EPI in dogs stands for "exocrine pancreatic insufficiency" and describes an incurable weakness of the pancreas, which leads to severe indigestion. This affects the overall health of the affected dog.
What is EPI in dogs?
A healthy pancreas produces various digestive enzymes to break down and process proteins, carbohydrates and fats from food. In addition, the pancreas forms pancreatic juice, which neutralizes the stomach acid so that it cannot cause any damage in the small intestine. EPI in dogs prevents the pancreas from releasing enough digestive enzymes. As a result, food passes through the small intestine without breaking down the proteins, fats and carbohydrates. The body cannot use them in this way and excretes them unused. This leads to a lack of nutrients.
How chronic pancreatic weakness is noticeable
If your dog suffers from chronic pancreatic weakness, the digestive problems are particularly noticeable. EPI in dogs causes frequent, foul-smelling diarrhea, sometimes the faeces are foamy or mushy and undigested food components can be seen in them. So-called fat stool is also a common symptom, since fat digestion in particular is disturbed. In addition, there are severe flatulence and loud abdominal noises. Dogs with EPI mostly try to compensate for the loss of nutrients by increasing their food intake. That means affected animals eat everything they can get between their teeth; in addition to dog food, this can also be feces (coprophagia), soil or waste.
Nevertheless, the sick dogs lose weight and the lack of nutrients causes shaggy fur, flaky skin and hair loss. A dog with weak pancreas feels flabby, tired and lacking in motivation because he lacks the energy to move normally.
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Treatment of an EPI in dogs
Unfortunately, EPI cannot be cured in dogs because it is a chronic disease. But pancreatic weakness can be treated well. The therapy essentially consists in supplying the nutrients that your four-legged friend cannot ingest through food and to replace the missing digestive enzymes. The latter are available as powders, tablets or capsules, which your dog must take in with the food. In addition, your pet has to eat more than healthy peers, sometimes twice as much. Small portions throughout the day are better than a few large portions - this makes the feed easier to process. In addition, easily digestible special feed from the veterinarian is recommended.
In addition, sick dogs must be provided with fat-soluble vitamins K, E, D and A as a dietary supplement. EPI is also usually associated with a vitamin B12 deficiency in dogs. However, the four-legged friend cannot ingest this nutrient with the feed, but must receive injections. Vitamin B12 deficiency can be remedied this way, so your dog doesn't normally need to use the syringes all his life. The nutritional supplements, the special feed and the added digestive enzymes remain indispensable.