This website is dedicated by Izzy, a Spanish Water Dog, in an effort to help dogs of all breeds that might have EPI be quickly and correctly diagnosed. By bringing awareness to EPI we can help others properly recognize and treat EPI. All sources of information for this site are from Veterinary Journals, EPI geneticists, EPI gastroenterologists, Veterinary Schools, current EPI Research Studies and EPI Care-takers. In hopes of helping others, EPI owners have shared their personal pictures, stories and their day-to-day management experience/techniques on the Forum. We are also involved with Clemson University EPI Genetic Researchers in their search to find the genetic markers of EPI.
Updates are posted frequently so please check back often.
Please check out our new "Drop Down Menus" included in the Concurrent Condition tab above !
Please feel free to visit our "FORUM" ... sign up and participate with other EPI owners in discussions about various techniques that have helped them manage EPI. And no matter how bleak things may look, please know that there is always HOPE ... once you find the right balance of treatment.
We are very proud to announce that this website has been recommended as the on-line "Resource for EPI" in JAVMA
July 2012 Rilind has been adopted to his forever home..... please feel free to follow his story on Rilind Reborn facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Rilind-Reborn/323392057681786
Sue, one of our EPI FORUM members, pulled this little gal called Claire, from a county shelter. Sue is a very special lady who gives her time and her heart as a foster mom for a wonderful organization called the:
New Rattitude - Rat Terrier Rescue http://www.newrattitude.org/ who supported the fostering of Claire both financially and emotionally throughout this journey.
With the help of an awesome vet, Claire was properly diagnosed in July with Diabetes and EPI .. but as you can see, back then things looked very bleak for Claire.
Below is Claire 5 months later on January 8, 2010, almost double the weight from July, after finding the "right balance". In Sue's own words, "There were many times initially when I questioned if keeping her alive was the right thing to do. The support and advice I received from this forum is why I can show her "After photos" today. Her EPI is under control and we are managing the diabetes. To those of you who are new to this tragic disease I hope that seeing these dogs before and after will give you hope. It's a long journey but one worth taking, and there are so many people here who will guide you every step of the way."
EPI, Exocrine Pancreatic Insufficiency, is the inability of the acinar cells of the exocrine pancreas to produce and secrete the necessary enzymes needed to digest food. These main enzymes are:.
· Amylase for digestion of carbohydrates (sugars & starches in grains, fruits & vegetables),
· Lipases for digestion of fat.
· Trypsin and Proteases for digestion of proteins.
EPI, is sometimes referred to as Pancreatic Hypoplasia or Pancreatic Acinar Atrophy (PAA).
Or EPI can also be the secondary condition of a chronic illness, such as chronic pancreatitis.
EPI is when a dog's exocrine part of the pancreas is atrophied and can no longer produce these pancreatic digestive enzymes. Some food particles then remain undigested causing SIBO and unabsorbed resulting in a dog, who although is eating copious amounts of food, is constantly undernourished and can literally waste away. Without proper treatment, the EPI dog cansuffer greatly and even die a painful death from malnourishment, starvation or organ failure.
With EPI, organ, immune, nervous and all other body systems may become compromised to one degree or another. A lack of nutrients sometimes even results in temperament changes which may express themselves in fear and/or aggression.
It is a devastating, frustrating disease that is all too often misdiagnosed. Symptoms usually do not appear until anywhere between 80% and 95% of the exocrine pancreas acinar cells are destroyed. What makes this disease even harder to diagnose is that not all dogs display any or all of the symptoms all of the time. Any breed can have EPI, not just GSDs... see http://www.epi4dogs.com/notjustgsds.htm.
The most common symptoms are:
This is a sample of what a "cow-plop paddy" stool may look like when a dog has EPI prior to treatment .
This is a sample of what an EPI stool looks like after the dog receives treatment and has become stable:
This is Fritzy, a Schnauzer, displaying physical EPI symptoms in Sept 2008.... and Fritzy 5 months later, stable, after receiving treatment for EPI.
· EPI can manifest anytime in a dog’s life - - from a young pup to an elderly dog, with the severity and symptoms of the disease varying somewhat with each dog. Sometimes the dog has the disease but symptoms do not appear at all, until exacerbated or triggered through a stressful physical or emotional situation.
· Always confirm EPI with a trypsin-like immunoreativity (cTLI) blood test (12 hour fast). Normal range is between 5.0 – 35.0
· Whenever there is persistent gastro upsets and weight loss, it is advisable & economical to do a cTLI blood test.
DETAILED EFFECTIVE EPI MANAGEMENT (updated 5/2012)
Successfully managing EPI, Exocrine Pancreatic Insufficiency is all about finding the right balance of :
✔ The most effective enzymes are the porcine "powdered" enzymes called pancreatin. Enzyme pills are usually less effective and need to be crushed, plant-based enzymes are not potent enough, enteric coated capsules will work but may require trial and error to determine proper dosage.
✔ Effective “average” USP Units for enzyme potency in powdered pancreatin used for EPI in the USA:
33,600 to 71,400 USP of Lipase (needed to digest fats and oils)
280,000 to 495,000 USP of Protease (needed to digest proteins)
280,000 to 495,000 USP of Amylase (needed to digest carbohydrates)
✔ The best dose recommendation for powdered enzymes is 1 level teaspoon of powdered enzymes per 1 cup of dry kibble, ¾ level teaspoon of powdered enzymes per 1 cup of wet (or raw) food. Not per meal! This dose may slightly from one dog to another.
✔ Always add approximately 25% of lukewarm liquid (water or broth) per cup of food and let sit for 20 minutes (incubate) to:
• soften the food so the enzymes can be better distributed amongst food particles allowing for greater nutrient absorption and
• help avoid possible mouth sores from the caustic attributes of the powdered enzymes.
✔ Although incubation is not necessary for all EPI dogs, many EPI dogs do much better once this extra step is taken.
✔ Mix enzymes with room temperature or slightly warm ingredients. Mixing the enzymes with cold food or liquid will inactivate the enzymes and not allow them to start working. Using hot (above 130 degrees F) food or liquid will kill the enzymes too quickly for them to do their job. Microwaving or cooking with the enzymes should be avoided.
✔ In countries outside the USA, where powdered pancreatin is not readily available but enteric-coated capsules are such as brand name CREON can be used successfully in most cases after some trial and error. Start by giving CREON 10 approximately five minutes prior to a meal. If poor digestion still occurs, start increasing the dose by increments of five. Dosage may vary greatly. Some EPI dogs do well on one CREON 10 with each meal, some need two CREON 10, or one CREON 25. With CREON it depends on the individual dog which dose of CREON will work best.
✔ Once an EPI dog is stable “try” reducing the amount of enzymes being used to the lowest dose possible but at a dose that will still allow the dog to properly digest food. This is determined by continued firm stools, minimal volume and elimination frequency equal to that of a normal dog.
✔ As some dogs age, enzymes supplementation may need to be increased, again, this depends on the individual dog.
This is the trickiest part of managing EPI.
✔ Most EPI dogs respond best to a low fiber diet (check the grain-free foods). Most commercial (over the counter) brand name grain-free foods with less than 4% fiber work as well or better than the prescription diets... unless there is EPI + a concurrent condition such as a food allergy/sensitivity, IBD, etc. However, not all EPI dogs respond equally well to all grain-free dog foods. Finding the right food may involve some trial and error. Some do better on the very high-protein grain-free foods, some do better with mid-range protein foods and some actually need some grain. It all depends on what type of fiber, soluble vs. insoluble and if it is highly or poorly fermentable. It can get very confusing. The majority of EPI dogs do best with soluble (highly digestible fiber) that is low in the poorly fermentable fiber category. Finding the right food really depends on the individual dog.
✔ Feed 150% of what the dog normally would require until the body replenishes the weight that was lost.
✔ Do not restrict fat intake, unless, once again, there is a possible concurrent condition that requires fat restriction. Dogs appear to resume their health quicker when fat % is not restricted as long as they are receiving the proper type and dose of enzymes, and B12 and antibiotics if needed.
✔ Feed smaller portions but more often when first trying to stabilize the dog. Feeding 3 to 4 small meals a day- -at least 2 hours apart to allow for digestion- -is suggested.
✔ If acid reflux/regurgitation is a problem, try adding 1 teaspoon of canned pure pumpkin to meals, psyllium, or (cimetidine) Tagamet. However, also check to see if a declining B12 level is the culprit. Worse case scenario, use short-term steroids.
✔ For itchy skin or a dry coat add fish oil,wild salmon oil, krill oil (EFAs suggested at 180mg per 10 lbs per day), or on alternate days give ½ to 1 teaspoon of cold pressed (virgin) coconut oil.
✔ An inclusion of prebiotics such as fructo-oligosaccharides are logical although not yet proven. Basically, prebiotics are non-digestible food components (dietary fiber) that are being fermented by intestinal bacteria. This can lead to normalization of the intestinal microbiota. In a recent study the use of fructooligosaccharides (FOS) in the diet showed a lasting advantageous effect. While this has not been evaluated as of yet, other prebiotics, such as inulin or beet-pulp may also prove to be beneficial. This syndrome is also a potential target for probiotic therapy but one must be careful when administering probiotics. Per Dr. Jorg Steiner of Texas A&M University “...unrealistic expectations have been replaced with well-defined requirements for probiotics and controlled studies of their beneficial effects. Three key requirements for a probiotic for use in dogs are:
1) the probiotic must be safe;
2) the probiotic must be stable; and
3) the probiotic must be efficacious.
In a recent study, 8 veterinary and 5 human probiotics were evaluated and only 2 of the 13 products contained the strains and concentrations of those strains indicated on the label. Several of the products contained bacterial species that could potentially act as pathogens. Thus, in order to ensure safety, the probiotic product should adhere to strict production and storage requirements. The probiotic also must be stable throughout transport and storage until the product is being administered by the pet-owner. In order to ensure that a certain number of colonies are administered to the patient, the colonies in the product should neither
proliferate nor die. (use a 3rd party lab to verify product “claims” such as http://www.consumerlab.com/).
Finally, a probiotic must be efficacious. In order to be efficacious, the bacteria must reach the intestinal lumen. This requires that the bacterial species being used in the formulation are both acid- and bile-acid resistant. Also, the bacterial species of the probiotic preparation should adhere to the intestinal mucosa to prolong the time of interaction. Finally, the presence of the probiotic species must have beneficial effects in the host. Several controlled studies have been conducted in dogs that also show that certain probiotics carry health benefits in dogs with gastrointestinal disorders.”
B12 (Cobalamin Deficiency)
Cobalamin deficiency occurs in approximately 82% of all EPI dogs.
✔ Treatment is required for low and low-normal B12 levels and treatment should be parenteral vitamin B12.
Generic cobalamin preparations are recommended at 1mg/ml, i.e. 1000μg/ml. Do not use B12 multivitamin or B12 complex as these are not sufficient and will also sting the dog. The conservative dose regimen is one dose weekly for six weeks, then one dose every two weeks for six weeks, then dose monthly. Remeasure serum cobalamin concentrations one month after last administration. The newer, less conservative regimen is dose weekly for 6 weeks, then one dose after 30 days and retest 30 days after the last dose. In either case, if the cobalamin test results are normal.. .CONTINUE dosing until levels are above average range, then determine how often B12 needs to be administered to that particular EPI dog to maintain above mid-range levels. B12 dosage for EPI dogs:
dogs up to 5 kg (10 lb) = 250 μg
dogs, 5-15kg (10-30 lb) = 400 μg
dogs, 15-30 kg (30-65 lb) = 800 μg
dogs, 30-45 kg (65-100 lb) = 1200 μg
dogs above 45 kg (100 lb) = 1500 μg
✔ With some dogs, especially the smaller breeds, there sometimes appears to be some difficulty maintaining B12 levels even with weekly injections. In these cases, although no controlled study has been done yet, when re-tested these dogs manage to “hold” their B12 levels if supplemented (in-between weekly injections) with specific B12 pills that contain the intrinsic factor. At this time, two brand name pills are known to have the Intrinsic Factor in them:
Metagenics "Intrinsi B12/Folate"
Wonder Laboratories "Trinfac-B Intrinsic Factor"
Another possibility with these difficult cases is to try using a different formulation of cobalamin, such as hydroxocobalamin or Methlycobalamin.
✔ Since cobalamin is a water-soluble vitamin, excess cobalamin is excreted through the kidneys and clinical disease due to over-supplementation has never been reported.
✔ If a dog has low or low normal B12, in addition to doing the Cobalamin Therapy, also treat for SIBO with antibiotics. Dietary cobalamin is bound to dietery protein (animal protein) digested by pepsin and HCI in the stomach with cobalamin being released which binds to R-protein digested by pancreatic proteases in small intestine and binds to intrinsic factor absorbed through the ileum. EPI destroys the pancreatic protease and this is why only parenteral B12 by bypassing this process or B12 pills with intrinsic factor "appear" to work on EPI cases.
Any imbalance in the intestinal bacterial flora is also likely to reduce the absorption of cobalamin.
Previously, canine EPI was “suspected” to be caused by autosomal recessive genes, but through recent 2008 research, it is currently thought to be multiple loci instead. Possibly a polygenic inheritance (traits vary in degrees of severity of the disease). In 2005 researchers have honed in on 5 suspect genes, but further testing was needed. In 2007 Texas A&M Canine Genetics was awarded a grant by AKC-CH to further EPI research with the new SNP technology that can analyze multiple loci. In 2011 some genetic alleles have been identified. More studies are now being pursued in 2012. Hopefully, the genetic markers will soon be fully identified and understood so that testing for carriers can be done prior to breeding. Please go to the EPI Research page for the latest information on the research.
Once a dog is positively identified EPI with a cTLI test (a value of 2.5 or lower), it is recommended to remove the dog from all breeding programs.
If possible, treat, stabilize then re-test again with cTLI procedure to confirm it is EPI not something else.
Unfortunately, sometimes before a dog displays symptoms, a breeding has already taken place.
Many times, EPI sometimes does not show up in a line until 3 to 5 or even more generations later.
Please be a responsible steward for our canine companions, once positively identified, please communicate with others to keep track of disease and share information.
This site was established 5/25/2008. Please check back frequently for updates and additional information.