

Diagnosis of pancreatitis cancer:

Since the symptoms are closely related to other ailments too, it is strictly recommended to take your dog to the wet. He will conduct further tests and investigations and reach the root cause. The following are some of the tests conducted to locate pancreatitis cancer:


  • Diagnostic imaging procedure
  • Glucose level test
  • Test for hypoglycemia
  • Blood work
  • Possible AIGR analysis
  • Various biopsies
  • Ultrasound of the whole abdomen


How do these tumors spread?

Since these tumors are malignant, they keep on metastasizing from the time they are diagnosed. Insulinomas are said to be more likely to metastasize to the nearby lymph nodes or the gigantic organ liver. However, the spread can be in any other organ of the body. 

Adenocarcinomas tend to spread to nearby tissues such as the intestine and other organs in the body such as the liver, lungs, lymph, etc. Metastasis causes accumulation of fluid in the abdomen and chest which results in difficulty in breathing and swollen tummy.

Besides spreading, these tumors can damage the tissues of the pancreas which leads to inappropriate digestion of food.

Treatment of pancreatitis cancer:

There are different pancreatitis cancer treatment plans exhibited by the veterinarians depending upon the condition of your dog. Some of the treatment methods include:


  • Pain medications such as NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs
  • Partial or complete removal of the pancreatic tumor.
  • Removal of the entire pancreas 
  • Chemotherapy followed by surgery
  • Radiation therapy (secondary treatment)

Since this cancer is quite severe the treatments are also the same. It is very painful to go through radiotherapy, chemotherapy, and surgery. It is very difficult to remove all cancerous cells since the pancreas is quite a delicate organ. Besides, your vet can also use CBD oil in this condition. This oil is not used to treat cancer however it is good to relieve pain, stress, and anxiety. 

Gastrinomas can be treated by certain medications such as Pepcid or Zintec, intravenous fluids, or gastro-protectants which plums down the signs increasing the survival time from a week to 18 months. 

Insulinomas can also be treated with surgery, medication, and diet. Sometimes, in some cases, a combination of two or three treatments are required. Survival time is around two years in treatment with surgery and six months if treated with medicines. At times the treatments can be aggressive depending upon the condition of your dog.


Pancreatitis cancer is very rare in dogs. However, if your dog shows any symptoms such as confusion, loss of appetite and sleep, weakness. It is recommended to visit your vet. Since the spread will have already taken place once it is diagnosed, it is important to follow the medication or surgery whatever advised by the vet. There are various ways to treat cancer. However sometimes a combination of two or three treatments together can be advised.