How Much Does Dog Pancreatitis Treatment Cost?

by | 1/24/2023

How Much Does Dog Pancreatitis Treatment Cost

Pancreatitis, the painful inflammation of the pancreas, can be hard to identify in dogs, given that it often seems to occur at random and evokes the same clinical symptoms as countless other common canine illnesses. The standard treatment approach for canine pancreatitis consists of supportive care and stabilization for the most part, with hospitalization potentially required depending on the severity of each case. 

Pancreatitis in dogs is rarely cheap to address. Our following guide on dog pancreatitis treatment costs cuts straight to the bone by itemizing each potential veterinary expense to prepare for when dealing with a case of canine pancreatitis, including:

  • Diagnosis of pancreatitis
  • Costs of acute versus chronic pancreatitis
  • At-home and inpatient treatment options
  • Breed-specific costs
  • Long-term management — diabetes, diet, and dodging debt
  • Pet insurance for pancreatitis 

Breakdown: Dog Pancreatitis Treatment Costs

Dog pancreatitis can cost as little as $200 or as much as $2,000+ to resolve per episode. Your total will combine all expenses related to consultations, diagnostics, treatment-related services, and prescriptions. 

Typical Costs Associated With Pancreatitis Treatment

Pancreatitis occurs in two degrees — acute and chronic. Acute pancreatitis is a sudden episode of inflammation and can often incite more severe initial clinical signs, but it is still the most treatable of the two types. Unaddressed acute pancreatitis can, however, lead to chronic pancreatitis, which is recurring and will require long-term management. Chronic pancreatitis is irreversible but has milder symptoms per episode than acute pancreatitis. 

Dogs with chronic pancreatitis are usually more suited for outpatient treatment, which can cost around $500 to $1,000, including for prescription anti-nausea and pain medication, a specialty low-fat diet, and at-home subcutaneous fluids. On the other hand, emergency hospitalization for acute cases can amount to over $2,000 and then some if your dog requires multiple days of inpatient care and continuous monitoring.

Cost By Predisposed Breed

While any dog of all breeds, ages, or gender can develop pancreatitis, certain breeds are at a higher risk of becoming ill-stricken by the condition than others. Predisposed breeds include Cocker Spaniels, Poodles, Dachshunds, Miniature Schnauzers, and Yorkshire Terriers.

Breed predispositions alone will in no way influence the cost of treatment for your dog. Naturally, the medical needs of a Standard Poodle will likely be more expensive than that of a Yorkie because of its difference in size, but not by virtue of illness potential. 

Because pancreatitis tends to strike without warning, owners of any of the aforementioned breeds should heed their dog’s predisposition as enough of a red flag to enroll in a pet insurance policy and preemptively minimize potential treatment costs should pancreatitis occur down the road.

Minimum Costs Associated

Because the typical symptoms of canine pancreatitis are pretty non-specific to the condition, thorough diagnostics will be an important piece in ruling out any other potential illnesses with similar features. First and foremost, your vet will administer a canine pancreatic lipase immunoreactivity test (cPLI) — costing $40-$80 per panel — which will use a small sample of blood to test for high levels of pancreatic enzymes. Eighty-five percent of dogs with pancreatitis will exhibit abnormally high enzyme levels in their blood, which makes a cPLI test reliable but not definitive. 

Other recommended diagnostics, and their costs, include:

  • Abdominal ultrasound — approximately $300-$350
  • Abdominal X-ray — approximately $150-$250
  • Urinalysis — approximately $5-$30
  • Blood work — approximately $80-$200

Maximum Costs Associated

Treatment costs will reach their steepest point when affected dogs are in need of extended hospitalization, which in especially severe cases can last up to a few weeks. At this point, pups entered a critical space where the effects of acute pancreatitis have become so detrimental that the patient’s condition is now teetering over into the chronic category. 

If this isn’t your dog’s first rodeo with pancreatitis, a relapse in itself is indicative of chronic pancreatitis. Your veterinarian may recommend an endoscopic examination in order to get a visual sense of what’s going wrong — primarily keeping an eye out for biliary stones and abnormal growths while also measuring the scope of damage to the pancreas. Endoscopies can be pricey, sitting at an average minimum of $800, but they can help your vet curate a treatment plan tailored to your dog’s healthcare needs. 

Extensive deterioration of the pancreas, also known as necrosis, can result in secondary life-threatening complications like sepsis, where bacteria spreads into the blood and sends the body into shock. A series of intravenous antibiotics are usually administered to combat subsequent infection while dogs are hospitalized, in addition to other veterinary services, including: 

  • IV fluids and electrolyte correction
  • Pain relief, anti-inflammatory, and anti-nausea medications
  • Blood pressure, vitals, and general patient management
  • Blood tests
  • Intubated nutritional support
  • Insulin & blood sugar regulation (if inhibited by necrosis)

In some acute pancreatitis events, medical imaging might reveal that surgical intervention is needed to properly treat the episode at hand. If need be, a procedure called a partial pancreatectomy will be performed to unblock obstruct pancreatic ducts, remove dead tissue, or excise cysts or masses contributing to the inflammation. On average, a partial pancreatectomy can cost you between $3,000-$6,000, depending on the objective of the surgery.

Additional Expenses To Look Out For

Permanent damage of the pancreatic tissue is fairly characteristic of chronic pancreatitis. If 80% or more of the pancreas is left impaired following treatment, the pancreas will no longer produce sufficient amounts of insulin, leading to the onset of diabetes mellitus. A diabetes diagnosis alone can cost between $250-$500. And then monthly maintenance of a diabetic dog will run you another $40-$150 per month, depending on the size of your dog.

What Is Pancreatitis in Dogs?

Canine pancreatitis is when a dog’s pancreas — tucked snugly in between the stomach and small intestine — becomes inflamed due to premature activation of digestive enzymes used to break down proteins and carbohydrates consumed by the dog. As a result, those unreleased digestive enzymes begin to eat away at the pancreatic tissue, causing irreversible damage that can eventually inhibit the organ’s ability to produce insulin and glucagon for blood sugar regulation. 

What Are The Symptoms?

Clinical symptoms of pancreatitis in dogs include vomiting, abdominal pain, diarrhea, lethargy, fever, loss of appetite, and dehydration. 

Dogs often tend to express severe abdominal discomfort by hunching their backs or through a stance called the “prayer” position in which they’ll lower the front of their bodies toward the floor while keeping their hind body elevated. This behavior is an involuntary coping mechanism dogs use to relieve pressure from their abdomens and is frequently seen in cases of severe pancreatitis. 

What Causes Pancreatitis? 

One of the reasons pancreatitis is so dangerous is that its warning signs are slim to none. Veterinary medicine has yet to determine the clear-cut cause of pancreatitis, but certain risk factors may trigger the condition, including:

  • Consumption of fatty foods (i.e. table scraps, high-fat diet/dog food, etc.)
  • Scavenging, like digging through the trash for food remnants
  • Abdominal surgery complications
  • Severe blunt trauma to the abdomen 
  • Breed predisposition
  • Obesity
  • Hormonal disorders including Cushing’s disease and hypothyroidism
  • Biliary stones
  • Pancreatic masses

Does Pet Insurance Cover Pancreatitis Costs?

Yes. Almost all pet insurance providers will cover the cost of pancreatitis treatment as well as exam fees, diagnostics, medications, and hospitalization. As long as your dog’s medical history does not indicate episodes of pancreatitis predating your policy start date, your dog can receive the veterinary attention they need at a fraction of the price. 

Final Thoughts

Dogs that experience mild cases of pancreatitis have promising odds of making a full recovery within a matter of days. Still, more aggressive stages of the condition don’t offer as optimistic a prognosis. All things considered, dog pancreatitis treatment cost directly correlates with how extreme each case is and the degree of medical attention required.