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