What is EPI in Dogs? Symptoms & Treatment

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 digestive issues and malabsorption of nutrients which is why dogs with EPI struggle to maintain their weight, and are therefore constantly hungry, even though they can eat copious amounts of food.

They can even literally waste away, even die a painful death from malnourishment, starvation or organ failure. A lack of nutrient sometimes even results in temperament changes which may express themselves in aggression or even fear! Absolutely not what we want to see.

Pathogenesis, or where do we see EPI, in dogs?

EPI is most commonly found in German Shepherds (around 60% of all cases) where it is predominantly an inherited condition (passed down from a dog's parents). Other breeds are now also being reported as showing signs of EPI as well, such as Border Collies, Boxers, Cairns, Cavaliers, Chihuahuas, Cocker, Dachshunds, Jack Russells, Labradors, Retrievers, Rottweilers, Schnauzers and westies! It is also worth noting however, that this is not an exhaustive list, and not the only breeds now known to be affected, simply the most common.

Typical Symptoms of EPI in dogs

In most cases, not until 80-90% of the pancreas has lost the ability to secrete the proper digestive enzymes will the symptoms present themselves. What makes it even harder to diagnose is that not all dogs display any or all of the symptoms all the time. The diet will often need complementing with additional enzyme powders and in some cases a boost of vitamin B12 injections

The most common symptoms include:

  • A gradual wasting away, even though there is a voracious appetite
  • Defecating more frequently
  • 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
  • Experiencing intermittent watery diarrhoea or vomiting
  • Some dogs even display personality changes such as fearfulness or sudden aggression
  • It is also worth noting - not all dogs display the typical signs

What's the treatment for EPI in dogs?

Without question you should seek proper veterinary advice as to the actual treatment of EPI and where to get the appropriate medication - your vet will most likely prescribe an enzyme powder to be added to your dogs feed at every meal.

Again, we stress that you need to seek immediate veterinary advice if you suspect your dog has EPI

How does a grain and cereal free diet help?

It is the wheat gluten and other grains/cereals typically found in other brands of dog food that EPI sufferers have particular problems digesting. All our recipes are wheat gluten free. And many of our recipes have no grains or cereals in them, see our range of Grain free dog food, which have no cereals either. We have had excellent results with EPI dogs that have been fed our Duck & Potato dog food recipe, as shown with the numerous testimonials we have received.


Photo: Steve Tulk