Is Your Dog Suffering From EPI?

epi in dogs

epiEPI, or exocrine pancreatic insufficiency, is a serious disease that affects many animals. It is a digestive disorder that originates in the pancreas. Basically, the pancreas isn’t able to produce the necessary enzymes to aid in digestion.

What Are The Symptoms?

One symptom you’ll notice in your pet is extreme hunger. Food is passing through their system without being properly digested, and this leaves the animal starved for nutrition. Their natural instinct will be to eat more. Unfortunately, this will do little, if anything, to remedy the situation.

Another symptom is diarrhea. If your pet is suffering from diarrhea that is looser than normal and smells particularly unpleasant, this may be a sign that he or she is suffering from EPI.

What Are The Complications?

Rapid weight loss is a major side effect of EPI. Since the animal is unable to properly digest food, any fat reserves will be depleted in an effort to keep the dog alive.

Another major issue is vitamin deficiencies. Without being able to digest the food they eat, animals will not get the nutrients they need for proper bodily functions. This can lead to a host of issues.

Vitamin B12 deficiency is one of the most common in dogs that suffer from EPI. This deficiency can lead to even greater weight loss. It can also impair mental functions, and drastically decrease the animal’s energy levels. The worst issues, however, are related to digestion. Low levels of vitamin B12 in the blood can often lead to abnormal amounts of bacteria in the small intestine. This is known as SIBO, or small intestinal bacterial overgrowth, which makes it even more difficult for the animal to absorb nutrients.

A Dog and His Toys

A Dog and His Toys (Photo credit: moria)

What Are The Treatment Options?

The most common treatment for this disease is enzyme replacement. What this entails is adding the necessary enzymes into the dog’s food. Generally speaking, this treatment will have to continue throughout the course of the animal’s life. The enzymes in the food will assist the animal with proper digestion, allowing them to get the nutrients they need.

In other cases, medication may be necessary. Your vet will let you know what, if any, medications are needed to treat your dog’s case of PDI. The type of medication, as well as the amount to be taken and the duration of treatment, will be determined by the severity of the disease.

It’s also a good idea to have your pet tested for a vitamin B12 deficiency. As mentioned earlier in this article, vitamin B12 deficiencies are very common in animals with EPI. Since it can lead to so many other health issues, supplementation of this


Dog (Photo credit: crayolarabbit)

nutrient may be needed in addition to the other treatments for the disease.

Since it is difficult for animals with PDI to absorb nutrients, oral supplementation of this vitamin does not appear to be effective. The best way to treat this issue is with vitamin B12 injections. The doses are usually administered less over time, but your vet will need to do blood tests to make sure the treatment is working.

Don’t Ignore This Disease

EPI isn’t well known among pet owners, but it is very serious. If your animal is showing the signs of this disease, they need to see a vet immediately. The vet will help you decide what treatment will work best for your pet’s particular case.

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Joan Eller runs a blog,  dedicated to B12 injections.  While doing research, she was shocked to learn a vitamin B12 deficiency can affect animals too – and her precious dog could need B12 injections!  Being both a pet and health lover, Joan felt it necessary to educate the pet world about this health issue.