A Word About Pancreatic Enzyme Supplements

If you’re a companion to a pet that requires supplementing pancreatic enzymes, then you probably understand how confusing and expensive the pancreatic enzyme supplements can be. The large investment in pancreatic enzyme supplements, alone, is a motivation for the desire to have them to be efficient but their activity is crucial  for your pets to be healthy and happy. This article is aimed at helping you understand the enzymes, the cost of them, and the disease behind them, so you can get the best results from them while possibly saving money.

Why are pancreatic enzyme supplements for dogs used?

Normally, the pancreas produces enzymes that digest food and allow nutrients to be absorbed. Sometimes the pancreas can’t produce the enzymes needed to help your pet digest their food.The formal name for this disease is Exocrine Pancreatic Insufficiency and it is often abbreviated as EPI. It can be more common in German Shepherds, Rough Collies, and Chow Chows.  The medication used to treat EPI is often a supplement of pancreatic enzymes that act like the ones your pet would usually make themselves.

What are pancreatic enzyme supplements for dogs?

The pancreas produces three major enzymes: amylase, lipase, and protease. Amylase breaks down carbohydrates, protease breaks down protein, and lipase breaks down fats. This breakdown is necessary for all three of these dietary nutrients to be absorbed and put to use in the body. The majority of prescription pancreatic enzymes are extracts from pigs. They can come in tablets and in powders. Some products also contain vitamins A, D3, and E. Your veterinarian will decide if your pet needs the extra vitamins or not.

Are there differences between brands of pancreatic enzyme supplements for dogs?

There are two main categories of pancreatic enzyme products: ones that contain the enzymes only, and ones that contain enzymes and vitamins. They can be further divided into tablets and powders which both contain the same ingredients when made by the same manufacturer, but in different ratios. Many questions have been raised about if the tablets and powders are equally effective and if you should pre-incubate the pancreatic enzymes (let them come to room temperature before feeding them). The American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine reports that pre-incubating the enzymes has no statistical significance in studies, and may be unnecessary. They also state that tablets and enteric coated products may have decreased efficacy. This is likely because the powders can coat the food better, which is the whole point of the enzymes; They need to be in contact with the food to break it down, and a tablet doesn’t reach a large volume of food, as compared to the powder. You could think about trying to flavor popcorn: shaking a flavored powder over the bowl of popcorn will coat more pieces and make it more flavorful, whereas putting a tablet of flavor will only coat a few pieces. This isn’t to say that all pets are candidates for powder pancreatic enzymes but if you have tried the tablets with no success, it may be beneficial to try the powder. It is ultimately the veterinarian’s decision which is best for each case, just be informed about the options.

How do the prices compare between the pancreatic enzyme supplements available through VetRxDirect?

Powders containing pancreatic enzymes only: Pancrezyme Powder, Viokase-V powder, and Epizyme powder: All three of these contain 71,400 units of lipase, 388,000 units of protease, and 460,000 units of amylase per teaspoonful. VetRxDirect’s current cost per teaspoon for each of these medications are:

  • Epizyme 8oz = $0.92
  • Epizyme 12oz = $0.95
  • Epizyme 4 oz = $1.20
  • Pancrezyme 12 oz= $1.57
  • Pancrezyme 8oz = $1.65
  • Viokase –V 12oz = $2.10
  • Viokase-V  8 oz= $2.18

Tablets containing pancreatic enzymes only: Pancrezyme tablets : These tablets are similar to the powder above, but they contain 9,000 units of lipase, 57,000 units of protease, and 64,000 units of amylase per teaspoonful. VetRx Direct’s current price per tablet is:

  • Pancrezyme tablet: $0.26

Powders containing pancreatic enzymes and vitamins: PancrePlus powder, Panakare Plus powder, and PancreVed powder. All three of these contain vitamins and 71,400 units of lipase, 388,000 units of protease, and 460,000 units of amylase per teaspoonful. VetRx Direct’s current price per teaspoon is:

  • PancreVed 12oz: $0.99
  • PanaKare Plus 12 oz: $1.01
  • PancreVed 8oz: $1.04
  • PanaKare Plus 8 oz: $1.04
  • PancrePlus 12oz: $1.07
  • PancrePlus 8oz: $1.13
  • PancreVed 4 oz: $1.14
  • PanaKare Plus 4 oz: $1.26
  • PancrePlus 4oz: $1.28

Tablets containing pancreatic enzymes and vitamins: PancrePlus tablets, PanaKare tablets, and PancreVed tablets. All three of these contain vitamins and 9,000 units of lipase, 57,000 units of protease, and 64,000 units of amylase. VetRx Direct’s current price per tablet is:

  • PancrePlus 500ct: $0.16
  • PanaKare Plus 500ct: $0.16
  • PancreVed 500 ct: $0.18
  • PanaKare Plus 100 ct: $0.22
  • PancrePlus 100 ct: $0.23
  • PancreVed 100 ct: $0.25

Pancreatic Enzyme Supplements for Dogs from VetRxDirect Pet Pharmacy

It’s all in the math for pancreatic enzyme supplements:

To find the difference in prices between the tablets and powders, a comparison between their concentrations must be made. The powders are much more concentrated than the tablets. In the enzyme only products and the enzyme plus vitamins, the powder-to-tablet enzyme concentration ratios (powder:tablet) for lipase, protease and amylase are 7.9:1, 6.8:1, and  7.18:1, respectively. So one teaspoonful is approximately 7 time more concentrated than one tablet. You could also think that it would take approximately 7 tablets to equal 1 teaspoon of the powder. If you multiply the price of the tablets by seven, then you get a rough comparative cost of the tablets to the powders.

For example:

  • Pancrezyme tablets = $0.26 x  7 =  $1.82
  • Pancrezyme 12 oz powder = $1.57

By using the Pancrezyme powder instead of the Pancrezyme tablet you could save $0.25 per teaspoonful that you use.  Let’s say that you are supposed to give one teaspoonful three times a day: you would save $0.75 per day. That could be $273.75 per year. Over ten years you could save $2,737.50, all because you were informed and proactive about your pet’s pancreatic enzyme supplements.

The take-home message about pancreatic enzyme supplements:

      While the decision on what product to use is ultimately up to your veterinarian and you, it is important to be informed about the options out there. It is important to discuss the efficacy of the powder and tablets with your veterinarian, and what they think would the best option for your pet.  The money that can be saved by switching to a cheaper product or by switching to powder form can save a large amount of money. However, you should be aware that some veterinarians like to start with more expensive products to stabilize your pet and then try the cheaper options, and there may be clinical differences between different manufacturers and how they get the enzymes.The purpose of this article is to educate pet owners about the pancreatic enzyme products and the long term costs that can accumulate from purchasing the more expensive products. We hope that reading this article has informed you about pancreatic enzymes, and that you (and your pet) can both be happy.

Is your dog on Pancreatic Enzymes? Does your dog take the powder? Which brand do you prefer? Please leave any comments below. Thank you.

Abigail Maas

VetRxDirect Pet Pharmacy Pharmacist Intern


Exocrine Pancreatic Insufficiency (EPI).” American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine. American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine, 9 Jan. 2013. Web. 29 Mar. 2014.

Review of Pancreatic Drugs for Dogs

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.

PanaKare Plus Pancreatic Enzymes for Pets

PanaKare Plus Available at VetRxDirect

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.