CVC Highlights: A new tool for diagnosing acute pancreatitis in dogs


CVC Highlights: A new tool for diagnosing acute pancreatitis in dogs

A recently introduced serum test may prove to be our most accurate blood test yet in identifying this difficult-to-diagnose disease.
Oct 01, 2005

Michael S. Leib, DVM, MS, DACVIM, Department of Small Animal Clinical Sciences, Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine, Virginia Tech, Blacksburg, VA 24061.

Michael S. Leib, DVM, MS, DACVIM
Definitively diagnosing acute pancreatitis in dogs can be difficult. Although middle-aged, obese, and female dogs have been thought to be affected most often, dogs of both sexes and of varying ages and body types are frequently seen. The clinical signs can vary as well, but the most common signs are acute vomiting, pain (especially in the right cranial abdomen), dehydration, anorexia, and fever.

Serum amylase and lipase activities and trypsin-like immunoreactivity (TLI) lack sensitivity and specificity. Elevations are not definitive for pancreatitis because both amylase and lipase originate from many different tissues. The kidneys excrete amylase, lipase, and trypsinogen, so prerenal azotemia associated with dehydration causes elevated activities as well. A recent study in dogs showed that the sensitivity and specificity of TLI in diagnosing pancreatitis were 33% and 65%, respectively.1

Radiographic signs of acute pancreatitis are nonspecific, though radiographs can be helpful in identifying other causes of acute vomiting, such as gastric foreign bodies or small bowel obstructions. Ultrasonography of the pancreas can be helpful in identifying an enlarged hypoechoic pancreas, but findings can be normal in the face of pancreatitis.

Preliminary results have shown that a new serum test may hold promise in diagnosing pancreatitis in dogs.2 The test, serum canine pancreatic lipase immunoreactivity (cPLI), was developed by Texas A&M researchers and immunologically measures lipase from the pancreas. The test showed a sensitivity of 82% in the diagnosis of acute pancreatitis; these results are from a low number of cases (11) but are promising.2 More data are needed, but this may be the most accurate serum test available for diagnosing acute pancreatitis in dogs. Practitioners who are interested in using this test may submit serum samples to the Gastrointestinal Laboratory at Texas A&M (


1. Mansfield CS, Jones BR. Plasma and urinary trypsinogen activation peptide in healthy dogs, dogs with pancreatitis and dogs with other systemic diseases. Aust Vet J 2000;78:416-422.

2. Steiner JM, Broussard J, Mansfield CS, et al. Serum canine pancreatic lipase immunoreactivity (cPLI) concentrations in dogs with spontaneous pancreatitis (abst). J Vet Intern Med 2001;15:274.

Attendees selected this highlight from CVC lectures. The original paper was published in the proceedings of the 2005 Central Veterinary Conference.