Pancreatic Enzyme Insufficiency in Dogs

Your dog's pancreas has very important digestive functions, but when it begins to fail, it can cause serious, even life-threatening symptoms. Left untreated, a dog with pancreatic insufficiency will literally waste away and ultimately starve to death. While the treatment of pancreatic insufficiency is costly and a lifelong commitment, it is worth it to save the life and improve quality of life for your beloved dog.

  1. Your Dog's Pancreas

    • The pancreas secretes enzymes that facilitate the digestion and absorption of whatever food your dog eats.Trypsin and chymotrypsin break down proteins, amylase breaks down starches, and lipase breaks down fats and triglycerides. If your dog's pancreas is not producing these enzymes, food goes through the gastrointestinal tract undigested, and your dog does not get the nutrients it needs from food.

    Causes of Pancreatic Insufficiency

    • Any dog can develop pancreatic insufficiency, but large breeds, especially German shepherd dogs, are more prone to it. Pancreatic insufficiency can be heredity, or can arise from another disease, such as chronic pancreatitis. In some cases, the deterioration of the pancreas is spontaneous, with no known cause.

    Symptoms of Pancreatic Insufficiency

    • A dog with pancreatic insufficiency will have a voracious appetite, but will lose considerable amounts of weight and begin to experience muscle atrophy. He will defecate frequently and may have problems with flatulence. His stool will be greasy, formless and yellow or clay-colored. Your dog may develop chronic diarrhea or vomiting. Your dog may also develop the habit of eating things that are not food. Many dogs show no symptoms until the pancreas is 90 percent destroyed, if ever.

    Diagnosis of Pancreatic Insufficiency

    • Your veterinarian will gather a full history from you and perform a general physical examination. If she suspects pancreatic insufficiency, she will order your dog to fast for 12 hours before a trypsinlike immunoreativity (cTLI) blood test. Normal range is between 5.0 and 35.0. A score of less than 2.5 confirms pancreatic insufficiency. Your veterinarian may also conduct a fecal proteolytic activity test to ascertain the levels of digestive enzymes in your dog's feces.

    Treatment of Pancreatic Insufficiency

    • Changing your dog's diet and adding key supplements may reverse the symptoms of the disease and bring your dog back to a normal level of good health; then it is a matter of maintenance. Your veterinarian may prescribe dried cattle pancreas in powder or capsule form, which you add to your dog's food with every meal. It can be expensive. You may also be able to get raw pig pancreas from your neighborhood butcher. You can chop it up into your dog's food. With your veterinarian's guidance, consider changing your dog to a meat-based, grain-free diet. After testing your dog's blood for vitamin levels, your veterinarian may also find deficiencies in that area and recommend vitamin supplements including B12, A, D and K.

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