Exocrine Pancreatic Insufficiency (EPI) in Dogs

EPI (Exocrine Pancreatic Insufficiency) is described as a weakness of the pancreas which results in a lack of digestive enzymes.

What is the Pancreas?

The pancreas is the organ that is vital for the digestion of your dog’s food. It produces the ‘gastric juice secretions' that contain, amongst other things, the digestive enzymes that are vital for breaking down the nutrients absorbed from food (fats in fatty acids, proteins in amino acids and carbohydrates in sugars). Only as these small components can the mucous membrane of the intestine re-absorb them so that they can be transported via bloodstream to the individual organs where they are needed.

The Effects of Exocrine Pancreatic Insufficiency in Dogs

If a dog suffers from EPI, its pancreas is not able to produce these enzymes in sufficient amounts and therefore the body is unable to digest food properly and cannot make full use of the nutrients. The persistence of undigested food within the small intestine often results in bacterial overgrowth, further compromising intestinal function. Fortunately, the pancreas has a high reserve capacity, so signs of maldigestion do not occur until 90% of the exocrine pancreatic function is lost.

Symptoms of Exocrine Pancreatic Insufficiency in Dogs

The most common symptoms of Exocrine Pancreatic Insufficiency is chronic diarrhoea, vomiting, a high- temperature and a reluctance to eat. Some dogs do not experience diarrhoea but will endure very frequent defecation (six times or more per day) in which the faeces are typically large in volume, greasy-looking, light-coloured and foul-smelling. This is due to an insufficient digestion of the food. As these dogs do not take in enough nutrients, they are typically looking thin while being always hungry and eat fairly much everything what they can get yet never feeling full.

Causes of Exocrine Pancreatic Insufficiency in Dogs

  • The most common cause of digestive enzyme deficiency in dogs is Pancreatic Acinar Atrophy, in which the pancreas simply becomes shrivelled and useless. This condition seems to have a genetic basis but is not congenital and may develop at any age although it usually shows up before the dog reaches four-years-of-age. The Pancreatic Acinar Atrophy seems to be an immune mediated problem in which the immune system ‘attacks’ the pancreas and destroys its cells which are replaced then by non-functioning tissue. Certain breeds like Miniature Schnauzers, short-haired Collies and German Shepherds seem to be more prone
  • Recurring pancreatic inflammation that can lead to pancreatic insufficiency
  • Neoplasia (tumours)
  • Diagnosis of Exocrine Pancreatic Insufficiency in Dogs

  • EPI can be diagnosed by your vet by a specific test together with specific clinical symptoms.
  • Diet for a dog suffering from Exocrine Pancreatic Insufficiency

  • Food should be easy to digest (more than 90% digestibility)
  • Moderate fat content as there is commonly a significant problem with digesting fat
  • Often, it is necessary to add substitutional pancreatic enzymes to the food (available from your vet)
  • Suitable Varieties of the Happy Dog Food for Dogs with Exocrine Pancreatic Insufficiency

    The Happy Dog Supreme Light (Low Fat) and the Supreme Sensitive Tuscany varieties are very helpful as they both have a moderate fat content. Moreover, they both have a digestibility of more than 90% (as with all Happy Dog Supreme products). For dogs that suffer additionally from a grain-intolerance, the Supreme Sensitive Africa is the most suitable variety as it is moderate in fat as well and grain-free. The digestibility of the food can be further increased by soaking the kibbles in warm water (about 45°C). If the illness continues for longer, developmental problems in younger animals and weight loss in adult/older animals can be seen. For veterinary help and advice on feeding a dog with Exocrine Pancreatic Insufficiency, you can email support@happydoguk.com or call 01793 615 879.
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