Pancreatitis & Low Fat Dog Foods

If your dog develops pancreatitis it is very likely your vet will recommend a low fat dog food, usually Hill’s Prescription i/d Low Fat or Royal Canin Gastrointestinal Low Fat.

Because the reviews on this website are skeptical of both brands, I’m often asked for recommendations on other suitable low fat dog foods in Australia.

I’ll add a list of low fat dog foods below, but there are other factors which may benefit your dog. For example, is the trade off of low fat a high carbohydrate diet, and how does that effect the pancreas?

What is pancreatitis in dogs?

Pancreatitis is an inflammation of the pancreas, an organ which produces digestive enzymes and hormones.

Without getting into too much detail, pancreatitis occurs when the digestive enzymes produced by the pancreas activate before they get to the gut. The effect of this is the digestive enzymes begin to digest the pancreas itself, causing significant pain.

Pancreatitis, depending on severity, can cause severe abdominal pain, vomiting, and diarrhea. The condition can happen suddenly (acute) or become chronic (recurring), especially if untreated.

Treating pancreatitis in dogs

The treatment for pancreatitis in dogs typically involves managing symptoms and supporting the affected digestive and metabolic systems of your dog.

Common treatments for pancreatitis in dogs may include:

  1. Dietary management – Feeding your dog a low-fat, easily digestible diet and withholding a usual food for a period of time to allow the pancreas to rest.
  2. Pain management – Providing pain relief medications, such as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) or opioids, to manage abdominal pain and discomfort.
  3. Fluids – Providing intravenous (IV) fluids to help support your dog’s hydration and electrolyte balance, and to promote kidney function.
  4. Antibiotics – Administering antibiotics if an infection is present.
  5. Enzymes and other supplements – Providing digestive enzymes or other supplements to help support your dog’s digestive system.
  6. Monitoring – Monitoring your dog’s blood glucose levels, electrolyte levels, and other key metrics to assess his response to treatment and make any necessary adjustments.

The specific treatment plan for pancreatitis will depend on the severity of the condition and your individual dog’s needs. Your vet will likely provide more information and advice on the best course of treatment for your dog.

Before I throw a few thoughts into the mix, I must recommend you keep your vet involved, consider their recommendations, and have them monitor your dog with follow-up examinations to ensure they’re on the right track.

Is a low fat dry food the real answer to pancreatitus?

As the most common method of treating pancreatitis in dogs it’s worth considering low fat dog foods and how they may be formulated. You may be surprised.

All dog foods are comprised of protein, fat, carbohydrates, ash, and moisture. For a dog you can consider protein and fat more important than carbohydrates, and we’ll ignore ash and moisture for now (although moisture or clean water is vital).

Most dry pet foods contain a proportion of meat and a proportion of carbohydrates. You will see this widely debated, but carbohydrates (or sugars) in pet foods are generally what your dog will find harder to digest, and more likely the culprit in developing diet-related illnesses.

A typical dry dog food may have 20% protein, 18% fat, and over 50% carbohydrates. A decent dry dog food may have over 30% protein, more fat, and around 1/3rd carbohydrates or less.

No matter how good a dog food, if you reduce fat the most likely consequence is an increase in carbohydrates.

The pancreas also handles the development of amylase, an enzyme to help the body digest carbohydrates, so it’s possible an increase in carbohydrates may cause the pancreas to work even harder. That doesn’t sound ideal if your dog is already suffering pancreatitis.

A solution, in terms of dry food, is to find a formula which offers less fat without substituting the fat with carbohydrates. This may be from having a decent amount of quality digestible protein, a better balance of ingredients, or more moisture. It may also be worth considering a diet which moves away from dry food, which I rarely find ideal for any health condition.

Common carbohydrates in pet foods are cereals, rice, and other grains, or grain-free substitutes such as potato.

I’ll make some recommendations on low fat dog foods below, but first I want to cover an aspect of diagnosis which I consider very important which is almost always overlooked.

The importance of considering your dogs previous diet

Pancreatitis is considered an idiopathic disease, which means the cause of such a disease is not fully understood and needs to be researched more thoroughly.

I’ll put my tin foil hat on for one second, and highlight how inconvenient it is for big pet food manufacturers for research to be conducted into potential diet-related illnesses. Pet food manufacturers instigate (and fund) a great deal of research into pet nutrition, which is why you may find our knowledge of pet nutrition and health conditions a little skewed.

If your dog has recently been diagnosed with pancreatitis by your vet, which I assume is the case if you’re reading this, then ask yourself this – did your vet ask what your dog has been fed until this point?

Some vets do, but many don’t. But don’t you think your dog’s diet up to this point is important?

I consider dog food a key player in many health conditions our dogs suffer, and pancreatitis is very likely one of them. If you want a heads up on what’s in your previous dog food, then read the review.

Your vet isn’t doing anything wrong in not considering your dog’s diet, it’s a result of how we’re trained and how we go about our daily lives. If you get diagnosed with a condition by your doctor, it’s unlikely they’ll ask you about your diet. Thankfully, when it comes to us, there’s a great deal of knowledge (and science) which advises us on good diet choices (whether we take the advice or not).

This isn’t the case for dogs, or cats, who most of the time are fed some brand of kibble since the day they were weened. Every. Single. Day.

Considering the diet your dog had prior to being diagnosed with pancreatitis, or any health condition, is one of your most powerful sources of information.

Low fat dog foods in Australia (including Pancreatitis diets)

What is the best dry dog food for pancreatitis?

Below are a list of prescription pancreatitis/gastrointestinal diets as well as low fat content dog foods available in Australia.

Please treat the word “best” in the title with skepticism, as unfortunately pancreatitis formulas are very limited in Australia:

  • Hill’s Prescription i/d Low Fat – With a main ingredient of brewers rice, and a second main ingredient of corn gluten meal, you may struggle to understand how this expensive vet endorsed dry food may be suitable for your dog with a health condition.
  • Royal Canin Gastrointestinal Low Fat – With a main ingredient of rice, and two further grain ingredients of wheat and barley in the top four, you may also wonder how this expensive vet endorsed dog food may be suitable for your dog with a health condition.
  • LifeWise Biotic Low Fat – As an alternative to vet endorsed big brands like Hill’s and Royal Canin, I find LifeWise as an Australian alternative to have really good results. It is a brand I would recommend, and might be one of the best options in terms of dry food if your dog is suffering pancreatitis.
  • Feed for Thought – A dry food based on insect protein rather than traditional meat (or substitute) proteins, with a fat content of 10%.

I would consider LifeWise Biotic Low Fat the best low fat dog food on this list, and although I have little data and feedback on Feed For Thought, I think that would be my next choice based on the formula.

If you want a vet-recommended low fat dog food for pancreatitis it’s the Hill’s low fat dog food for pancreatitis which will be the most likely recommendation, and Royal Canin a close second.

Please note this is not a complete list of low fat dog foods in Australia, and if you have a suggestion please say so in the comments.

What is the best dog food for pancreatitis?

For any dog suffering a health condition I would urge you to consider other options to dry foods. As low fat dry dog foods, even pancreatitis diets, make way for lower fat with even more carbohydrates, you have to question whether your dog will suffer in other ways.

For this reason it’s worth looking at other types of dog food, as these are likely better for your dog.

These options include wet, BARF, raw, or fresh diets.

A mixture of feeding styles might be a good option as well, even alongside a low fat dry dog food. If you want the best dog food for pancreatitis, I would consider these more natural methods of feeding your dog rather than a processed kibble.

When it comes to veterinarian recommended diets both the Royal Canin and Hill’s low fat dog foods for pancreatitis are much better in wet form than the dry food.

A video on pancreatitis in dogs

Here is a good video on pancreatitis in dogs from Bill Wiadrowski at LifeWise Pet Food. I’m including it here because I find it very relevant and useful viewing, and I think you will too.

How to treat Pancreatitis in dogs?

The discussion about omega fatty acids, 3 and 6, in the above video is worth taking note of, and I’ll discuss how the composition of pet food can play a part later.

Idiopathic diseases in dogs

To complete this article on pancreatitis for dogs, I thought it may be worth covering idiopathic diseases in general.

An idiopathic disease in dogs is a condition which has an unknown and often spontaneous cause. With pancreatitis, your dog may be fine one day, and in pain and vomiting the next day, and you have no idea why.

Idiopathic diseases in dogs are those which cannot be traced to a specific cause, despite extensive testing and evaluation, or perhaps a lack of testing or funding in the right areas (yes, my tinfoil hat is back on).

As an interesting note – the term “idiopathic” comes from the Greek words “idios,” meaning “personal,” and “pathos,” meaning “suffering.”

Some examples of idiopathic diseases in dogs include:

  1. Idiopathic epilepsy – A condition characterised by recurring seizures with no identifiable cause.
  2. Idiopathic dilated cardiomyopathy – A condition in which the heart becomes enlarged and weakened, leading to heart failure. Ironically also linked to diet, with questionable motives.
  3. Idiopathic vestibular disease – A condition which affects a dog’s balance and coordination, often leading to head tilting, dizziness, and a loss of balance.
  4. Idiopathic thrombocytopenic purpura (ITP) – A condition in which the dog’s immune system attacks and destroys its own blood platelets, leading to bruising and bleeding.

In some cases, idiopathic diseases may be caused by genetic factors, but the exact cause is still unknown.

Treatment for idiopathic diseases often involves managing symptoms and improving your dog’s quality of life, and to a lesser extent addressing the underlying cause.

Because most idiopathic diseases are medicated rather than truly fixed, is why many pet owners look to alternate methods. If I were you, I would always consider a healthy diet as one of the most effective “alternate methods”.

Whatever idiopathic condition your dog may have, always speak with your veterinarian who will provide more information and advice on the best course of action and treatment for your dog.

Has your dog suffered pancreatitis or other idiopathic diseases? What advice or information would you give?

Disclaimer: For any medical condition with your pet you must consult your vet.

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David D'Angelo

David D'Angelo has worked as a scientist since graduating with a BSc (Hons) in 2000. In addition, David holds a CPD accredited Diploma in Pet Nutrition as well as being CPD accredited VSA (Veterinary Support Assistant). However, his experience and involvement in the pet food industry for 15+ years has given true insight into pet food, formulations, science, research, and pet food marketing. Facebook | LinkedIn | Instagram | Pinterest

  1. I can also recommend Lifewise biotic low fat. It is a great product, extremely well tolerated and seems tasty, I have two schnauzer’s with severe pancreatitis and it has worked a treat. It is $140 approx for -3 kgs and I was previous paying this for a 6 kg prescription brand that they would not eat.

    Just add some applaws canned food ( also very lot fat) to make it more palatable

  2. Hi Terry,

    My 10 year old toy poodle cross has pancreatitis. He went to the vet for a routine blood test, as we were planning to do a dental clean, but his amylase was double the highest recommended (he hasn’t been showing any symptoms of pain or pancreatitis). He has been on the royal canin gastrointestinal low fat wet food for quite a while.

    You mentioned royal canin is not an ideal long term solution – are you able to let me know why? I will look into lyka.

    Thank you

    • Reply
      Pet Food Reviews (Australia) November 3, 2023 at 6:22 pm

      Hi Rainy, some prescription diets from Hills/RC are not recommended for feeding for longer than a given period, such as 6 months, but this can be product specific – always worth checking.

      In my opinion any dry food comprised significantly of grains or similar alternatives wouldn’t be a good long term solution for any dog, specifically one suffering issues such as pancreatitis. This would be more the case with RC dry than RC wet.

  3. Hi Yvette sorry your border is going through this. It looks to be a similar treatment process. I can’t suggest any specific diet because even though my 12 year old female border had pancreatitis, my 14 year old male border is on the same diet and has never had pancreatitis. Their food has 12% fat which is at the lower end of the scale. It has taken 17 days for her to back close to her normal health. I have 100% faith in my vet.

  4. Our cavoodle has for most of his life (6 years) suffered from pancreatitis and IBD. We tried everything even raw to no avail. We even tried meals for mutts and Lifewise kibble and this caused both pancreatitis and IBD. Was told by a dog nutritionist that kibble is not for all dogs and can be harsh on their sensitive stomach

    We then were prescribed wet food Hills low fat I/D and he still had two or three bouts of pancreatitis and IV emergency treatment.

    So we decided to move to John West canned tuna with boiled rice and a bunch of herbs and probiotics and until we got him stabilised. once stablised we moved him onto wet food Royal Canine Gastointestinal low fat and he had no issues but seeing this was not a good long term diet we transitioned to Lyka fish bowl and he is loving it and no issues so far.

    Kibble IMHO i believe to be the cause of our dogs issues no matter what brand we tried.

  5. My 12 year old border collie is currently being treated for pancreatitis. In the month leading up to the problem I changed from Meal for Mutts Kangaroo blend (used for years), to Lifewise Biotic Joint with a small amount of Ziwi Venison mixed to the bowl.
    All of these brands receive a good review on this platform and yet the health issue still occurred. Her triglycerides, lipase and amylase were significantly high. So maybe not everything on the label is as transparent as one would hope.

    • Hi Paul, what diet do you suggest? My border collie is suffering acute pancreatitis and has been in hospital 2 nights on IV hydration
      She is very unwell and on Creon , Paw hepatoadvanced supplements, anti nausea and neurotin for pain. Not sure she’ll pull through though

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