Your dog relies on his pancreas for the digestion of fats, starches and proteins. Without a healthy pancreas, your dog will become malnourished and require pancreatic enzyme replacements in order to survive.
The pancreas produces digestive enzymes along with insulin, which is responsible for the regulation of blood sugar levels.
Exocrine pancreatic insufficiency (EPI) occurs when the pancreas does not produce the digestive enzymes necessary for survival. Symptoms of EPI include weight loss, diarrhoea, yellowish or greyish (frequent) stools, intestinal upset and increased appetite.
EPI can be difficult to diagnose as the symptoms sometimes do not become fully apparent until 80 to 95 per cent of the pancreas has atrophied. After symptoms are noted, a veterinarian can administer a blood test called trypsin-like immunoreactivity (TLI) to confirm a diagnosis of EPI.
Dogs suffering from EPI must receive supplemental pancreatic enzymes at every meal and consume a special diet. Freeze-dried and powdered porcine enzymes are typically the most effective, with the most commonly used prescription brands being Viokase, Epizyme, Panakare Plus, Pancrease-V and Pancrezyme.
Some dogs may not be tolerant of porcine enzymes, so a beef-based enzyme may be a better choice. Using raw chopped pig, lamb or beef pancreas in lieu of freeze-dried, powdered pancreatic enzymes is an alternative to prescription enzymes.