Exocrine Pancreatic Insufficiency (EPI) in Dogs
In order to fully understand the nature of the condition known as Exocrine Pancreatic Insufficiency (EPI)—also known as maldigestion—it is necessary to first learn what role the pancreas plays as a vital organ in our bodies. Understanding EPI will also be clearer if the meanings of enzymes, atrophy and autoimmune are first learned.
What is the Pancreas?
The pancreas is a glandular organ located under to the stomach and next to the upper portion of the small intestine (duodenum). The pancreas is responsible for two major functions crucial to the digestion of the food we eat. The first function is performed by the endocrine pancreas. The endocrine pancreas secretes the hormones insulin and glucagon which are constantly regulating the levels of sugar in the bloodstream. The exocrine pancreas produces and excretes enzymes used for digestion. Enzymes are proteins that help break down the food we eat so it can then be absorbed by our intestines. For example, lactose is the sugar found in milk. Lactase is the enzyme needed to break lactose into two simpler sugars (galactose and glucose) that can now be absorbed into our body and utilized. People with low levels of lactase are called “lactose intolerant,” a term familiar to most people due to all the television commercials pushing lactose-free milk and dairy products.
What happens during Canine EPI?
When a dog suffers from the condition Exocrine Pancreatic Insufficiency, its pancreas fails to excrete enough of the digestive enzymes needed for proper digestion of food. Some of the enzymes are: lipases, to digest fats; amylase, to digest starch/sugars; and proteases, to digest proteins. Even though the dog is eating enough food, and in many cases much more than enough, it is literally starving. Without enzymes to break down the food eaten, nutrients cannot be absorbed. If they can’t be absorbed, they can’t be utilized by the body. Owners are feeding their dog plenty of food so they can’t imagine why the dog is severely malnourished and wasting away.
Symptoms of EPI
- Noticeable weight loss, but most often without loss of appetite
- Increase in appetite
- Loud, rumbling sounds in the abdomen
- Increased gas or flatulence
- Grey-colored, very smelly, oily-looking stools, due to the high amount of fats in the waste.
- Dry, flaky skin
- Dry-looking coat
- Weak, lethargic behavior
Causes of EPI
The most common cause of EPI is pancreatic atrophy. Atrophy is wasting, or a decrease in size of an organ or tissue. Pancreatic atrophy is when this wasting away happens to the pancreas. It is thought to be an inherited condition, but is not present at birth, or congenital. It usually appears in young adult dogs, ages 4-5.
Since pancreatic atrophy is thought to be genetic, it is the responsibility of the breeder to not breed a dog known to have it. EPI is only one problem that occurs with a shrinking pancreas, and there is no cure, only lifelong treatments and expenses.
Another cause of EPI can be from recurring bouts of pancreatitis, or inflammation of the pancreas. Each time the dog gets pancreatitis, small portions of the pancreas can become permanently damaged from scarring or necrosis (tissue death). The more damage done, the greater the risk of EPI occurring.
There is no cure for Exocrine Pancreatic Insufficiency, but there are treatments. The first thing an owner must do when suspecting EPI is to take the dog to the vet. The treatment will be to include pancreatic enzyme supplements added to the food, usually in the form of a powder, but it comes in capsules and tablets too.
It is also sometimes recommended to keep the dog on a low fat, low fiber diet to aid in easier digestion, so owners most likely will need to change their pet’s food. An antibiotic may also be prescribed since lack of enzymes in the digestive tract cause an overgrowth of bacteria in the gut. One or all of the above may be advised.
- Natural Dogmanship
- It's a Way of Life
- A Group Effort
- Why Dogs Must be Followers
- What Does it Mean to be Dominant?
- Dogs Only Need Love
- Different Dog Temperaments
- Dog Body Language
- Stopping Fights Among your Pack
- Dog Training vs. Dog Behavior
- Punishment vs. Correction in Dogs
- Are you setting your dog up for failure?
- Lack of Natural Dog Behavior Knowledge
- The Grouchy Dog
- Working with a Fearful Dog
- Old Dog, New Tricks
- Understanding a Dog's Senses
- The Human Dog
- Projecting Authority
- My Dog was Abused
- Successfully Adopting a Rescue Dog
- Positive Reinforcement: Is it enough?
- Adult Dog and the New Puppy
- Why Did My Dog Do That?
- Proper Way to Walk a Dog
- The Walk: Passing Other Dogs
- Introducing Dogs
- Dogs and Human Emotions
- Do Dogs Discriminate?
- The Intuition of a Dog
- Speaking Dog
- Dogs: Fear of Storms and Fireworks
- Providing a Job Helps Dog with Issues
- Teaching Dogs to Respect the Kids
- Proper Human to Dog Communication
- Rude Dog Owners
- Canine Feeding Instincts
- Human to Dog No-No's: Your Dog
- Human to Dog No-No's: Other Dogs
- FAQ About Dogs
- Small Dogs vs. Medium and Large Dogs
- Separation Anxiety in Dogs
- Dominant Behaviors in Dogs
- The Submissive Dog
- Bringing Home the New Human Baby
- Approaching a Dog
- Top Dog
- Establishing and Keeping Alpha Position
- Alpha Boot Camp for Dogs
- Guarding Furniture
- Stopping a Jumping Dog
- Using Human Psychology on Jumping Dogs
- Dogs Chasing Cars
- Training Collars. Should they be used?
- Spaying and Neutering your Dog
- Submissive Peeing
- An Alpha Dog
- Who's More Prone to Fight, Male or Female Dogs?
- Whelping: Puppy Nipple Guarding
- The Truth behind the Pit Bull Terrier
- Protecting Your Puppy from Dog Attacks
- Chaining Dogs
- SPCA High-Kill Shelter
- A Senseless Death, a Misunderstood Dog
- Amazing What a Little Leadership Can Do
- Transforming a Rescue Dog
- DNA Canine Breed Identification
- Raising a Puppy
- Raising an Alpha Puppy
- Raising a Middle of the Road Puppy
- Raising a Back of the Line Puppy
- Stages of Puppy Development
- Introducing a New Crate to a Puppy or Dog
- Puppy Temperament Test
- Puppy Temperaments
- A Dog Fight - Understanding your Pack
- Understanding your puppy or dog
- Runaway Dog!
- Socializing your Dog
- Should I Get a Second Dog
- Is your Dog Out of Control?
- Illusion Dog Training Collar
- Top Dog Photos
- Training your Puppy or Dog
- Puppy Biting
- Deaf Dogs
- Are You Ready for a Dog?
- Breeders vs. Rescues
- Find the Perfect Dog
- Caught in the Act
- The Pack of Dogs is Here!
- Recommended Dog Books and DVDs
- Need to find your dog a home?