Pancreatic cancer in dogs: symptoms, causes, treatments and prevention

To learn that our little companion has pancreatic cancer is a terrible ordeal. After the shock of this terrible news, the teacher will find out what to do and if it is possible to be cured.

Knowing what it is, recognizing the symptoms in order to be able to consider treatment and possibly prevent it, makes it possible to be less helpless in the face of this disease which is, most often, lethal.

Pancreatic cancer in dogs

The pancreas is a large, V-shaped digestive gland, close to the stomach and duodenum. It is made up of two parts, which are called exocrine and endocrine. The exocrine part secretes digestive enzymes and the endocrine part produces insulin and glucagon, two hormones that regulate the level of glucose in the blood.

There are different types of cancerous tumors of the pancreas, depending on the cells involved -exocrine or endocrine-, but all are serious and unfortunately all have a high probability of reaching other organs – metastases -.

Symptoms vary, but although pancreatic cancer is not not very common in dogs, because of an often late diagnosis, the vital prognosis is poor and the life expectancy very short – between 6 months and 2 years -.


Among the different types of pancreatic cancer, it is the most common. Rapidly evolving, it often metastasizes to the stomach, liver, duodenum and sometimes even to the lungs. It is difficult to diagnose because its symptoms are nonspecific, which is why it is often treated very late.

Older dogs (especially females) and a few breeds such as Labrador, Golden Retriever, Boxer, Airelade Terrier, and Cocker Spaniel seem to be at greater risk.

Symptoms : vomiting, abdominal pain, jaundice, listlessness, anorexia and weight loss …

The treatment : only in the absence of metastases, which is rare, total ablation of the pancreas – pancreatectomy – is considered, but postoperative complications are numerous. More frequently, the treatment consists of a partial removal of the pancreas and / or the establishment of a palliative treatment to relieve the dog.


It attacks the cells that produce insulin and generates an overproduction of this hormone which lowers blood sugar. Metastases often involve the lymphatic system, lungs and liver.

Symptoms : fatigue, convulsions, tremors, syncope, increased appetite and weight gain …

The treatment : it consists, after a diagnosis established by imaging and blood tests, to set up drug treatment and a diet that will control blood sugar. Surgery, when possible, will attempt to remove as much of the affected tissue as possible. The life expectancy of dogs with insulinoma, which is slightly better after an operation, varies between 1 and 2 years.


Fortunately, it is rare in dogs and causes gastric ulcerations, due to the excessive production of hydrochloric acid by cancer cells.

Symptoms : vomiting which may contain bloody mucus, anemia, abdominal pain, constipation, weight loss, anorexia and diarrhea – intermittent -…

The treatment : the diagnosis is made after biochemical analyzes, abdominal x-rays and sometimes endoscopy to take samples. An ultrasound will look for metastases in the liver. Surgery is the preferred treatment for this type of pancreatic cancer because the tumors are usually small and sometimes partial pancreatic removal is done. Medical treatment aimed at stopping or limiting gastric acidity will be put in place after the operation.


Extremely rare in dogs, it occurs when cancer cells secrete glucagon, a hormone that helps regulate blood sugar levels. It more specifically affects older males and certain breeds such as the Border Collie, the Scottish Terrier, the Lhasa apso, the Cocker Spaniel …

Symptoms : anorexia and weight loss, diarrhea, anemia, skin lesions such as erythema, scabs, scales – abdomen, elbow, lips, eyelids, nose… -, cracks on the pads…

The treatment : examination of skin lesions, serological tests and ultrasound can confirm the diagnosis. Palliative treatment will most often be recommended, because hepatic functions are very strongly degraded by this type of cancer and the vital prognosis is poor.

The causes

As is generally the case with cancers, the causes are not not clearly defined.

However, we advance, as for humans, 3 probable factors for the appearance of cancers in general:

  • Age: improving living conditions, medical care and vaccination allow our little companions to live longer, so they are more frequently prone to developing age-related pathologies, including cancer. part.
  • Genetics: certain breeds of dogs are genetically more exposed than others and the selection of purebred dogs, when it is practiced in an abusive way (too strong inbreeding) is a possible cause of the elevation of the rates of canine cancers.
  • The environment: dogs, pets par excellence, are exposed, like their masters, to polluted environments, poor industrial food and an overly sedentary lifestyle, 3 factors recognized in the appearance of cancer.

Concerning more specifically pancreatic cancer, the average age of dogs affected by this type of pathology is between 8 and 15 years and some breeds of dogs seem to be more exposed than others – non-exhaustive list -:


As the causes are not identified, there are no specific prescriptions to prevent pancreatic cancer. However, we can reasonably think, exactly as we do for us, that a healthy lifestyle, a healthy and balanced diet, adapted to the particularities of dogs and their breeds, are the minimum precautions to be taken.

Regularly consulting the veterinarian (and of course at the slightest symptom, or change in your dog’s behavior) helps to ensure that he is in good health. But with pancreatic cancer, early diagnosis and management is essential and improves your dog’s prognosis and life expectancy. So do not hesitate to consult.

Finally, the treatment of this pathology being very expensive, taking out an insurance contract for your dog can also be considered to help you face high costs.