The pancreas is an organ that produces hormones and digestive enzymes. If a dog has pancreatic cancer, it is a very serious illness and one from which few pets recover. Fortunately, pancreatic cancer in dogs is rare. Older dogs are more likely to be diagnosed with the disease, and it seems that airedales and boxers may be at a slightly greater risk of pancreatic cancer than other breeds.
Symptoms of pancreatic cancer are rarely seen in dogs until the disease has reached an advanced stage. Because tumors develop in the pancreas as a result of the cancer, the first symptom you'll notice may be blood in your dog's stool. Symptoms often include seizures, lethargy, loss of coordination, vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain, weight loss and loss of appetite.
The veterinarian will likely perform a physical examination, palpating your dog's abdomen to check for pain responses, distension or the presence of a lump. If pancreatic cancer is suspected, the doctor will order enzyme and blood tests to confirm the diagnosis. X-rays may be used to determine the presence of the mass.
Surgery is the most common method for treating pancreatic cancer, but it is not effective if the cancer has already spread to other organs. Many times, pet guardians are asked to decide whether to euthanize their pet while it is still under anesthesia if the surgeon finds that the tumor has spread to other organs. Pancreatic cancer is sometimes treated using radiation and prescription medications. So that the pancreas will not produce digestive enzymes, food is sometimes withheld from the dog during treatment and it is fed using an IV. However, none of these treatments have shown real success in treating pancreatic cancer. In rare instances, when the cancer has not spread to other organs, a tumor can be removed from the pancreas and the pet may recover from surgery.
Recovery from pancreatic cancer is rare in dogs. Most live less than a year after they begin showing symptoms of the disease.
Managing your dog's pain is extremely important for its quality of life. Discuss pain management with your veterinarian and insist that your pet be given pain medications. Options include non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, steroids and opioid. Providing your pet with a comfortable place to sleep, good nursing care and proper nutrition can also go a long way in easing pain.