Managing pancreas problems

German Shepherd Dog

(Q) My German Shepherd has exocrine pancreatic insufficiency (EPI) - are there any alternatives to Tryplase or Panzym treatments?

(A) Vet Holly Mash says: Treatment of EPI is usually by dietary supplementation with pancreatic enzymes. Because these enzyme supplements are absolutely essential for dogs with EPI, your vet will be able to source them for you. I'm not aware of any alternatives to the enzyme replacement. Some dogs with EPI can also suffer from related problems such as vitamin B deficiency and small intestinal overgrowth, causing diarrhoea. These problems can be managed with the use of a multi-vitamin supplement and by using a pre- and probiotic.

(A) Vet Roberta Baxter says: There are a number of products (Panzym, Tryplase, Lypex, and VetUK Pancreatic Nutriment for dogs) that can be used to provide a dog with pancreatic enzymes to allow him to digest his food. Alternatively fresh pancreases (usually from a pig) can be fed raw if they can be sourced from a butcher or an abbatoir. The key is to adjust the dose for the volume of food fed until it is effective. The products aren't all exactly the same, and moving from one product to another can result in digestive disturbances. But if you can get a reliable source of one of these you should be able to find the right dose by trial and error, using the recommended dose range. Most of these products are available on the internet if your vet can't get them.

What is EPI?

The pancreas secretes enzymes, which aid the digestion of fat and proteins, into the intestines. EPI (exocrine pancreatic insufficiency) occurs when the enzymes aren't produced, meaning that nutrients are not absorbed and remain in the intestines, and are eventually excreted in faeces. The presence of these nutrients draws fluid into the intestine, so affected dogs pass bulky, watery faeces. As the excreted faeces still contain undigested food they remain attractive to dogs - who may eat them.

Breeds most commonly affected by EPI include:

  • German Shepherds
  • English Setters
  • Collies.

Symptoms of EPI include:

  • Diarrhoea
  • Large amount of faeces
  • Weight loss
  • Abnormal appetite (seems to be hungry all the time)
  • Poor coat
  • Lethargy
  • Eating of faeces.