Diet & Treat Options for Dogs With Pancreatitis

Pancreatitis can be deadly serious for dogs, but these low-fat foods and working with your veterinarian can help you and your dog feel better fast.

Updated October 20, 2018
Veterinarian holding dog in her arms

If your dog's diagnosed with pancreatitis, it's important to help soothe the pancreas immediately. Pancreatitis can be extremely serious, or even fatal, so your veterinarian will work with you to reduce inflammation in your dog's pancreas quickly while managing pain. Often, this includes providing an extremely low-fat diet for your dog but understanding the food-based cause and risk factors can help.

"The most common cause of pancreatitis for our pets is eating fatty foods," emergency-vets.com notes — like getting table scraps during the holidays. So your veterinarian will probably recommend a very low-fat diet if your dog's diagnosed with pancreatitis. And, even if the bout of pancreatitis passes, your dog may need to stay on low-fat food to avoid future incidents.

Need to Know

Never try to manage your pancreatic dog's diet alone. While I've included a few foods usually ok below, ask your veterinarian about your individual dog's needs and diet. 

Bland Foods to Feed a Dog With Pancreatitis

Once your dog's diagnosed with pancreatitis, your veterinarian may recommend either a temporary home-cooked diet or a low-fat commercial diet.

These often include ingredients such as:

  • Chicken
  • Turkey
  • Lean ground meat
  • Oats and oatmeal
  • Barley
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Cottage cheese

Can Dogs With Pancreatitis Eat...

As a certified canine nutritionist, pet parents often ask me about nutrition and issues with specific ingredients, but remember to consult your veterinarian about any of the following that are usually ok for dogs with pancreatitis. Every dog's situation is unique.

Eggs?

Whole eggs, including the yolk, are too fatty for dogs with pancreatitis. Cooked egg whites are usually okay, but it's best to check with your vet before offering them. 

Vegetables?

Yes, dogs with pancreatitis can usually eat vegetables. Vegetables are typically low in fat and high in fiber, which can be beneficial for dogs with this condition. However, it's important to choose the right vegetables and prepare them appropriately.

Safer vegetables for most dogs with pancreatitis include small portions of:

Vegetables should be cooked with no added fats or seasonings and should be introduced slowly into the diet to ensure they don’t cause gastrointestinal upset. 

Need to Know

Always avoid onions and any vegetables that can be toxic to dogs.

Beef?

Dogs with pancreatitis should avoid beef, especially if it's high in fat. Pancreatitis requires a low-fat diet to reduce stress on the pancreas, and typical cuts of beef can be too fatty and thus potentially harmful to dogs with this condition. If beef is to be included in their diet, it should be a very lean cut, thoroughly trimmed of fat, and cooked without any added oils or fats.

However, because individual dogs may react differently and because there can be variations in the severity and triggers of pancreatitis, it's crucial to consult with your veterinarian before offering beef or any new food item to a dog with pancreatitis. They can provide personalized dietary advice and tell you if a small amount of lean beef is safe for your dog.

Steak?

Steak is generally not recommended for dogs with pancreatitis, especially if it's a fatty cut. Pancreatitis requires a strict, low-fat diet to prevent aggravation of the pancreas. Since most steak cuts contain a higher amount of fat, they can be too rich for a dog with this condition.

If a veterinarian approves the inclusion of steak in a dog's diet, it must be a very lean cut, cooked without any oils or butter, and all visible fat should be trimmed away. Even then, it should only be given in small, controlled amounts.

Chicken and Rice?

There's a common misconception that dogs with upset tummies or digestive problems, in general, should be fed chicken and rice. As a certified canine nutritionist, this is something that I often talk to pet parents about. Ultimately, if your dog absolutely refuses to eat anything else, chicken and rice is better than nothing. But it doesn't have the nutrients your dog needs to get better. 

What to Feed Dogs With Pancreatitis

Your veterinarian will recommend either a home cooked temporary diet for your dog, or a commercial diet.

Low-Fat Prescription Dog Food Options

This type of commercial dog food is specially formulated to be low in fat yet still full of the essential protein, carbohydrates, and vitamins that a dog needs. Some prescription brands are:

Homemade Bone Broth Made for Dogs

Instead of cooking up some chicken and rice, you can make your dog some bone broth. This should be the first stop along the way before you feed your dog anything else. Bone broth is a tasty way to give your dog some much-needed nutrients to boost their immune system and give their pancreas a break, and it even has ingredients that help their joint health. They have the best of all worlds with this delicious broth — plus as a bonus — it's super simple to make. 

Bone broth in a glass jar on rustic table

Ingredients: 

There are only a few ingredients to grab, including:

  • A bag full of chicken feet
  • Apple cider vinegar or lemon juice
  • Filtered water

Directions: 

Bone broth takes a little while to make, but there are only a few steps. Before you get started, grab your crock pot and set it out on the counter. Then, follow these directions:

  1. Fill your crock pot with the chicken feet as much as you can
  2. Add enough filtered water to fully cover the chicken feet
  3. Drop in 3 tablespoons or so of lemon juice or apple cider vinegar (ACV from the mother is the best)
  4. Throw the cover on and walk away for about an hour
  5. Grab a spoon and scoop out any foamy stuff you see floating at the top
  6. Turn your crockpot on low
  7. Cook for anywhere between 6-24 hours — the longer you cook it, the higher the nutrient content in the broth
  8. Scoop the top occasionally with a spoon to keep removing the foamy stuff

When the time is up, strain the bone broth to separate the bones from the broth. Let the broth cool, then transfer it to mason jars or sealable containers. Refrigerate your broth for at least an hour. Once it's cooled, skim the fat off the top.

If your broth has a jelly-like consistency, that means you made it right. If it doesn't, it's still packed full of nutrients, but it has less collagen content, which isn't a big deal for what we're needing it for here. 

Quick Tip

I even recommend bone broth for my doggy clients with cancer to give their health a boost. 

Homemade Dog Food for a Pancreatitis Diet

You may want to check with your veterinarian about cooking your own dog food, especially as a temporary measure while your dog heals. A simple recipe for a low-fat diet is:

  • 1 cup of cooked boneless chicken, chopped or shredded
  • 1 cup cooked rice
  • 3/4 cup low or nonfat cottage cheese
  • 1/2 cup cooked squash
  • 1/2 cup cooked broccoli

If you decide to feed your dog homemade food, ask your veterinarian about additional vitamin supplements. Very low-fat diets can be deficient in vitamins A and E.

Homemade Dog Treats for Pancreatitis

In general, it's best to avoid additional treats for dogs with pancreatitis, but you can ask your veterinarian about these low-fat treats as a small supplement.

  • 2-1/2 cups rice flour
  • 6 tablespoons low sodium/ low-fat chicken broth
  • 1 cup cooked squash
  • A ground up sweet potato

Mix and add in a few drops of cold water until you have the dough. Roll onto a sheet for a 1/2-inch-thick flat dough. Use a cookie cutter to make shapes or a glass for round cookies, and bake at 350 degrees for 25 minutes.

Quick Tip

Sweet potato treats can be a good option, too. Check out these dehydrated sweet potato dog treat recipes.

How Often to Feed a Dog With Pancreatitis

Your veterinarian may also recommend feeding your dog four to eight very small meals a day. Small meals are less likely to overexcite the pancreas. Your dog will also be less likely to vomit after her meal.

Working With Your Veterinarian

Dogs with pancreatitis can experience pain and discomfort and may require a stay in hospital to get better. There are several options to try to comfort a dog with pancreatitis. Talk to your veterinarian about dog pancreatitis treatment at home before you start.

  • Talk to your vet about medications to alleviate their pain.
  • If they vomit or have other digestive issues like diarrhea, your veterinarian can recommend supplements or medications to help.
  • Make sure they have access to fresh, clean water so he does not become dehydrated.

Cautions

Depending on how serious your dog's pancreatitis is, they might need to stay on the special diet for the rest of their lives to keep the inflammation from coming back. Keep in mind that most home-made diets don't have the nutrients your dog needs long-term, so switching to low-fat dog food may be necessary. No matter what, it's still important to keep super-fatty foods, like that scrumptious turkey skin they've been eyeballing, away from them. As tempting as their puppy eyes are, it's important not to give in. 

Recovery Time

The recovery time for a dog with pancreatitis varies with how bad his condition is. Severe cases can result in death if not treated right away. Death rates for severe acute (sudden onset) pancreatitis are approximately 40 percent, so treatment by a veterinarian is crucial. It's possible your dog may have to live with it for his whole life.

Sick Saint Bernard dog lies on a hardwood floor

Treatable Condition

Pancreatitis is usually treatable with immediate care, a good diet, and coordination with your veterinarian. Your dog will feel better as their condition improves, and so will you. Managing their condition doesn't have to be overwhelming. Just take some simple steps, and work with your veterinarian closely, and your pup will be feeling better in no time.

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Diet & Treat Options for Dogs With Pancreatitis