What is Exocrine Pancreatic Insufficiency in Dogs?
Exocrine Pancreatic Insufficiency in dogs is caused by decreased or lack of exocrine function of the pancreas. However, this seemingly problematic condition can be easily treated.
The pancreas is an organ that provides a variety of functions in the body. Most people know about the endocrine function of the pancreas, which is the release of the hormone insulin. Insulin is used to regulate blood sugar levels in the body and is used by cells for sugar uptake. The pancreas also has a lesser known exocrine function to supply digestive enzymes to the stomach and digestive tract to help the body break down foods to digestible ingredients.
In Exocrine Pancreatic Insufficiency or EPI, there is a problem with the pancreas that prevents the normal secretion of digestive enzymes. This may be due to a functional problem with the pancreas itself or there could be a problem with the production of enzymes. As a result, the enzyme production may be affected. Dogs with EPI can have a normal endocrine function of the pancreas or may have signs of diabetes if both endocrine and exocrine functions are compromised.
The most common sign of EPI in dogs is a change in the stool color and consistency. Dogs with EPI will have stools that are gray or yellow in color. The stool may look fatty, as the body is unable to break down nutrients that color the stool as well as fats. The stool is then discolored and covered in undigested fats that are passed out of the body. Stools can be
The stool is then discolored and covered in undigested fats that are passed out of the body. Stools can be normal or may lead to diarrhea if the body is having a hard time breaking down many nutrients. Dogs may often feel hungry and eat lots without gaining weight. Any dog can have EPI; however, some breeds, such as the German Shepherd, may be more predisposed.
Can I Prevent EPI in My Dog
EPI is usually not preventable as signs and symptoms of the disease do not appear until there are signs of damage to the pancreas or problems in enzyme production. However, in the case of breeds predisposed to EPI, careful selection and breeding of parents may help. Additionally, it could help to remove dogs with EPI from the breeding pool. If there is a genetic cause to the condition in these breeds, then breed selection can reduce the incidence of EPI in the offspring. Pancreatitis may also cause temporary EPI and can be prevented with proper diet and care.
What Should I Do if I Suspect EPI in My Dog?
If your dog is showing signs of EPI, it is important to see your vet. He may recommend additional tests, such as blood work and X-rays, to rule out other similar conditions, including pancreatitis. Once EPI is determined, the treatment can begin.
The treatment of chronic EPI typically requires supplementation with a digestive enzyme. These enzymes come in a powdered form and are sprinkled over every meal or placed in a capsule and fed prior to meals. The digestive enzymes help break down the food and allow for proper digestion, helping dogs regain nutrients and lost weight, and return the stool to normal.
In the case of acute EPI due to pancreatitis or other illness, treating the underlying condition will resolve the problem. Treatment depends on the cause but may range anywhere from supplementation with enzymes and medications to hospitalization and fluid therapy to allow the organs and bowels to rest and recover. Your vet can help recommend treatment as needed if there is a secondary cause to EPI.
Natural Remedies for Treating EPI
Some natural remedies are available that may encourage normal pancreatic function. Many digestive enzymes that are given to dogs are also sourced from natural ingredients and can help dogs without additional medications. Some homeopathic and herbal remedies for helping pancreatic function include Iris Vers 30C and alfalfa. Some owners and vets also recommend a raw food diet, as raw meats can provide natural digestive enzymes for better nutrient absorption. However, a raw diet should be discussed with a veterinarian or naturopathic vet prior to starting.