What Dog Owners Should Know About Canine Pancreatic Cancer

What is Pancreatic Cancer in Dogs?

Pancreatic Cancer in Dogs

Pancreatic cancer occurs in dogs when exocrine or endocrine cells develop malignant tumors throughout different parts of the pancreas. While it is uncommon in dogs, it should be considered as a possibility because the symptoms mimic other canine health issues.


Are Certain Breeds Prone to Canine Pancreatic Cancer?

Spaniels, Labrador Retrievers, Airedale Terriers, and Boxers are breeds that are predisposed to this type of cancer.  Older dogs as well as female dogs seem prone also.

Are There Any Known Causes of Canine Pancreatic Cancer?

Like all other cancers, the etiology of exocrine pancreatic cancer is also unknown.

What are the Symptoms of Pancreatic Cancer in Dogs?

The symptoms include lack of appetite, weight loss, diarrhea, anorexia, vomiting, diabetes mellitus, abdominal distension, jaundice in the eye, ascites (accumulation of fluid in the peritoneal cavity), and depression. Unfortunately, these symptoms can also be caused by a myriad of other health issues your dog may be experiencing.

Sometimes the signs may also be accompanied by pancreatitis (inflammation of the pancreas). Other non-clinical symptoms like mild anemia, hyperglycemia, neutrophilia (abnormal increase in the number of a type of white blood cells), and bilirubinemia (presence of excess bilirubin in the blood), may also be present. In extreme cases, signs of pancreatic insufficiency (inability to digest food properly due to a lack of digestive enzymes made by the pancreas) may be exhibited.

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How is Pancreatic Cancer Diagnosed?

Diagnosis of canine pancreatic cancer can be difficult because:

  • Symptoms can be similar to other health conditions
  • Symptoms can come and go
  • The size of the pancreas is so small it can be hard to image

There are three basic ways it’s diagnosed in dogs:

  • Cell & blood tests (flow cytology)
  • X-rays & ultrasounds (medical imaging)
  • Surgery (for a biopsy of some sort)

What is the Treatment for Pancreas Cancer in Dogs?

Surgery to remove the affected portion of the pancreas, followed by chemotherapy, is typically considered the best treatment option.

  • Complete pancreatectomy – removal of the pancreas
  • Pancreaticoduodenectomy – removal of the pancreas and other organs/glands

There are some surgeries that are more palliative care and can be assessed by your veterinarian as the diagnosis is fully understood.

What Should I Feed My Dog with Pancreatic Cancer?

The best things you can feed your dog with cancer are foods that feed the dog, not the cancer. There are many suggested foods out there, but we have put together a blog of 8 Superfoods You Can Feed Your Dog to Beat Cancer.

How Long Can a Dog Live with Pancreatic Cancer?

Since canine pancreatic cancer is often not found until it has metastasized into other organs, the survival time is relatively low, from days to a year.  That said, if the cancer is caught early enough the survival rate can be extended into years. .

Thank you for utilizing our Canine Cancer Library. Please help us keep this ever-evolving resource as current and informative as possible with a donation.


Withrow and MacEwen’s Small Animal Clinical Oncology – Stephen J. Withrow, DVM, DACVIM (Oncology), Director, Animal Cancer Center Stuart Chair In Oncology, University Distinguished Professor, Colorado State University-Fort Collins, Colorado; David M. Vail, DVM, DACVIM (Oncology), Professor of Oncology, Director of Clinical Research, School of Veterinary Medicine University of Wisconsin-Madison Madison, Wisconsin 

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