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Department of Veterinary Medicine

Cambridge Veterinary School


I have particular research interests in chronic liver and pancreas disease in dogs and cats. Chronic hepatitis and chronic pancreatitis in dogs remain poorly understood, hindering effective diagnosis and treatment. I work with others both within and outside the department to try to understand the contribution of autoimmunity, infection and copper in liver disease in dogs. A particular interest is chronic pancreatitis in English Cocker spaniels which appears to be an autoimmune disease where the dog's immune system attacks ducts in several places in the body including tear ducts; has remarkable similarities to a rare condition in humans; IgG4-related disease. We are now also investigating chronic biliary tract disease in cats, looking for autoantibodies and specific immunohistochemical markers which might start to unravel the causes. In both cats and dogs, similarities to human diseases offer the possibility of collaborative research with human hepatologists. 


I am a Diplomate of the European College of Veterinary Internal Medicine and offer specialist advice to referring vets particularly in liver and pancreas disease. This helps fuel the clinical research


M.A. University of Cambridge 1990

Vet.MB. University of Cambridge 1989

B.A. Medical Sciences University of Cambridge 1986

RCVS Certificate in Veterinary Radiology October 1993

RCVS Certificate in Small Animal Medicine October 1995

RCVS Diploma in Small Animal Medicine September 1997

European College of Veterinary Internal Medicine Diploma  September 2000

Recognised RCVS Specialist in Small Animal Medicine March 2003

VetMD. University of Cambridge 2009

Awarded Fellowship of the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons  October 2016

2021 onwards Associate Professor in Small Animal Medicine, University of Cambridge

2004 to 2021 University Senior Lecturer in Small Animal Medicine, University of Cambridge.

1998 – 2004 Waltham Lecturer in Small Animal Medicine, University of Cambridge

Jointly responsible for running the small animal medicine service in the referral hospital and teaching students and clinical residents small animal medicine in all areas, but particularly gastroenterology; hepatology and clinical nutrition.


1994-1997 Waltham Resident in Small Animal Medicine and Clinical Nutrition, University of Cambridge.

1993-1994: Locum University Assistant Physician, University of Cambridge

1989-1993: Private Veterinary Practice (large and small animal and equine) in Clwyd; Bedforshire and Cambridge.


Penny Watson’s research focuses on liver and pancreas disease in dogs and cats, particularly chronic disease and fibrosis. There is a strong focus on comparative pathology and identifying the relevance to humans as well as small animals. Her work on canine chronic pancreatitis, in collaboration with Prof Michael Herrtage and pathologists in Cambridge (Tim Scase, Aude Roulois and Fernando Constantino-Casas) and Glasgow and funded by BSAVA Petsavers, has defined the prevalence of lesions at post mortem and breed-related differences in pancreatic pathology which suggest differences in aetiology between breeds. Concurrent clinical studies funded by the Pet Plan Charitable Trust identified the same breed relationships and showed the importance of chronic pancreatitis in causing clinical disease in dogs. Initial studies in English Cocker spaniels suggest a disease similar to autoimmune chronic pancreatitis in humans. This work was continued by Fran Coddou in her Masters and then PhD in collaboration with Fernando Constantino-Casas and Barbara Blacklaws at Cambridge and Professor Michael Day at Bristol which demonstrated that their disease is similar to human IgG4+ related disease. Genetic studies are also ongoing in the breed with Julien Bazelle (clinical resident - residency completed 2013), David Sargan and Jesus Aguirre-Hernandez.

Cavalier King Charles spaniels (CKCS) have also been identified in this research as having an increased risk of chronic pancreatitis and ongoing work in this breed is investigating potential mechanisms of multi-organ fibrosis and the role of platelet-derived mediators including serotonin. The initial part of this work was funded by BSAVA Petsavers and was undertaken with Fernando Constantino-Casas and James Warland (clinical resident) and in collaboration with veterinary colleagues Professor Michael Day from the University of Bristol, Claire Rusbridge from the University of Surrey and Brendan Corcoran from the University of Edinburgh. Ongoin Petsavers funded work is looking at serotonin metabolites in the urine with clinical pathology resident Daniel Castillo and Dr Tim Williams. 

Chronic hepatitis in dogs is another key research focus. Dr Nick Bexfield’s PhD funded by the Wellcome Trust and co-supervised by Penny Watson with Prof Jon Heeney and Laurence Tiley investigated the potential role of novel viruses in the disease and also described breed-related hepatitis in the English Springer Spaniel (ESS). Novel methods of viral discovery have so far failed to find a convincing aetiological agent.  Nick also demonstrated that the recently described canine hepacivirus does not appear to be associated with chronic hepatitis in dogs and has shown an association between the dog leukocyte antigen and chronic hepatitis in the ESS. Ongoing work continues to investigate the genetics of the disease in the ESS and to try to identify the cause with the help and support of the breed health co-ordinators.

Biliary tract disease in dogs and cats is also an active research interest. An Emesis Council award has enabled Ben Harris (clinical resident – residency completed in 2012) to undertake a study of the prevalence and importance of biliary tract infections in dogs, including fluorescence in situ hybridization of dogs' livers in collaboration with Tristan Cogan at Bristol and other colleagues from the veterinary schools at Dublin, Bristol, Liverpool and Glasgow and at Dick White Referrals. 

Penny also has ongoing interests in a number of smaller student and resident clinical research projects, particularly in gastroenterology and clinical nutrition. Congenital portosystemic shunts have been a long term interest, particularly medical management, and she has published a number of book chapters and reviews on pancreatitis and liver disease in dogs and cats.


Key publications: 

Center SA, Richter KP, Twedt DC, Wakshlag JJ, Watson PJ, Webster CRL. (2021) Is it time to reconsider current guidelines for copper content in commercial dog foods? J Am Vet Med Assoc.  Feb 15;258(4):357-364.

Hardwick LJA, Kortum AJ, Constantino-Casas F, Watson PJ. Breed-related expression patterns of Ki67, γH2AX, and p21 during ageing in the canine liver. Vet Res Commun. 2021 Feb;45(1):21-30.

Coddou MF, Constantino-Casas F, Scase T, Day MJ, Blacklaws B, Watson PJ. (2020) Chronic Inflammatory Disease in the Pancreas, Kidney and Salivary Glansd of English Cocker Spaniels and Dogs of Other Breeds Shows Similar Histological Features to Human IgG4-related Disease.  J Comp Pathol. 2020 May;177:18-33. 

Bayton W, Watson PJ, Bexfield NH (2020) Prednisolone therapy for chronic hepatitis in English Springer Spaniels: a prospective study of 12 cases. (2020) Vet Rec 186(18): e21

Webster CRL, Center SA, Cullen JM, Penninck DP, Richter K, Twedt D, Watson PJ . (2019) ACVIM consensus statement on the diagnosis and treatment of chronic hepatitis in dogs. J Vet Intern Med. 2019 33 1173-1200

Katie E. McCallum KE, Fernando Constantino‐Casas F, Cullen JH, Swales H, Linghley N, Kortum AJ, Cogan T, Watson PJ (2018)  Hepatic leptospiral infections in dogs without obvious renal involvement. J Vet Intern Med. 2019 33 141-150

Kortum AJCloup EAWilliams TLConstantino-Casas FWatson PJ. (2018) Hepatocyte expression and prognostic importance of senescence marker p21 in liver histopathology samples from dogs with chronic hepatitis. J Vet Intern Med.  Sep;32(5):1629-1636.

Kent ACConstantino-Casas FRusbridge CCorcoran BMCarter MLedger TWatson PJ. (2016) Prevalence of pancreatic, hepatic and renal microscopic lesions in post-mortem samples from cavalier King Charles spaniels. J Small Anim Pract 57: 188-93

Bexfield NH, Watson PJ, Aguirre-Hernandez J, Sargan DR, Tiley L, Heeney JL, Kennedy LJ. DLA Class II Alleles and Haplotypes Are Associated with Risk for and Protection from Chronic Hepatitis in the English Springer Spaniel PLoS One. 2012;7(8):e42584. Epub 2012 Aug 1.

Bexfield, NH., Buxton, RJ., Vicek, TJ., Day, MJ., Bailey, SM., Haugland, SP., Morrison, LP., Else, RW., Constantino-Casas, F., and Watson, P. J. (2012). Breed, age and gender distribution of dogs with chronic hepatitis in the United Kingdom. Veterinary Journal 193: 124-128

Watson, PJ, Roulois, A, Holloway, A.  and Herrtage, ME. (2011) Characterization of chronic pancreatitis in cocker spaniels. Journal of Veterinary Internal Medicine 25; 797-804

Bexfield NH, Andres-Abdo C, Scase TJ, Constantino-Casas F, Watson PJ. (2011) Chronic hepatitis in the English springer spaniel: clinical presentation, histological description and outcome. Veterinary Record 169: 415

Watson PJ, Roulois AJ, Scase TJ, Irvine R, Herrtage ME (2010) Prevalence of hepatic lesions at post-mortem examination in dogs and association with pancreatitis Journal of Small Animal Practice 51:566-72.

Watson PJ, Archer J, Roulois AJ, Scase TJ, Herrtage ME (2010) Observational study of 14 cases of chronic pancreatitis in dogs. Veterinary Record 167:968-76.

Watson PJ, Roulois AJA, Scase T, Johnston PEJ, Thompson H and Herrtage ME. (2007) Prevalence and breed distribution of chronic pancreatitis at post mortem in first opinion dogs. Journal of Small Animal Practice 48 609-618

Other publications: 


Serrano G, Paepe D, Williams T, Watson P.J (2021) Increased canine pancreatic lipase immunoreactivity and 1,2-0-dilauryl-rac-glycero-3-glutaric acid (6’-methylresorufin)ester (DGGR) lipase in dogs with evidence of portal hypertension and normal pancreatic histology: a pilot study. J Vet Diagn Invest. 2021 May;33(3):548-553

Viljoen AD, Tamborini A, Watson PJ, Bexfield NH. (2021) Clinical characteristics and histology of cholecystectomised dogs with nongravity-dependent biliary sludge: 16 cases (2014-2019). J Small Anim Pract. 2021 Jun;62(6):478-488.

Allan F, McCallum KE, Genain M-A, Harris BJ, Watson PJ (2020) Dissolution of cholelithiasis in a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel receiving conservative management with ursodeoxycholic acid Vet Rec Case Rep 2020 8: p. e001206-e001206

Casamian-Sorrosal D, Silvestrini P, Blake R, Kortum A, Watson PJ, Martínez Y, Lopex Alvarez J, Keegan S. (2020) Clinical features and long-term follow-up of 70 cases of canine idiopathic eosinophilic lung disease. Vet Rec doi: 10.1136/vr.105193. Online ahead of print.

Bazelle, J and Watson PJ. Is it Being Overdiagnosed? Feline Pancreatitis. (2020) Vet Clin North Am Small Anim Pract Sep: 50(5): 1107-1121

Penell JC, Morgan DM, Watson P, Carmichael S, Adams VJ (2019) Body weight at 10 years of age and change in body composition between 8 and 10 years of age were related to survival in a longitudinal study of 39 Labrador retriever dogs Acta Vet Scand 61 (1): 42

Jaffey JA et al (many authors) including Watson PJ. (2019) Effect of clinical signs, endocrinopathies, timing of surgery, hyperlipidemia, and hyperbilirubinemia on outcome in dogs with gallbladder mucocele. The Veterinary Journal 250 Article 105350

Giuliano A, Cloup E, Sanchini L, O'Cathasaigh M, Constantino-Casas F, Watson P, Herrtage M. (2019) Pyothorax and pulmonary lymphomatoid granulomatosis in a cat. Australian Veterinary Practitioner 49 (1): 16-19

McCallum KE, Watson PJ (2018) Hereditary selective cobalamin malabsorption and concurrent pancreatitis in a young Border collie. Veterinary Record Case Reports 6(1):01 Mar 2018

Goodband ELSerrano GConstantino-Casas FArcher JWatson PJWilliams TL. (2018) Validation of a commercial 1,2-o-dilauryl-rac-glycero glutaric acid-(6'-methylresorufin) ester lipase assay for diagnosis of canine pancreatitis. Vet Rec Open.  May 26;5(1):e000270.

Adams VJCeccarelli K, Watson P, Carmichael S, Penell JMorgan DM. (2018) Evidence of longer life; a cohort of 39 labrador retrievers. Vet Rec. 182(14):408

Genain M-A, Barbosa A, Herrtage M, Watson P (2018) Clinical relevance of radiographic linear branching mineral opacities in the canine liver. Journal of Small Animal Practice  Jul;59(7):432-437

Adams VJ, Watson P, Carmichael S, Gerry S, Penell J, Morgan DM (2016) Exceptional longevity and potential determinants of successful ageing in a cohort of 39 Labrador retrievers: results of a prospective longitudinal study. Acta Vet Scand. May 11;58(1):29

Jacinto AM, Ridyard AE, Aroch I, Watson PJ, Morrison LR, Chandler ML, Acvim D, Kuzi S (2017) . Thromboembolism in Dogs with Protein-Losing Enteropathy with Non-Neoplastic Chronic Small Intestinal Disease. J Am Anim Hosp Assoc.  53(3):185-192

Tamborini A, Jahns H, McAllister H, Kent A, Harris B, Procoli F, Allenspach K, Hall E, Day M, Watson P, O'Neill E. (2016) Bacterial cholangitis, cholecystitis or both in the dog. Journal of Small Animal Internal Medicine 2016 Jul;30(4):1046-55.

Kent A, Cross G, Taylor D, Sherwood R, Watson P (2016) Measurement of serum 7α-hydroxy-4-cholesten-3-one as a marker of bile acid malabsorption in dogs with chronic diarrhoea: a pilot study. Vet Rec Open. Apr 6;3(1):e000163. 

Watson PJ. (2015) Pancreatitis in dogs and cats: definitions and pathophysiology. Journal of Small Animal Practice. Jan;56(1):3-12.

 Giuliano A, Meiring T, Grant AJ, Watson PJ (2015) Acute Hepatic Necrosis Caused by Salmonella enterica Serotype I 4,5,12:-:1,2 in a Dog. Journal of Clinical Microbiology. Nov;53(11):3674-6

Bexfield NH1, Watson PJ, Heaney J, Heeney JL, Tiley L. (2014) Canine hepacivirus is not associated with chronic liver disease in dogs. Journal of Viral Hepatology. Mar;21(3):223-8

Gómez Selgas A, Bexfield N, Scase TJ, Holmes MA, Watson P. (2014) Total serum bilirubin as a negative prognostic factor in idiopathic canine chronic hepatitis. Journal of Veterinary Diagnostic Investigation. Mar;26(2):246-51

Adam, FH, German, AJ, J Fraser McConnell, JF, Trehy MR, Whitley N, Collings A, Watson PJ and Burrow RD (2012). Comparative presenting features of acquired and congenital portosystemic shunts in young dogs. Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association 241: 760-765

Collings AJ, Gow AG, Marques A, Yool D, Furneaux R, Mellanby R, Watson PJ (2012) A prospective study of basal insulin concentrations in dogs with congenital portosystemic shunts. J Small Anim Pract 53:228-233

Mansfield CS, Watson P., Jones BR. (2011) Specificity and sensitivity of serum canine pancreatic elastase-1 concentration in the diagnosis of pancreatitis J Vet Diagn Invest. 23:691-7.

Greenhalgh SN, Dunning MD, McKinley TJ, Goodfellow MR, Kelman KR, Freitag T, O’Neill EJ, Hall EJ, Watson PJ, Jeffery NJ. (2010) Comparison of survival after surgical or medical treatment in dogs with a congenital portosystemic shunt. Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association 236: 1215-1220

Raffan E, McCallum A, Scase TJ, Watson PJ. (2009) Ascites is a negative prognostic indicator in chronic hepatitis in dogs. Journal of Veterinary Internal Medicine 23: 63-66

Bexfield, NH, Watson PJ and Herrtage ME( 2006). Fluoroscopic evidence of oesophageal dysmotility in young terrier dogs. Journal of Veterinary Internal Medicine 20: 1314-1318

Bexfield, NH, Watson PJ and Herrtage ME (2006). Canine myasthenia gravis: management using ciclosporin in two dogs. Journal of Veterinary Internal Medicine 20: 1487-1490

Watson PJ, Wotton P, Eastwood J,Swift S, Jones B and Day M (2006) Immunoglobulin deficiency in Cavalier King Charles spaniels with pneumocystis in the UK. Journal of Veterinary Internal Medicine 20, 523-52

Teaching and Supervisions

Research supervision: 

Co-supervisor/supervisor of two successful PhD students (Nick Bexfield:canine chronic hepatitis and Fran Coddou: pancreatitis in English Cocker spaniels) and many successful ECVIM diploma candidates (residents)

Current supervisor of a Master's student investigation feline biliary tract disease

Dr Penny  Watson
Associate Professor in Small Animal Medicine
Medicine clinician, ECVIM Programme Director and resident supervisor in the Queen’s Veterinary School hospital
Director of Studies in Clinical Veterinary Medicine Emmanuel College, Cambridge

Contact Details

Not available for consultancy


Person keywords: 
Immune-mediated disease
BSAVA Petsavers
Kennel Club Charitable Trust
PetPlan Charitable Trust