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What is EPI in Dogs and How to Treat it Naturally

Written by: Helena Lawrence

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Time to read 6 min

Our dogs rely on us to take care of their health and well-being. As a dog owner, it is important to understand the various ailments that can affect your dog's health. One such condition that is becoming more common in dogs is Exocrine Pancreatic Insufficiency (EPI). EPI is a condition where the pancreas fails to produce enough digestive enzymes resulting in malnutrition and various other health complications for your dog. In this blog post, we will delve deeper into EPI in dogs, what causes it and how to treat EPI in dogs naturally.


Symptoms of EPI in Dogs

The symptoms of EPI in dogs are often difficult to spot initially as they are subtle and may take some time to become noticeable. Dogs suffering from EPI may experience diarrhoea, weight loss, loss of appetite, and frequent bouts of vomiting. It is crucial to note that these symptoms can also be indicative of other underlying health complications, and it is essential to seek veterinary care and diagnose the root cause of the symptoms.

EPI in dogs frequently manifests clinically as:

  • Due to the digestive and stomach issues caused by this illness, bacteria in the intestines overgrow.
  • Loss of weight despite your dog appearing to eat a lot or having a higher appetite.
  • Dogs with the condition known as coprophagia will consume their feces.
  • Persistent diarrhoea.
  • Loss of appetite.
  • Lethargy.
  • Loud stomach noises.
  • Frequently occurring bowel motions.
  • Recurring gas problems.

Additional symptoms may occur if a dog has EPI in conjunction with another illness or is experiencing severe cases. It is important to keep an eye out for these signs, as EPI can quickly become a life-threatening condition if it is not treated promptly. Also, many of the symptoms associated with EPI overlap with other canine health conditions, making it difficult to diagnose this disorder correctly. A vet must be consulted in order to identify the underlying cause and develop an appropriate treatment plan for.

Causes of EPI in Dogs


The primary cause of EPI in dogs is a deficiency of digestive enzymes that aid in breaking down food. In a healthy dog, these enzymes are produced and released by the pancreas into the small intestine. However, in dogs suffering from EPI, the pancreas fails to produce enough digestive enzymes that are necessary for proper digestion and absorption of nutrients. This, in turn, can cause weight loss, diarrhoea, and various other health complications.

Pancreatic acinar atrophy (PAA), which affects dogs, is the most typical cause of EPI. It is particularly true if an EPI diagnosis is made in a comparatively young dog under four.


The pancreatic cells that produce the digestive enzymes appear attacked and destroyed by the dog's immune system in PAA, making it an autoimmune illness. Other potential factors can be linked to certain other causes:

  • One often occurring reason is pancreatic inflammation (chronic pancreatitis).
  • In certain situations, the pancreas stops generating cells and loses functionality at an early age (up to 2 years old). The cause of this has yet to be identified.
  • It has been hypothesised that the disorder may be hereditary.

EPI is more common in some dog breeds, such as German Shepherds, due to their genetics. Some other breeds that are prone to EPI include; Chow Chows, Collies, King Charles Spaniels, Terriers, Akitas, Border Collies and Australian Shepherds.


However, EPI can occur in any dog, and not all instances of the condition are inherited. Pancreatic cancer, chronic pancreatitis, and other ailments with a higher likelihood of occurring are only a few illnesses that can cause the pancreas to lose huge portions of its tissue.


How is EPI Diagnosed in Dogs?

Even though a dog's symptoms, breed, and history of health issues may lead a veterinarian to suspect EPI, other medical conditions can have clinical signs similar to EPI, necessitating lab testing. The following tests can be used to identify EPI in dogs.

Blood Chemistry and CBC Tests

The vet will perform blood chemistry tests and a full blood count to understand your dog's general health and check for issues like anaemia (low red blood cells in the body), which is occasionally linked to EPI.

Trypsin-like Immunoreactivity Test

TLI is the best test, especially for canine EPI. Normally, a dog's bloodstream contains very small amounts of trypsin, a digesting enzyme created by the pancreas. Blood-trypsin levels in dogs with EPI are drastically below normal.

Deficiency Tests

Deficits in vitamin B12 (cobalamin) are frequent in dogs with EPI. Folate levels, another class of B vitamins, can be low, high, or normal.


Dogs with severe EPI may experience vitamin K deficiency, resulting in bleeding. To determine which supplements are required to restore your dog's health, your vet  will measure the levels of cobalamin, folate, and potentially some other vitamins in your dog.

Treatments for EPI in Dogs

Treating EPI in dogs naturally involves a combination of dietary and herbal remedies. The first step in treating EPI in dogs is to switch to a high-quality, easily digestible diet that is high in protein. This will help replace the nutrients that your dog may be missing due to EPI. It is also important to provide your dog with a probiotic supplement featuring important enzymes. These enzymes aid in the digestion and absorption of nutrients, thus reducing the severity of the symptoms.


1. Change in diet

A well-thought-out food plan with supplements is the first line of defence against EPI. A well-balanced, low-fat diet with easily digestible proteins is crucial to managing EPI symptoms. Most vets recommend feeding several small meals throughout the day, instead of only one or two large ones. It is also recommended that supplements, including digestive enzymes and vitamin B12, be added to your dog’s diet.


2. Digestive Enzyme Supplements

When your dog is diagnosed with EPI, supplemental enzymes are typically the first line of therapy. The digestive enzyme supplements can help replace the enzymes that the pancreas fails to produce, thereby aiding the digestion of food. These enzymes can be administered orally in the form of powder or a soft chewable.


3. Vitamin B12 Supplements

Vitamin B12 is crucial to nerve function and blood cell generation. When EPI affects your dog, its potential to absorb B12 from its food decreases. Supplementing your dog's B12 balances can help prevent long-term neurological and metabolic complications.


4. Antibiotic Therapy

In dogs with EPI, bacterial overgrowth in the small intestine is typical, and this requires treatment. Your vet may prescribe antibiotics to help suppress the bacteria.

Antibiotics can also help to reform the microflora balance of the intestine, which helps with digestive support.


5. Pancreatic Enzyme Replacement Therapy (PERT)

In addition to digestive enzyme supplements, PERT (the therapy that replaces exocrine pancreatic enzymes) may sometimes be necessary to manage EPI symptoms effectively. PERT is available in the form of a capsule, granule, or chewable tablet that can be added directly to your dog's food. Your vet will be able to recommend the perfect dosage.

Conclusion

Taking care of our dogs involves understanding their health complications and taking the necessary steps to treat those complications. EPI in dogs can be a life-changing condition that can impact your dog's overall well-being. However, with a proper diagnosis and treatment plan that includes natural remedies, you can help ease the symptoms and improve your dog's quality of life. It is essential to work closely with your vet to ensure that the treatment plan meets your dog's individual needs and ultimately aid in recovery from EPI.

Our product Super Tummy Instant is a great short term solution to help dogs when they're having particularly bad diarrhoea, here’s what some of our customers had to say…

This stuff is amazing! I have three beagles, one who has EPI (pancreatic insufficiency) and she regularly has tummy issues that make picking up after her very unpleasant! Buddy & Lola Super Tummy Instant has been a lifesaver, helping to give my dog a much better quality of life. It’s easy to administer - I add it to her food usually, but sometimes use the dosing syringe to give it her directly.

Helped make poop pickable and soothe her stomach! Whenever Winnie our Chow Chow is having a flare up from her EPI we always go to Super Tummy Instant it firms up her poops fast and helps soothe her stomach!