Pancreatic Insufficiency in Dogs
According to a recent survey compiled by the American Pet Products Association, there are over 78 million owned dogs in the United States, making them second most popular domesticated animal in the land, after the housecat. Just like their owners, our canine friends occasionally get sick and require medical attention. Today we are going to discuss pancreatic insufficiency in dogs—what it is, what causes it, how to diagnose it, and how to treat it.
But before we can fully understand the nature of the disease, it is important to talk a bit about the pancreas itself. A vital organ in all mammals, the pancreas is located under the stomach and beside the duodenum, the upper portion of the small intestine. The pancreas is responsible for two important functions necessary to complete healthy digestion of the foods we all eat. First, the endocrine pancreas secretes the hormones glucagon and insulin, which are needed to regulate blood sugar levels. Second, the organ releases enzymes required to break down food so it can be fully absorbed by the intestines.
What is Exocrine Pancreatic Insufficiency (EPI)?
When a canine suffers from EPI, its pancreas will not excrete enough of the enzymes needed for healthy digestion, which means even if the dog has a healthy appetite his cells will not receive the calories, i.e., energy they desperately need. As a result, these poor pooches are literally starving no matter how much food they consume because the nutrients cannot be absorbed and used for fuel.
Symptoms of Pancreatic Insufficiency in Dogs
Weight loss without a corresponding loss of appetite is the most noticeable sign of EPI. In fact, many dogs with the condition actually eat a lot more than they did before, since their cells are starving. Another common symptom is protracted bouts of diarrhea and flatulence. Because they are not getting the nutrients they need, a dry-looking coat and dry, flaky skin are other common signs of the disorder. Lastly, a formerly energetic and athletic dog may be reduced to lethargy in short order. They may no longer have the strength to play fetch, go for long walks, or even make it up the stairs unassisted.
Causes of Pancreatic Insufficiency in Dogs
Pancreatic atrophy is the most common cause of EPI. This occurs when the organ either wastes away or decreases in size. Although the disorder is idiomatic, or of unknown origin, most researchers strongly suspect it is an inherited condition. However, it is not present at birth and usually appears between the ages of 4 and 5. Unfortunately, there is no known cure for EPI, but it can be managed with lifelong treatment. As long as there is no permanent damage to the organ, dogs usually regain the weight they lost soon after the disease is diagnosed and can then live a normal life.
Treatment of Pancreatic Insufficiency in Dogs
If you observe any of the aforementioned symptoms, it is important to get your pooch to the veterinarian as soon as possible. Because it is a degenerative disorder, failure to do so could lead to permanent damage, even death. Once your canine friend has been properly diagnosed by an experienced veterinarian, treatment can begin. Treatment for EPI always includes pancreatic enzyme supplements added to your dog’s food to aid healthy digestion. These medications are typically prescribed in powered form and are tasteless and odorless. In other words, your dog won’t know he’s taking medicine.
In addition to prescription medications, it is often recommended that you put your canine friend on a low fiber, low fat diet, which should make digestion a bit easier. In extreme cases veterinarians may also prescribe antibiotics to control bacterial growth in the intestines. For dogs with low-normal B12, vets may also recommend B12 supplements.
The most common treatment for EPI is a pancreatic enzyme concentrate taken in power form. Tablets are typically less effective and may need to be crushed before they can be mixed into your dog’s food. PanaKare™ Plus Powder And Tablets is a popular enzyme concentrate fortified with vitamins A, D, and E.
The average dose and scheduling is 1 teaspoon administered before each meal. Of course, this dosage may be adjusted based on the size of your dog and the severity of the condition. Because they usually consume more food, larger dogs may need significantly more powder to aid healthy digestion.
Does your dog suffer from Pancreatic Insufficiency Do you have any suggestions or hints we should know? Please leave comments below so we can learn from your experiences.