EPI (Exocrine Pancreatic Insufficiency) is a serious condition where the pancreas does not produce enough digestive enzymes. It may affect a dog’s gastrointestinal system, as well as general nutrition, and can cause problems such as weight loss and chronic diarrhoea.
Left untreated, the entire body is deprived of the nutrients needed for growth, renewal, and maintenance. In time, the body becomes so compromised that the dog either starves to death or dies of inevitable organ failure.
Incomplete digestion causes the continual presence of copious amounts of fermenting food in the small intestine. This can lead to a secondary condition that is common in many EPI dogs, called SIBO (small intestinal bacterial overgrowth).
EPI causes digestive problems, malnutrition, and/or improper absorption of nutrients into the body, which can contribute to an overgrowth of bacteria in the intestines, if an EPI dog has a lot of belly grumbling/noises, gas, diarrhoea, and sometimes vomiting, he/she most likely has SIBO.
Symptoms can include: chronic diarrhoea; weight loss (despite a normal or increased appetite); frequent or greater volume of stool and gas; grey coloured oily stools, due to high amount of fats in the waste; dry and flaky skin; dry looking coat; weak or lethargic behaviour, and coprophagia, a condition which causes an animal to eat its own faeces.
Since pancreatic atrophy is largely considered to be genetic, it is the responsibility of the breeder not to breed from a dog known to have the condition. EPI is only one problem that occurs with a shrinking pancreas, and there is no cure, only lifelong treatments and expenses.
PAA – enzymes responsible for aiding the digestion of starches, fats, and proteins are produced by cells in the pancreas known as pancreatic acinar cells (PAA). PAA develops when these cells fail to function properly, subsequently leading to EPI.
The second most common cause of EPI in dogs is chronic inflammation of the pancreas (pancreatitis). If chronic pancreatitis is the cause, it is possible the dog has diabetes.