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EPI Diets are Tricky

Updated June 23, 2024

Feeding less food but more often helps...

If possible, with your human family schedule, when first diagnosed with EPI, it seems to help if the EPI dog can be fed 3 to 4 times a day, …temporarily.

Depending on the breed and size of dog, feed (an example) 1 cup of food each time with 1 tsp of powdered enzyme, or equal amount of enzyme potency in another form. Depending on what type of enzymes you are using, be sure to follow the right protocol in preparing the enzymes (in the Enzyme section). After the EPI comes under control, and the dog has gained back most of it’s weight, usually the feedings can be reduced back to twice a day to accommodate the pet-owner/caregiver’s life style/schedule.

What type of food is best???

The type of food an EPI dog responds best to depends on the individual EPI dog. Some respond great on raw food diets, others do great on home-made, while many EPI dogs do just fine on commercial food, especially if the kibble or canned food is low fiber, and then there are some EPI dogs that, once enzymes are added to their meals, will do just fine on their old diet that actually had grain in it. Unless there is another health condition other than EPI, (an example would be something like IBD+EPI), there usually is not a need to put a dog on prescription food.

Dog food companies have coined some of these low fiber foods as “grain free”. Grain free is a misnomer. You have to be careful and read what ingredients are in the food, in what order, if any ingredients are split (like pea products), the portion of individual ingredients and nutritional analysis. Often the “type” and “portion” of fiber and or carbs that is included in the food is most important in how well your dog will tolerate a certain diet.

The problem with finding the right diet is that there sometimes is a problem with fiber content once a dog is on enzymes. Too much fiber or the wrong type of fiber “may” inhibit the efficacy of the enzymes from anywhere between 0% to 50%.

BUT…. this leads to yet another problem … we have no idea which EPI dog is affected by this issue and then…. if they are affected, we have no idea by how much. This is why for years we have suggested starting an EPI dog on a diet that has 4% or less fiber content and avoid food with grain in it. Once stable, then if you want, try giving food with grain in it and see if your EPI dog can or cannot tolerate it. We suggest starting with a low fiber food simply because the majority of EPI dogs that continue to have loose stools after being (1) started on enzymes accordingly and (2) if the SID/SIBO/Dysbiosis was attempted to be addressed to no avail, and (3) the B12 levels have been addressed….. it almost always it a problem with the diet and it usually is too much fiber in the diet…………….

HOWEVER, on the flip side, there are EPI dogs that, once on enzymes, they are just fine with food with grain in it…. and do not do well unless they are given a food with grain in it.

Some diet tips….

Because this can be SOOOOooo confusing… we have decided to give a list of tips and possibilities for an EPI diet….

  1. There is not any 1 best diet for any 1 EPI dog…. it all depends on the dog’s individual digestive system/gut flora.
  2. Many EPI dogs cannot handle food with too much fiber content in it (as explained above due to possible fiber and enzyme efficacy issue), but some EPI dogs don’t do well unless they are fed a food with fiber in it.
  3. If you have a typical EPI dogs that cannot handle too much fiber, although we suggest 4% or less fiber content… often only 3.5% or less fiber content works much better.
  4. Amazingly, when fiber content is an issue, if you are feeding a food with 5% fiber content, the poos will greatly improve just by changing to a food with 4% fiber content.
  5. Often times, it is the type of fiber that is either beneficial or problematic. See FIBER page
  6. Small amounts of prebiotics (fiber) in the food is often beneficial, but too much can also trigger loose stools. Try adding these fibers: a tsp of canned pumpkin or Slippery Elm powder (do not over-do!) often helps. Slippery Elm Dosing instructions are here:
  7. Too many peas/pea products (called “splitting”) are not good for an EPI dog. Example: peas, pea flour, pea protein all in one product. Avoid too many lentils and chickpeas.
  8. If peas are listed as the 4rth ingredient or further down on the ingredient list, it is usually okay.
  9. When the volume of poop is on the large side but the poo is still good brown color, sometimes it is because there are too many carbs in that particular diet.
  10. If you have to feed a particular food due to another health concern (like Diabetes, Kidney, UTI, IBD, IBS, PLE, etc) that doesn’t exactly agree with the EPI condition… just increase the enzymes to compensate.
  11. Always give another health condition diet requirements priority over EPI diet requirements because you can always adjust the enzymes to compensate for it.
  12. Once on enzymes, fat content does not need to be limited. It is actually more beneficial to feed a newly diagnosed EPI dog a diet with normal amounts of fat to better help the dog recover. Low fat diets are not necessary unless another health condition requires it.
  13. However, If SID/SIBO/Dysbiosis is way out of control, then temporarily limiting too much fat may help the dysbiosis improve faster.
  14. If the stools are loose but brown… it might be that there is a food sensitivity going on… or not. Unfortunately, some EPI dogs struggle with EPI + IBD in which case, a hydrolyzed food (temporarily), or limited home-made diet is advised until the offending item(s) is identified.
  15. If trying a hydrolyzed diet, oftentimes one has to try a variety of different brands until you find one that works. They don’t all work with all dogs.
  16. Although this sounds silly, sometimes loose stools happen because the kibble bits are too large…. Try crushing the kibble into smaller bits. With some dogs, feeding smaller bits of food works better (enzymes are able to cover more of the food).
  17. Sometimes the poop is light colored not because of SID but rather because the diet is made with lighter colored protein (like chicken or white fish) whereas beef, buffalo, venison will produce darker stools.
  18. Sometimes, if you are having an issue with commercial diets and you have tried a variety of brands… it is best to “strip it down” and temporarily home-feed just a very limited diet and slowly (after 3-5 days) add one new ingredient at a time. See “2024 CORNELL UNIVERSITY “POSSIBLE HOME-MADE DIETS FOR IBD DOGS” on this page:
  19. Don’t always assume a food sensitivity is a protein…. Sometimes it is a lesser ingredient and can be anything unexpected like: sunflower oil, sweet potato, etc. Make a list of all foods tried and cross reference the ingredients.

Pretty confusing about fiber, eh?!!!!!!!

Fiber in itself can be very confusing, please read the FIBER section to better understand types of fiber and what may or may not work. Also, please know that fiber is (in varying degrees) in grains, vegetables and fruit. This is why it is important to understand the different types of fiber as it will explain why certain foods agree with your dog while others don’t.

The fiber that appears to be most tolerated by an EPI dog, is usually (but not always) a highly digestible food that is low in poorly-fermentable fiber.  So, it is usually most effective to start first with a low fiber food (labeled “grain-free” by dog food companies) … but know that this is not always the only solution for every single EPI dog.

How to prepare a meal with enzymes

When using replacement enzymes, the enzymes need to be “room temperature”. Make sure the food is room temperature too. Cold makes the enzymes inactive and heat destroys it.  Many folks start with cold refrigerated meat and put a little hot water in a bowl with the cold meat and mix until the meat becomes room temperature. AFTER this “sauce” is room temperature or lukewarm, THEN add the powdered enzymes and let the food and enzymes incubate for about 20 minutes……or if you are using enteric coated enzymes (veggie capsules with enteric coated enzyme pellets in them), open the capsule, sprinkle the pellets on top of moistened food and serve immediately, never incubate enteric coated enzymes. If you are using tablets, you will need to crush them into a powder and use as a powder. When you add water or any liquid to the kibble (needed to moisten dry food when you add the enzymes) be careful of the water/liquid temperature – – warm water/liquid anywhere between 86-but under130 degrees F temperature is a good range, but temperatures any higher than 130 degrees will destroy the enzymes.

The reason why we use the term “room-temperature” water… it avoids any mis-communication of too warm or too cold.

If you are using an enteric enzymes (capsule with enteric coated pellets inside the capsule) the recommended preparation is to open the capsule and sprinkle the enteric coated pellets on to the moist food and serve immediately.  OR…give the capsule whole with the meal or about 5 minutes prior to the meal DO NOT mix the tiny enteric coated pellets in the food and DO NOT let the food incubate with the enteric capsule. In a few cases, giving the enteric coated enzyme capsule about 5 minutes after a meal may also works for some, but the other methods are usually the preferred methods.

If you are using enteric coated empty gel caps filled with powdered enzymes, please go to this page for full instructions.

If you are using the powdered form of enzymes, the rule of thumb is to start off with 1 level tsp of powdered enzymes to approx 1 cup of room temperature food, if using on dry food be sure to include a liquid (such as water or a broth) to moisten the food with the enzymes, mix and let sit for approximately 20 minutes give or take. Many vets and publications state that it is not necessary to let the enzymes sit on or incubate in the food, but unfortunately, some dogs develop mouth sores or mouth bleeds from the enzymes unless the food is allowed to sit and soften giving the enzymes more food volume to cover – -consequently diluting the caustic properties of the enzymes eliminating mouth sores. Usually mouth sores can be corrected by reducing the amount of enzymes given, but it has also been noted that when mixed very well and allowed to “incubate” (sit and soften), mouth sores tend not to happen. You can also add a little more liquid to the meal to help avoid mouth sores, or to alleviate future mouth sores. Just do not let the food swim in liquid, most dogs do not like this- -just add enough liquid to moisten the food. Another reason for “incubating” is because some dogs simply just do better when the meal is incubated.  No matter how you decide to prepare the food, it is imperative to mix powdered enzymes with enough moisture to thoroughly mix well in the food, just not swimming in liquid.

Always remember that not all EPI dogs respond exactly the same. There are many variables. Some variables you may be aware of, others you may not. Beyond using the correct enzymes — each EPI dog needs to be managed with what ultimately works best for them as individuals. This includes enzymes, diet, B12,  pre+/probiotics or antibiotics, food and supplement regimens.

Many EPI owners observed that when enzymes are mixed into the food and allowed to “incubate” stool elimination was less voluminous, which led pet owners to assume that the enzymes were breaking down the food in the bowl…if allowed to incubate. In reality, enzymes outside the body cannot sufficiently break down the food (as previously thought by many) without being ingested- -too many other “things” need to interact with the replacement enzymes during the digestion process in order to fully break down the food.  Bio-chemicals, sustained gut temperature, bile salts, proper PH & micellar lipids (both of which are much lower than normal in the EPI dog than a normal dog), and additional enzymatic catalysts are also needed to aid in the breakdown. Although digestion of most nutrients in the small intestine is extensively carried out by enzymes secreted by the pancreas which are lacking in the EPI dog, there are also enzymes located at the brush border membrane of the enterocytes which are responsible for the completion of this nutrient process, and gastric enzymes to one degree or another. In addition, there are complex pathways utilized in breakdown and absorption. Enzyme activation is very complicated, dependent on a multitude of biological and chemical interactions. Even today much still remains to be learned about enzyme activity.  FOR AN IN-DEPTH EXPLANATION OF THE DOG’S DIGESTIVE SYSTEM – -VISIT THE “ROLE OF NUTRITION” page:

There An old study by
Dr. Guy Pidgeon designed to determine if pancreatic replacement enzymes needed to be incubated on food prior ingesting.  There was no difference in either the “incubated food” and the “non-incubated food” fat content output in the dog’s stool elimination. Conclusion from this particular study was that incubation is not necessary.

So according to research, it is not absolutely necessary to incubate the enzymes (powdered enzymes) on the food, HOWEVER practical application sometimes differs from clinical trials…and observation of thousands of EPI dogs over the course of 15+ years has supported a better outcome of many EPI dogs when food is incubated when using powdered enzymes. And incubation does help alleviate possible mouth sores if the dog is prone to this. Once the dog is stable a good thing to do is a home test of how little incubation is needed (if needed) to still maintain good poops.

As science develops more innovative tools, hopefully further research and more in-depth research will be done on enzymes and digestion so that we will have a better, more conclusive understanding of what is going on.

So does one incubate or not???? You, the EPI owner ultimately needs to determine which method works best for your individual dog…..

Grinding Food
Regarding grinding the food or softening the food is sometimes also said not be necessary, (for example, when feeding hard kibble) by grinding the food you do allow more surface area of the food to be covered (touched) by the enzymes. Again, although not a requirement, it has been noted that this technique has benefited “problematic” EPI dogs especially when first embarking on the EPI journey, but many owners have found that shortly afterwards it does not seem to make any difference whether the food is ground or not. So, once again, how you prepare the food will depend on the individual EPI dog. Use the technique that works best for your dog. But do know that sometimes, if feeding kibble, if the kibble size is large, trying smashing the kibble into smaller bits and see if that improves the poop (and consequently is better absorbed)

Whether your dog does better with incubated food or food that is ground up or food that is served immediately… In the end, it is all about good poops …. this is how we determine if we are managing EPI correctly for our dog.

Personally, when I first started enzyme treatment for my EPI dog, I did not see positive results for two weeks until after  (1)  I served everything room temperature
(2) l mixed the enzymes well in the food and let sit for 20 minutes
(3) I added 20% raw food to the serving
(4) my dog was started on antibiotics two weeks after initiating enzymes to combat SID/SIBO.
It took two weeks before all these things to took effect and my dog started showing improvement…. For others, sometimes it only takes a few days for any noticeable improvement, and for yet others it may take months. Don’t be discouraged!!! Things should work out once you find the right balance for your dog. My dog achieved stabilization 3 months after diagnosis. I continued to let the enzymes “incubate” for 20+ minutes with room temperature food for the remainder of her 15 years with me ….
 Everyone needs to make their own decision on how to feed their dog….do what works for you and your dog!

Why FIBER might need to be limited in an EPI dog’s diet  (EPI: Diagnosis & Treatment by J Enrique Domínguez-Muñoz, pub Feb 16, 2011)

“Frequent meals of low volume and avoidance of food difficult to digest (i.e. legumes) are generally recommended. A fibre-rich diet appears to increase pancreatic lipase secretion, but also inhibit pancreatic lipase activity by more than 50%….”

Medium chain triglycerides, which are directly absorbed by the intestinal mucosa, may be useful for providing extra calories in patients with weight loss, and for reducing steatorrhea in patients with a poor response to oral pancreatic enzymes. Finally, patients with pancreatic exocrine insufficiency may require supplements of fat soluble vitamins.

11.saksson G, Lundquist I, Ihse I. Effect of dietary fiber on pancreatic enzyme activity in vitro. Gastroenterology 1982; 82: 918?24.

Why FAT should not be limited in an EPI dog’s diet: (EPI: Diagnosis & Treatment by J Enrique Domínguez-Muñoz, pub Feb 16, 2011) *unless there is another health concern where fat should be restricted such as with secondary EPI that evolved from Pancreatitis*

Classically, the initial approach to patients with pancreatic exocrine insufficiency is to restrict fat intake in an attempt to reduce steatorrhea. A diet containing less than 20 g fat daily is thus generally recommended in this context. Nevertheless, restriction of fat intake is linked to insufficient intake of fat-soluble vitamins, which is already a malabsorption issue in patients with pancreatic exocrine insufficiency.6 In addition, studies on the metabolism of both endogenous and exogenous enzymes during small intestinal transit show that the half-life of enzyme activity is enhanced by the presence of their respective substrates.9That means that maintenance of lipase activity during intestinal transit requires the presence of dietary triglycerides. Actually, it was demonstrated in an experimental model of pancreatic exocrine insufficiency in dogs that fat digestion and absorption was higher when enzyme supplements were taken together with a high-fat diet compared with a low-fat diet.10 As a consequence, fat restriction should no longer be considered as a rule in the management of patients with pancreatic exocrine insufficiency.
6. Domínguez-Muñoz JE, Iglesias-García J, Vilariño-Insua M, Iglesias-Rey M. 13C-mixed triglyceride breath test to assess oral enzyme substitution therapy in patients with chronic pancreatitis. Clin. Gastroenterol. Hepatol. 2007; 5: 484?8. 

  1. Holtmann G,Nelly DG, Sternby B, DiMagno EP. Survival of human pancreatic enzymes during small bowel transit: effects of nutrients, bile acids and enzymes. Am. J. Physiol. 1997; 273: G553?8.

When FAT should be restricted in an EPI dog

Whenever an EPI dog either developed EPI as a secondary condition (an example would be something like chronic pancreatitis), OR…. if there is yet another health concern that requires fat restriction, like some canine diabetes cases, then be very careful with how much fat there is in the diet.

A reference to a review for dogs which discusses fat is here:

Top Companion Anim Med. 2012 Aug;27(3):133-9. doi: 10.1053/j.tcam.2012.04.006. Epub 2012 Jun 23.

Chronic pancreatitis in dogs

Watson P1.

New Paradigms in Dietary Management of GI Diseases – V.C. Biourge, C. Kirk / 2006 North American Veterinary Conference Research Center, Royal Canin, Aimargues, France., College of Veterinary Medicine, University of Tennessee, Knoxville, TN, USA.

FAT: Traditionally, diets low in fat have been recommended for patients with GI disease [1]. The postulate behind this recommendation is that lipid digestion and absorption is a complex process easily disturbed in pathological condition. Moreover, bacteria in the intestinal tract can metabolize undigested fat to hydroxy-fatty acids which leads to secretory diarrhea in the large intestine [1]. Bacteria also deconjugate bile acids further impairing fat digestion and absorption [1].

Several field observations and studies disagree with the postulate that pets with GI disease do not tolerate high level of fat (>40 % of their calories from fat) in their diet. Firstly the GI tract of dogs and cats is very well suited for the digestion of fat, and fat in those species is the most digestible nutrient (>90 % digestibility). Secondly, since the mid-1980s, veterinarians and owners have observed that the quality of the feces of GI-sensitive pets was dramatically improved on so-called “premium” rather than “super-premium” diets. A specificity of those diets is their high fat content (> 17 % fat on a dry matter basis). In a canine model of pancreatic insufficiency, dogs better tolerated a diet with 20% than 8% fat [16]. The authors concluded that a better conservation of pancreatic enzymes during gastric transit could explain this observation. Forty-nine dogs with a confirmed diagnosis of chronic intestinal disease (exocrine pancreatic insufficiency, inflammatory bowel disease, bacterial overgrowth, acute or chronic gastritis) were fed a diet containing a high concentration of fat (> 20 % on a dry matter basis) [12,13,15,17]. The benefits of the high fat diet were readily apparent with improvements in appetite, weight gain, and resolution of clinical signs of vomiting and diarrhea noted at 15 and 30 days following institution of dietary therapy.

High fat diet are energy dense and thus might be of interest in many patients with GI diseases, especially in chronic disease and exocrine pancreatic insufficiency when patients have a hard time to maintain their body condition. Not all pets with GI diseases will benefit from a high fat, highly digestible diet. Those diets are contraindicated in pancreatitis or a history of pancreatitis, lymphangiectasia, exudative enteropathy as well as in cases of steatorhea [1]. To maximize tolerance, a transition of 3 to 5 days is recommended when changing from a low to a high fat diet.

The following EPI paper is by Edward J. Hall  presented in 2003 to the World Small Animal Veterinary Association. For complete article, please go to the following link:

Exocrine Pancreatic Insufficiency

Edward J. Hall, MA, VetMB, PhD, DECVIM-CA, MRCVS
University of Bristol, Dept. Clinical Veterinary Science
Langford, Bristol, England

Pathophysiology of malabsorption – The lack of pancreatic amylase, lipase and proteases results in maldigestion and hence malabsorption. The effect on fat digestion is the most profound as the majority of lipase is derived from the pancreas whereas there are brush border peptidases and saccharidases. The faeces are often voluminous and putty-like as the osmotic effect of undigested food is not high. The occurrence of watery diarrhoea suggests secondary bacterial overgrowth. A lack of enzymes and enriched environment allow bacterial proliferation, resulting in bile salt deconjugation and fatty acid hydroxylation, both causing colonic secretion. In addition, there may be concurrent inflammatory bowel disease.

The mainstay of treatment of EPI is replacement of pancreatic enzymes by oral enzyme extracts. Fresh (frozen) pancreas is an excellent source of enzymes but there is often limited availability. Approximately 100-150 g of fresh bovine or porcine pancreas is fed per meal. Of the commercial enzyme preparations available, uncoated powders have been shown to work best. Enteric-coated preparations may not dissolve because the duodenal pH is not sufficiently alkaline to dissolve the coating. However, the uncoated powders are unpleasant to handle, and may cause dermatitis of the lips as well as give the patient an unpleasant odour. The powder should be mixed with food, but pre-incubation before feeding is unnecessary.

Diet – A highly digestible food that is high in non-complex carbohydrate and protein is ideal. Historically, a fat restricted diet has been recommended. However, studies have shown that this is of no benefit, and indeed may prevent the patient gaining weight. For there is experimental evidence to show that the percentage fat absorption increases the higher the percentage of fat that is fed. Therefore, current recommendations are merely to give a good quality food. Frequent small meals are also often recommended. However, as enzyme must be given with each, it becomes counter-productive to feed more than three meals per day. In order to gain weight the patient should be fed up to 150% of the maintenance requirements of its ideal body weight in three divided meals. The third meal is dropped when the target weight is reached.

Enzymes – Most commonly, the owner tries to save money by giving inadequate amounts of enzyme. It should be explained that this is a false economy, especially in the early stages of treatment, but that ultimately the dosage may be reduced with continuing clinical efficacy. Secondary bacterial overgrowth must also be addressed. Finally, concurrent inflammatory bowel disease may prevent treatment success, but as immunosuppression more commonly causes the signs of EPI to worsen, it is prudent to obtain histological proof before commencing glucocorticoids.

My biggest piece of advice for new EPI owners when first embarking on this EPI journey is to start with the basic guidelines, keep an EPI Log/ Journal, assess results and modify accordingly….. here are some templates for an EPI Log/Journal:

Find what produces normal looking poops for YOUR dog by trial and error with one change at a time. Once the dog is stable on enzymes do not forever restrict your dog by these rules, slowly try increasing a little more fat in the diet (unless your dog has another health concern that requires limited fat intake), slowly try not having to soften the food so much for such a long time, slowly try to reduce the amount of enzymes you give your dog once he/she is stable…. slowly try different foods/brands, etc.

If something works, GREAT! If something does not work, that is fine also…. just go back to what does work for your dog.

Once an EPI dog is stable, the goal is to (1) reduce the amount of enzymes given to the smallest dose possible without causing a flare-up (2) feed as much of a normal balanced diet without causing a flare-up. (I personally was able to reduce 1 tsp of enzymes to 1/2 tsp of enzymes once my dog became stable)

It is so hard for EPI owners to watch their dogs struggle. My hope is that by having the most recent research/advice coupled with an accumulation of EPI hands-on-experience with enzyme/diet management that it will help give new EPI owners with enough of an overview of all “possibilities” allowing them to make the best decision for their individual dog.

Another suggested excellent treatment for EPI is raw bovine or porcine pancreas, however this is another perfect world scenario. Raw pancreas availability all depends on where you live … whether or not raw pancreas is obtainable due to local agricultural laws… and whether it will agree with your dog or not….and you need to be aware of the fact that the potency of the pancreatic enzymes from one animal’s pancreas will vary from one animal to the next. Sometimes raw pancreas can be purchased from a slaughterhouse. If you have trouble doing this, ask your state meat inspectors that if you get a letter from your vet explaining why you need the raw pancreas, and if that would help allow you to purchase the fresh pancreas. The suggested raw pancreas formula is 3 to 4 ounces of raw pancreas for a 44 lb dog. It can be frozen (up to 3 months), but must be thawed to room temperature. Let thaw naturally. Never heat, cook or microwave pancreatic enzymes whether fresh or manufactured.

If the dog refuses to eat the food because of the added enzymes, there are many “tricks” to camouflage the smell via green tripe, sprinkled Parmesan cheese on the food, cover with a few tablespoons of BBQ sauce/tomato sauce, or add pureed chicken/beef liver, etc. The stinky (but very healthy) Green-tripe may be purchased dog food specialty stores or it may be ordered from:

Powdered enzymes may be kept in tightly sealed double plastic bags and then in a sealed contained in the refrigerator to lengthen the longevity of the stored enzyme, however, it is very important to be kept dry since moisture ruins the enzymes.

Suggested Food Source portions


Always introduce only 1 change/addition at a time… once that is tolerated well…. check the stools formation…..if they become loose with the new addition to the diet, reduce the amount given. If stools still do not firm-up, eliminate that particular protein from the diet.

If you want to feed all raw meat (ground-up) many (but not all) EPI dogs do very well on raw. Organ meats are excellent, trim “excessive” fat from all meat. Some people cannot or are uncomfortable with an all raw diet … because of the expense/availability/handling….some vets or owners feel it further compromises an already compromised dog. We have not seen evidence of this.  Some pet owners opt to just do a combination of dry and raw or cooked meat. This is an individual choice based on the dog’s tolerance and the owner’s preference.  If cooking meat (baking is best) bake at no higher than 325 degrees F.

In an EPI diet, a 50 to 75% ratio of meats/fish usually works very well. Meats that can be used include: beef, chicken (remove all skin), pork (not cured pork!), venison, lamb, rabbit, etc, etc and fish such as salmon, white fish, tilapia, jack mackerel, sardines, etc. When giving fish from a can, be wary of the salt content. Other proteins that can be given, but not limited to are: cottage cheese, eggs, yogurt, etc. But once again, this is trial and error.

Organ meats should be given if preparing a home meal whether cooked or canned vs. a commercially prepared diet.
In an EPI diet, a 10 to 15% ratio of organ meats usually works well. If this is too rich for your individual dog, reduce the amount. Some EPI dogs have been known to only be able to tolerate 1% of organ meats. Others tolerate 15% without a problem.


Again, always introduce only 1 change or addition to the diet at a time. When adding vegetables, the better digested are the very finely ground (or mashed) and thoroughly cooked. Veggies such as the “root” vegetables, like sweet potatoes, white potatoes, turnips, rutabaga, parsnips, beets or carrots are “usually” well tolerated. Vegetables that grow on the ground are also good like squash or pumpkin. Broccoli, green beans, etc are also good to mix in, however, as with anything else, the tolerable ratio will vary from dog to dog.

In an EPI diet, a 0% to 30% ratio of vegetables (carb content) usually works well.  (side note: if dog is prone to crystals… do not feed broccoli). Also, please understand that vegetables also have fiber content, so be careful not to use too many vegetables.


If you are preparing your own meals for your dog, calcium needs to be included. Whether by bones, ground bones, bone meal or crushed egg shells.  But for the EPI dog, some are not to be able to handle the commonly recommended 20 to 25% bone matter in a diet. So, to begin with, cut this percentage in half and see how well it is tolerated.

In an EPI diet, start with 10 to 15% of bone content, but over time, if tolerable with your dog, try increasing bone content up to 20%.  Per usual, it’s all about the poop! If the stools are or have a lot of white to them, it means they are getting too much bone and cannot digest it. Cut back. Some will have loose stools. Cut back. Again this is all trial and error for your individual dog. Meaty bones can also be given occasionally, as long as you trim the fat and as long as your EPI dog can tolerate it.


NO TREATS !!! or at least not until the EPI dog is stable. Some dogs, once stable, are able to tolerate some treats … for example, freeze dried liver, baked liver, hearts, but be careful of anything with too much fiber content/heavy long-chain fats in it.  See our treat page for some ideas:

Some dogs can never have any kind of treats, even real meats unless it is treated with enzymes. Some folks just resort to a special toy as a reward/treat instead.  This all depends on the individual EPI dog.


If you dog does not start to gain weight … please have the cobalamin (B12) levels checked. Actually, if you can have the B12 levels checked at the same time as the cTLI test done, all the better since they are both blood tests and this will save you money by doing the tests together, and because doing both at the same time will give you a better picture of your dog’s overall health, or lack there of when dealing with EPI. Over 80% of all EPI dogs will need life-long B12 supplementation. Because a lot of these dogs do not manufacture  B12 they often need B12 shots or high doses of oral B12 for a regular period of time until their B12 levels are brought up to an upper mid-range level and then going forward they will to be on a B12 maintenance protocol. Please see our B12 pages for more information on this: ,

Omega 3

Wild Salmon Oil, or a quality product such as Welactin Liquid Omega is used with great success by many EPI owners. Since some of these dogs may have other gastrointestinal issues (known or sometimes not known by owner of vet) and may not tolerate a lot of fat, their skin and coats become dry, itchy and brittle.  Administering fish oil is most often well tolerated by an EPI dog and will usually help alleviate these issues. In addition, omega 3, also helps reduce inflammation.

* EFAs (essential fatty acids) are suggested at 180 mg per 10 lbs per day *

Always start off with less than the recommended dose

Medium Chain Fats

Administer quality (cold pressed and unrefined, or virgin) coconut oil. Build up to 1 tsp a day or more depending on breed and body weight. These are medium chain triglyceride fats that most EPI dogs can handle and benefit from especially since some EPI dogs are restricted from other fats.  A body void of all fats can cause a whole host of other problems and conditions. Some EPI owners alternate the oils… one day wild salmon oil, the next day coconut oil.

*The suggested dosing is 1-2 ml/kg per day. A teaspoon is 5 ml and 15 ml is a tablespoon. (U.S. measurements.)*

Here are some examples at the 1.5ml/kg per day rate:

20 pounds (9 kg), 1 tablespoon

25-30 pounds (11-14 kg), 1 ¼ tablespoons

40 pounds (18 kg), 1 ¾ tablespoons

50 pounds (23 kg), 2 ¼ tablespoons

Always check with your vet before making any changes in your dog’s diet.

Always work up to a final dose over a period of a week or two….but if the oil is disagreeing with your dog STOP!

Vitamins, Minerals and Herbs

Dogs with EPI are depleted in many fat-soluble vitamins see research “2018 (Aug 22) EPI Vitamin Research – EPI & Fat Soluble Vitamins on this page:

BUT ALWAYS CHECK WITH YOUR VET FOR THE PROPER DOSE AND FREQUENCY when giving fat-soluble vitamins…as these accumulate in the body and is not like water soluble vitamins..

Slippery Elm
One herb that is commonly used among EPI’rs is Slippery Elm to help aid with the tender, sore intestine when first diagnosed with EPI or when a SID flare-up occurs.  Slippery elm coats the intestines with its mucilage properties allowing the tender area to heal quicker. It also has prebiotic properties and aids in treating SID/SIBO and has the extra benefit of being loaded with beneficial vitamins and minerals. Some folks use an on-going maintenance dose of slippery elm, either for stomach aid issues or re-occurring SID. However, the 2017 suggested slippery elm dosage is as follows used for a short period (1 to 3 weeks) or intermittently for healing.

Give provided Slippery Elm powder with breakfast and dinner meals. 1/8 tsp for dogs under 10lbs, ¼ tsp for dogs 10lbs to 30lbs, ½ tsp for dogs 30lbs to 80lbs, 3/4 tsp for dogs 80lbs to 100lbs, and 1 tsp for dog 100/+lbs. Mix in meal, add 1 to 2 tablespoons of water, mix and serve meal as you normally would. Incubating not necessary.

PLEASE read the 2013 published research Slippery Elm re-printed along with other Slippery Elm data on the Slippery Elm page:

There are no ill side effects of slippery elm except if the dog has an allergy to the American Elm tree. The only warning is not to give Slippery Elm at the same time as some antibiotics because the mucus properties of slippery elm will lessen the effectiveness of the antibiotic to a small degree. Give a few hours away, or if a very minute ineffectiveness is not critical, do not worry about giving together.  If after treatment with enzymes, antibiotics, B12, and the dog continues to have digestive issues, some EPI people add L-Glutamine supplement to the diet regimen. L-Glutamine is often prescribed by vets to aid dogs with IBD (inflammatory bowel disorder). 50% claim that it does help the dog while the other 50% claim that there is no change. But it is well worth trying. It is also common for a dog to be battling IBD along with EPI, hence the continued intestinal issues

Getting the Weight Back

Many folks do not know how much to feed their dog when it has lost so much weight. Each dog is different, but as a starting point, try feeding the newly diagnosed EPI dog 150% of whatever percentage of food is normally required for that dog’s size.  As long as the Cobalamin (B12) and SID are under good management… what most often happens is that the dog will let you know when it no longer needs 150% of its required food intake. It will start to leave food in the bowl. This is one of the ways that they let you know their body no longer requires being fed 150%.


Keep an EPI Log/ Journal!!  Record every change every addition/deletion whether it is food, new food, the amount of a protein, omega 3, vitamins, per/probiotics, minerals, medicine, vaccines, new situations/stress, etc. Even though EPI can be managed, many times a flare-up happens and only through record keeping can you make it easier on yourself finding the culprit/cause of the setback and get back on the road to recovery!


                                       Thank you for reading ….. you are now well-versed in…….