EPI (Exocrine Pancreatic Insufficiency)
If your dog has exocrine pancreatic insufficiency (EPI) it basically means there is a progressive loss of digestive enzymes needed for your dog to break down and absorb their food properly.
The progressive loss of pancreatic cells that produce these enzymes is most commonly caused by pancreatic acinar atrophy.
The atrophy itself can be the result of a previous infection, a blocked pancreatic duct or it can be simply down to genetics. Loss of digestive enzymes leads to maldigestion and malabsorption of nutrients which is why dogs with EPI struggle to maintain their weight and are constantly hungry even though they can eat copious amounts of food. They can literally waste away, even die a painful death from malnourishment, starvation or organ failure. A lack of nutrients sometimes even results in temperament changes which may express themselves in aggression or even fear.
It is most commonly found in german shepherds (around 60% of all cases) where it is predominantly an inherited condition. Other breeds are now reported to show signs of EPI such as border collies, boxers, cairns, cavaliers, chihuahuas, cockers, dachshunds, jack russels, labradors, retreivers, rottweilers, schnauzers and westies. Please note that these are not the only breeds now affected.
In most cases, not until 80-90% of the pancreas has lost the ability to secrete the enzyme will the symptoms present themselves. What makes it an even harder disease to diagnose is that not all dogs display any or all of the symptoms all of the time.
The most common symptoms include:
A gradual wasting away even though there is a voracious appetite
Eliminiating more frequently - even every hour or two
Stools are often greasy voluminous yellowish cow-plops, but can also be greyish
Eating their own stools or other inappropriate substances
Increased passing of wind
Increased rumbling sounds from the abdomen
Some dogs don't show typical signs
Some experience intermittent watery diarrea or vomiting
Some dogs even display persoanality changes such as fearfulness or sudden aggression
Without question you should seek proper veterinary advice as to diagnosis of EPI.