Diagnosis of pancreatitis in dogs and cats

J Small Anim Pract. 2015 Jan;56(1):13-26. doi: 10.1111/jsap.12274.


Pancreatitis is the most common disorder of the exocrine pancreas in both dogs and cats. Ante-mortem diagnosis of canine and feline pancreatitis can be challenging. The clinical picture of dogs and cats with pancreatitis varies greatly (from very mild to severe or even fatal) and is characterised by non-specific findings. Complete blood count, serum biochemistry profile and urinalysis should always be performed in dogs and cats suspected of having pancreatitis, although findings are not-specific for pancreatitis. Serum amylase and lipase activities and trypsin-like immunoreactivity (TLI) concentrations have no or only limited clinical value for the diagnosis of pancreatitis in either dogs or cats. Conversely, serum pancreatic lipase immunoreactivity (PLI) concentration is currently considered to be the clinicopathological test of choice for the diagnosis of canine and feline pancreatitis. Abdominal radiography is a useful diagnostic tool for the exclusion of other diseases that may cause similar clinical signs to those of pancreatitis. Abdominal ultrasonography can be very useful for the diagnosis of pancreatitis, but this depends largely on the clinician's experience. Histopathological examination of the pancreas is considered the gold standard for the diagnosis and classification of pancreatitis, but it is not without limitations. In clinical practice, a combination of careful evaluation of the animal's history, serum PLI concentration and abdominal ultrasonography, together with pancreatic cytology or histopathology when indicated or possible, is considered to be the most practical and reliable means for an accurate diagnosis or exclusion of pancreatitis compared with other diagnostic modalities.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Amylases / blood
  • Animals
  • Cat Diseases / blood
  • Cat Diseases / diagnosis*
  • Cat Diseases / pathology
  • Cats
  • Dog Diseases / blood
  • Dog Diseases / diagnosis*
  • Dog Diseases / pathology
  • Dogs
  • Lipase / blood
  • Pancreas / pathology
  • Pancreatitis / blood
  • Pancreatitis / diagnosis
  • Pancreatitis / pathology
  • Pancreatitis / veterinary*
  • Trypsin / blood


  • Lipase
  • Amylases
  • Trypsin