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Exocrine Pancreatic Insufficiency in Dogs… What is it? And how can you treat it?

Since exocrine pancreatic insufficiency isn’t necessarily the first thing that someone decides to look up while “surfing the web”, we can naturally assume that you either suspect something might be wrong with your dog or your dog has already been diagnosed with this condition and now you’re looking to learn a little bit more about what exocrine pancreatic insufficiency is.

Which makes perfect…

Sense to us which is why we here at IndulgeYourPet decided to write this article so that we can shed a little light on exactly what this condition is, without getting too technical so that the “average” person doesn’t lose their mind with all of the scientific mumbo jumbo.

So, without further ado, let’s dive right in.

Exocrine Pancreatic Insufficiency in Dogs Defined

Exocrine Pancreatic Insufficiency (EPI) sounds like a very complicated disease but it actually has a very simple concept. EPI in dogs is primarily caused by pancreatic acinar atrophy (PAA) which disturbs the pancreatic acinar cells that secrete enzymes in the pancreas.

This causes…

The food your pet eats to not be digested properly in the small intestine which in turn makes your pet’s body not be able to digest the food you feed them well and absorb the nutrients they need to live.  Or to put in another way, your dog begins to starve even though he or she has plenty to eat!


The “insufficiency” also allows for bacterial “overgrowth” to occur, and the lining of the small intestine can begin to deteriorate which can both lead to many serious consequences for your dog down the line.


Since there are not sufficient cells to produce the pancreatic enzymes to digest starches and lipids the body cannot break down these nutrients and like we’ve already mentioned will begin to actually starve despite having access to plenty of food.

Symptoms to be aware of…

Since all this is happening on the inside of your loved one’s body, you’re not going to necessarily be able to diagnosis EPI right away.  That said however there are some symptoms and clinical signs you can see on the outside as the disease progress which is nothing else will indicate that you need to have your dog checked out ASAP.

Symptoms such as:

  • Large amounts of diarrhea,
  • Loss in strength and energy,
  • Unexplained weight loss,
  • Vigorous eating like a scavenger,
  • And deterioration in their coat and fur.


Even if your furry friend has all of these symptoms it may not necessarily mean they have EPI.  Intestinal Parasites, Small intestinal bacterial overgrowth, and pancreatitis all have similar symptoms which further complicate the diagnosis.

It is important to note that…

It is crucial to bring your four-legged buddy in to the veterinarian as soon as possible once you begin to see signs that your dog is not doing well.  This is because proper treatment is essential for having your dog make a full recover.  Or to put in another way, this is not something that is going to resolve itself on its own.

Which brings us to…

A good point in this article to remind folks that we here at IndulgeYourPet are not medical professionals and we’re certainly not veterinarians.  All we are is a bunch folks who are passionate about animals and want to try to help any pet owner do what’s best for his or her loved one.  We want the best for your pet so we provide the information that you need to treat your furry friend.

This is why…

One of the main phrases we go by here at IndulgeYourPet is:

“When in doubt, have your vet check it out”

So, you can ensure a safe treatment for your pet.  It is always better to take your pet into the veterinarian early especially in the case of EPI where the longer you wait, the more the pancreas and small intestine deteriorates.

Commonly affected dog breeds include…

This is because they are susceptible for getting pancreatic acinar atrophy (PAA), which is the disease that causes EPI.  Of these breeds German Shepherd dogs are the most affected with 70% of all dogs who have EPI being a German Shepherd.  For collies, 20% of all affected dogs with EPI are collies.

Now, you may be wondering…

What treatments are available for your furry friend with EPI, and the good news is that EPI is treatable, although it is not a one-time cure.  The treatment is extensive and includes:

  • Periodic treatment with antibiotic and anti-inflammatory drugs for treatment of the small intestinal lining,
  • Continual pancreatic enzyme supplementation for life as a way of enzyme replacement,
  •  Low-fat diet because the pancreas does not produce the enzymes needed to digest fat,
  • And supplemental oral vitamins like vitamin K and E, and cobalamin to treat vitamin and cobalamin deficiencies which stem from not being able to fully digest food.

And here lies the problem…

While it is fantastic that EPI is treatable, the cost of such treatment can really add up.  First of all, the diagnostic tests to first diagnose EPI can run upwards of $500 and the constant medications can add up to $300 to $1000 a year.  Not to mention the check-ups your dog will require to ensure their constant well-being, and the low-fat food they will need to eat.

This is why…

At IndulgeYourPet, we typically recommend that everyone who is considering purchasing an animal at least take a few moments and explore what it might cost to purchase a pet insurance policy.

This way…

You are not the sole person paying for your four-legged family member’s vet bills and medications and can offer them the best treatments for whatever they are enduring.


You never know what type of medical issues your pet may have throughout the course of its life time and knowing that you have an insurance policy in place that could “shield” you from costly bills is always a great feeling to have!

For more information on who we feel currently offers the “Best” pet insurance policies in the industry, feel free to check out our Best Pet Insurance Companies article.

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