Can Dogs with Pancreatitis Eat Tuna? 9 Facts About It

Anyone who has ever had a dog diagnosed with pancreatitis knows how integrally involved the dog’s diet is in the healing process.

We might wonder if canned tuna, which many of us keep on hand because it is inexpensive and readily available, is suitable for a dog with pancreatitis because it is low in fat.1Should a dog with pancreatitis avoid tuna, or is it okay to feed it?

There is no easy answer to this. Dogs with pancreatitis, in particular, should not eat any tuna.

Other types of tuna, however, can be fed to a dog with pancreatitis, though only in very small amounts.

Canned tuna in springwater is probably safe for a dog with pancreatitis to eat on occasion. Let’s dig deeper into this issue.

What is Pancreatitis?

The best way to figure out what a dog with pancreatitis can eat is to learn as much as possible about the condition.

Inflammation of the pancreas is known as pancreatitis. The pancreas is an abdominal organ that is close to the beginning of the small intestine and the stomach. The pancreas performs two primary functions.

The first is the body’s ability to make insulin, a hormone required for proper control of blood sugar levels. The second is the body’s natural capability to generate digestive enzymes that aid in the digestion of carbohydrates, fats, and proteins.

In the normal course of events, these enzymes are produced in an inactive state and only become active after they have passed through the pancreatic duct and into the small intestine, where they aid in the digestion of food.

Overactivation of pancreatic digestive enzymes within the pancreas causes pancreatitis. As the pancreas is auto-digested by its own enzymes, inflammation ensues.

There are two distinct types of pancreatitis: the sudden onset of acute pancreatitis and the gradual deterioration into chronic pancreatitis.

Is Tuna Good or Bad for Dogs with Pancreatitis?

You can find tuna in a number of different preparations, including raw, cooked, and canned or pouched. You should never feed your pet raw food unless your veterinarian says to, so you can immediately rule out feeding raw tuna.

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This is due to the fact that eating raw fish, in particular, exposes you to the dangers of bacterial contamination and parasites, both of which can exacerbate preexisting gastrointestinal problems. Tuna is not the best choice for dogs with pancreatitis because it is a relatively oily fish.

Even though tuna isn’t directly linked to pancreatitis, it still poses a risk if you eat too much of it because of the mercury and other toxins it may contain.

Last but not least, the oil or flavorings added to canned or pouched tuna may exacerbate pancreatitis. As a result, if you’re looking for something to feed your dog who has pancreatitis, there are better options than tuna.

sick dog laying in bed

Choosing Foods for Dogs with Pancreatitis

Since the pancreas plays such a vital role in digestion, selecting foods that are easy to digest and require minimal help from the pancreas is an important part of treating and recovering from pancreatitis.

As an additional step, make sure you’re not giving your pet any foods that could make their inflammatory conditions worse.

Since the pancreas plays such a crucial role in the digestion of fats, carbohydrates, sugars, and proteins, it is generally recommended that you steer clear of foods that are particularly high in these nutrients.

Instead, you should focus on providing foods that are either low in the above or more balanced, as these will be easier to digest and allow the pancreas to rest and heal. In that case, what sorts of foods are available that would work?

Prescription Foods

There is a wide selection of commercial options, which can be broadly categorized into two groups: foods requiring a prescription and foods that don’t.

Veterinary advice or a prescription is required before feeding a prescription diet, as these foods are intended solely to treat a specific medical condition and can cause complications if fed to a healthy pet.

Most of the major pet food manufacturers offer highly digestible, minimally inflammatory prescription diets for dogs with pancreatitis.

If a dog doesn’t care for one flavor, there are usually a few others to choose from.

veterinary surgeon treating dog in surgery

Non-Prescription Foods

Dogs with pancreatitis can also purchase a second type of commercial food that is available in pet stores and online and is designed to be easier to digest in the event of any gastrointestinal distress.

These diets are available without a doctor’s recommendation and typically cost less. However, there are some forms of pancreatitis where they might not be the best option.

Homemade Foods

For temporary periods, your dog’s veterinarian may recommend a bland or home-cooked diet if your dog has pancreatitis.

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Veterinarians often have preferences when it comes to recipes for these kinds of situations, so it’s important to ask yours what they recommend giving your dog and for how long.

If your dog has pancreatitis, talk to your vet about the above options to find out which ones are best for your dog’s diet.

To aid in recovery from pancreatitis, a dog’s diet must be carefully monitored by a veterinarian to make sure he or she isn’t missing out on any essential nutrients or, on the other hand, receiving too many nutrients, which could be harmful.

Is it Safe for Dogs with Pancreatitis to Eat Tuna?

French bulldog eating from bowl

With only 3.37 grams of fat in a 4-ounce serving, tuna is considered low-fat and can be fed to dogs with pancreatitis on occasion. The variety canned in spring water is preferable to those canned in oil or brine.

It is not recommended to feed dogs with pancreatitis or any other digestive disorder the canned tuna that has been packed in oil or brine because of their high fat and salt content, respectively.

Avoid feeding your dog canned tuna that has been flavored with spices like garlic or chili, as these can irritate your dog’s stomach.

Why Should Dogs Not Consume Large Amounts of Tuna?

The relatively high mercury content of tuna makes it inappropriate for canine consumption in large amounts whether or not the dog suffers from pancreatitis.

Though cases of mercury poisoning are rare in dogs, canines who consume large amounts of tuna on a regular basis may be at risk for developing toxicity to the metal.

Symptoms of mercury poisoning in dogs include tremors, diarrhea, blindness, and damage to the kidneys.

Mercury is found in small amounts naturally, but industrial use of the element has led to dangerously high atmospheric concentrations.

Mercury, once released into the air, eventually finds its way to the ocean, where it builds up in the bodies of fish and other marine organisms.

Tuna consume smaller fish that are already tainted with mercury. Since tuna live for a long time and are relatively high on the food chain, they are able to accumulate substantial amounts of mercury in their tissues over time.

There is considerable variation in the amount of mercury found in various species of tuna.

Mercury levels tend to be higher in larger fish like bluefin, yellowfin, and bigeye tuna and lower in smaller fish like skipjack. To give you an idea, bigeye tuna has been found to have four times as much mercury as skipjack.

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Canned tuna is generally a safer choice for dogs than fresh tuna, as the larger species are typically used for human consumption (think sushi or steak), while the smaller varieties are typically caught and processed for canning.

What Causes Pancreatitis?

Pancreatitis is characterized by a lack of clarity regarding its origin. Although its cause is unknown, several factors have been linked to the onset of the disease in canines.

There are many, but some of them are:

  • Intake of fatty foods such as leftovers or fatty snacks.
  • Missteps in nutrition, like snacking while out for a stroll or eating trash
  • Obesity
  • The endocrine system is responsible for a wide range of diseases, including diabetes.
  • There is a higher incidence of pancreatitis in certain dog breeds than others; this includes the Miniature Schnauzer, Yorkshire Terrier, Spaniel, Boxer, Shetland Sheepdog, and Collie.
  • Some pharmaceuticals and poisons
  • Trauma

What Are the Symptoms of Dog Pancreatitis?

That is a really interesting query. Pancreatitis symptoms could include:

  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Stools containing blood
  • Appetite loss
  • Lethargy
  • Stomach ache
  • Drooling
sick dog

Which Dogs Can Get Pancreatitis?

It is possible for any dog to develop pancreatitis. Pancreatitis has no known origin, though dietary indiscretion involving fatty foods may play a role for some dogs.

Some hypothesize that the disease is more common in certain breeds, including miniature schnauzers, miniature poodles, and cocker spaniels.

Similarly, canine females are more likely to develop pancreatitis than their canine male counterparts. Some researchers think that overweight and sedentary canines are at a greater risk as well.

The Role of Diet in the Treatment of Pancreatitis

Diet is an important part of pancreatitis treatment alongside intravenous fluids, pain medication, and anti-nausea drugs.

Pancreatitis in dogs necessitates a special, easy-to-digest, low-fat diet. The reason for this is that dietary fat is a strong stimulant for the release of digestive enzymes by the pancreas, which may exacerbate pancreatic inflammation.

Dogs that have recovered from an acute episode of pancreatitis may be able to return to their regular diet, while dogs that suffer from chronic disease or experience recurrent episodes of acute pancreatitis may require a low-fat diet on a permanent basis.


Dogs with pancreatitis can eat a variety of foods, but it’s probably best if they don’t eat tuna. Instead, try to find solutions that your vet has prescribed or suggested. Perhaps they will collaborate with you to recommend a home-cooked diet for your dog.

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