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What food is best for a dog with pancreatitis?

Pancreatitis is an inflammation of the pancreas that can cause serious health issues in dogs. Finding the right diet is crucial for managing this condition. The ideal diet for a dog with pancreatitis is low in fat, high in protein, and easy to digest.

What is Pancreatitis in Dogs?

The pancreas is an organ that produces enzymes for digesting food and hormones like insulin. Pancreatitis occurs when the pancreas becomes inflamed, causing the digestive enzymes to attack the pancreas itself. This leads to tissue damage and other complications.

Some common signs of pancreatitis in dogs include:

  • Loss of appetite
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Abdominal pain
  • Lethargy

Pancreatitis can range from mild to severe. Mild cases may resolve on their own with supportive care. But severe pancreatitis can lead to dehydration, diabetes, and even death in some cases.

Why Low-Fat Foods Are Recommended

One of the keys to managing pancreatitis is feeding a low-fat diet. Here’s why fat intake needs to be restricted:

  • High dietary fat triggers the release of pancreatic enzymes and inflammatory mediators.
  • This exacerbates inflammation and may cause another flare-up.
  • Excess fat also requires more digestion and may overwhelm the damaged pancreas.

For these reasons, vets usually recommend reducing fat to 2-8% of total calories while the pancreas heals. Normal fat levels in dog foods are around 20% calories from fat.

Best Low-Fat Food Options

When looking for a diet for pancreatitis in dogs, aim for these characteristics:

  • 8% or less fat
  • Highly digestible ingredients
  • Moderate protein around 20-25%

Here are some good commercial low-fat dog food options:

Brand Product Fat Content
Hill’s Prescription Diet i/d Low Fat 8%
Purina Veterinary Diets EN GastroENteric 8.5%
Royal Canin Gastrointestinal Low Fat 7%

These therapeutic foods have the right nutritional profile for dogs with pancreatitis. Many also contain anti-inflammatory omega-3 fatty acids from fish oil as an added benefit.

Homemade Low-Fat Dog Food

Homemade diets are another option, but they should be formulated by a vet nutritionist to ensure safety. Some simple homemade food guidelines include:

  • Lean protein sources like chicken, turkey, eggs, or cottage cheese.
  • Complex carbs like brown rice, barley, or oats.
  • Non-fat yogurt or cottage cheese for calcium and protein.
  • Cooked or pureed veggies like carrots, green beans, or sweet potatoes.

Supplemental oils like olive or coconut oil can be added sparingly for calories. But all homemade diets should follow recipes developed by veterinary nutrition experts.

Transitioning to Low-Fat Food

When transitioning your dog to a low-fat diet, do it gradually over several days. This helps avoid GI upset from a sudden change. Tips for transitioning include:

  • Start by replacing 25% of the old food with the new low-fat food.
  • Slowly increase the new food ratio over a week.
  • Mix a little warm water or low-sodium broth to increase palatability.

Feed smaller, more frequent meals during the transition to reduce strain on the pancreas.

Other Tips for Feeding Dogs With Pancreatitis

  • Avoid high-fat foods like bacon grease, fatty meats, cheese, etc.
  • Restrict access to trash and human food to avoid dietary lapses.
  • Feed 3-4 small meals instead of one large meal.
  • Provide ample fresh water to stay hydrated.
  • Discourage strenuous exercise while recovering to reduce inflammation.


The right nutrition is vital for dogs suffering from pancreatitis. Look for a therapeutic low-fat, highly digestible diet under the guidance of your vet. Hill’s i/d, Purina EN, and Royal Canin Gastrointestinal diets are excellent commercial options. Homemade diets can also be used if properly formulated. Transition slowly to the new food over several days. Staying on a strict low-fat diet will help manage pancreatitis and prevent painful flare-ups.