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Pancreatic Cancer in Dogs (Pancreatic Adenocarcinoma)

What Is Pancreatic Adenocarcinoma in Dogs?

Pancreatic Adenocarcinoma in Dogs: Understanding the Condition

In dogs, the pancreas sits on the right side of the abdomen, near the junction of the stomach and small intestine. It plays a crucial role in hormone production and secreting digestive enzymes necessary for food breakdown during digestion.

Pancreatic adenocarcinoma ranks as the second most prevalent type of pancreatic cancer in dogs, following insulinomas. Adenocarcinoma specifically originates in the glands responsible for producing digestive enzymes. This cancer type in dogs tends to be highly aggressive, progressing rapidly and exhibiting a propensity for metastasis to various organs, including:

  • Liver
  • Lymph Nodes
  • Spleen
  • Intra-Abdominal Fat
  • Bone
  • Kidneys
  • Brain

Symptoms and Types

The symptoms of pancreatic adenocarcinoma typically present as nonspecific, often manifesting as gastrointestinal disturbances and a decrease in overall energy and appetite in affected dogs.

Pancreatic tumors may reach a size significant enough to obstruct the common bile duct of the liver or grow in a manner that interferes with its function. The common bile duct transports bile from the liver and gall bladder through the pancreas to the intestines. Such obstruction can result in gall bladder obstruction and signs indicative of liver disease.

When pancreatic adenocarcinoma metastasizes, symptoms arise according to the affected body systems. Additional symptoms may include:

  • Gastrointestinal issues like vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain, or the detection of an abdominal mass
  • Increased thirst and urination
  • Respiratory difficulties
  • Jaundice (yellowing of the skin)
  • Bone pain
  • Hair loss
  • Changes in mental alertness


The exact cause of pancreatic adenocarcinoma in dogs remains uncertain. However, certain breeds such as Labrador Retrievers, Airedale Terriers, Boxers, and Spaniels are known to have a genetic predisposition to this type of cancer. Additionally, pancreatic cancer tends to occur more frequently in female dogs compared to male dogs.


Veterinarians employ various diagnostic methods to identify pancreatic adenocarcinoma in dogs.

Blood tests may reveal abnormalities in liver or kidney values, indications of anemia, dehydration, and elevated white blood cell counts. Imaging techniques such as radiography, ultrasonography, or CT scanning are utilized to visualize any pancreatic masses (tumors).

Upon detection of a tumor, veterinarians may conduct cancer testing using cytology (analysis of cells obtained with a needle) or histopathology (a tissue biopsy).


Surgery is generally not advised for pancreatic adenocarcinoma due to the high likelihood of metastasis at the time of diagnosis. Chemotherapy has also shown limited success in treating pancreatic adenocarcinoma.

Recovery and Management

The prognosis for pancreatic adenocarcinomas in dogs is generally bleak. Supportive care is advised until the dog’s quality of life deteriorates. At that stage, humane euthanasia may be suggested. Your veterinarian will formulate a medical management plan tailored to your dog’s diagnosis and needs.

Pancreatic Cancer in Dogs (Pancreatic Adenocarcinoma) FAQs

What is the typical survival period for dogs diagnosed with pancreatic adenocarcinoma?

Dogs diagnosed with pancreatic adenocarcinoma usually have a short survival time, often just days, due to the rapid clinical deterioration, presence of metastasis, or the nature of the diagnosis itself.

How aggressive is pancreatic adenocarcinoma in dogs?

Pancreatic adenocarcinoma is highly aggressive in dogs, exhibiting a significant metastatic rate, which means it spreads rapidly from the pancreas throughout the body.

Is pancreatic adenocarcinoma treatable in dogs?

Currently, pancreatic adenocarcinoma in dogs has very limited chances of being cured through surgery.

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