Why do we “suggest” starting with a Grain Free diet for EPI dogs… something with 4% fiber content or less and to try and avoid foods with multiple legumes in them?????? Not because all grain is bad, but rather we, the EPI community, are referring to the fiber content of the food, and it is easiest to start looking in the Grain-Free food section first, but then we do advise to READ THE LABEL CAREFULLY, look for foods that avoid grains and legumes. Does this mean that all EPI dogs cannot tolerate grain?? Absolutely not. Some do very well on grain, but when there is difficulty getting an EPI dog’s condition under good control…. usually switching to a low fiber food, found in the grain free food section, greatly improves the situation.
Why low fiber ??? Because is has been proven multiple times with multiple research over multiple years that FIBER INHIBITS PANCREATIC LIPASE ACTIVITY. EPI patients depend on an outside source to supply them with the necessary pancreatic enzymes that they no longer can sufficiently produce on their own ….. and the last thing they need is to be given food that will destroy the very replacement enzymes anywhere from 0% to 50% that we are giving them. Unfortunately we have no idea which dog can tolerate how much fiber. This is why we strongly suggest starting with a low-fiber diet. However, it is totally up to the individual pet owner if they would like to try a food with grain. If the EPI dog does well on it, great… if not…. then again, we “suggest” trying various low fiber diets.
Is going all low fiber always the answer??? Not completely…….
1. The problem with fiber is that there are 4 types of fiber (Soluble/Fermentable, Insoluble/ Lowly Fermentable).Many grains, fruits and vegetables often have all 4 types of fiber in them but in different concentrations and/or different types of fiber is in different parts of the food item. This information is on our “Fiber in Diets” page.
2. The predominant fiber is usually how the food is categorized.
3. We have no idea which type fiber is in what concentration when we look at “fiber content” on commercial pet food packaging. This is why we “suggest” avoiding grain foods because we cannot ascertain how much of what type of fiber is in it except for the total fiber content and why we go with 4% or less…it’s simply the best “guess” at limiting the possible wrong fiber
4. The actual type of fiber can vary from one commercial batch of food to the next.
5. We have no idea how well and how much and what type fiber can be well-tolerated by which individual EPI dog given the fact that certain fiber inhibit enzyme activity.
6. The other problem with EPI dogs is that we now know that they all have SID (small intestinal dysbiosis) to one degree or another. To be treated if/when there are signs.
7. The problem with SID in an EPI dog is that low fiber intake can actually encourage SID, and yet too much fiber can inhibit the enzyme activity the EPI dog needs to survive.
8.This is why we often suggest adding a tsp of canned pumpkin, a little sweet potato, or what usually works very nicely is adding a small dose of slippery elm powder (a mucilage/prebiotic fiber with SCFAs in it) to a low fiber (grain-free) meal…. it is our way of feeding the EPI dog a diet without unknown amounts of fiber that may greatly interfere with their enzymes and yet give the EPI dog just enough of the right kind of fiber to aid in better controlling the ever present SID in the EPI dogs when SID gets a little out of control.
9. For years Epi4Dogs has stressed to AVOID commercial food brands that are top heavy with peas, legumes, etc. Especially if Peas/legumes are in the top 3 ingredients or if there are multiple sources of peas, like: peas, pea fiber, pea protein, pea flour, etc….. when you see this avoid this food.
Fast forward to 3/2021.… now the FDA is suggesting that what we have been advising for years “might” be part of the reason why grain free foods may trigger CDM in some dogs…. because they are avoiding grains and they are compensating/overloading with peas/legumes…. peas/legumes are the very thing that encourages SID in our EPI dogs and why we say avoid food overloaded with peas/legumes! Now the FDA just gave us another reason to avoid foods with to many peas/legumes: FDA continues investigation into dog heart damage linked to diet (nbcnews.com)
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) concluded that there is no scientific evidence that a grain-free diet causes canine dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM).
The agency outlined the multiple potential factors that can, alone or in combination, contribute to dogs developing this rare and scientifically complex disease. The agency concluded that there is nothing inherently unsafe about a grain-free diet.
~Dr. Steven Solomon, director of the FDA’s Center for Veterinary Medicine, acknowledged that the “complex scientific messaging” on DCM and diet has contributed to misinterpretation about the safety of a grain-free diet. Dr. Solomon encouraged dog owners to select the diet that works best for their pet’s nutritional needs and previewed more multidisciplinary, scientific collaboration between the industry, veterinarians, scientists and other researchers that will further the understanding of DCM.
~DCM impacts approximately 1 percent of dogs in the U.S. Historically, DCM has been linked to genetic predisposition, but emerging science has demonstrated an array of factors that may contribute to DCM, including breed, genetics, biology, pre-existing health conditions, digestive issues, obesity, processing of key nutrients and activity level.
~“The agency’s latest remarks and findings on DCM confirm that a grain-free diet provides safe and healthy nutrition, and that the risk factors for DCM relate to the dog’s unique health situation,” said Blaine McPeak, chief executive officer of Champion Petfoods. “Evidence shows that the absence of grains in a dog’s diet is not linked to the development of DCM, as the presence of grains in a dog’s diet does not prevent against DCM. We hope this brings clarity to pet lovers and gives them the confidence and trust to select the best diet for their dogs. ”
~“Observations made by veterinary clinicians, such as the concerns reported of an association between grain-free diets and DCM, are important to bring forward as they form the foundation for investigating the causality of veterinary diseases and keeping our pets safe,” said said Krista Howden, DVM, MSc DACVPM, veterinary epidemiologist and senior scientific advisor at One Health Scientific Solutions. “Nevertheless, these observations must be subject to rigorous scientific investigation before conclusions are made.”
~The FDA said it is grateful for the significant efforts of experts in academia, the veterinarian community and industry to advance the science of pet nutrition. The agency hopes additional, future studies will aid in the further understanding of nutrition and overall pet health. Dr. Solomon’s full remarks are available online.
Our 2019 Conclusion: During the end of 2018 and now into 2019 with the recent scare with cardiomyopathy and grain free foods, there are now some vets, vet nutritionists, etc… stating that grain free food is bad and for dog owners to stop using it…. Sadly this “blanket” claim is very disturbing and not 100% accurate for dogs with Exocrine Pancreatic Insufficiency. Like they say, the devil is in the details….. and the full details are not mentioned in TV, FB, internet soundbites and sensationalizing articles. What we need to remember is that EPI is a specific condition with specific requirements. The best i can do to fully explain this fiber and enzyme relationship is to cite multiple and specific EPI research below. I hope this helps quell any confusion about why we “suggest” low fiber food to begin with for “most” EPI dogs. If an EPI parent is having difficulty stabilizing their EPI pet, start with low fiber food, try adding your own minimal specific type fiber, if that doesn’t work…try various diets but keep detailed records of the ingredients to help figure out what food and in what percentage certain foods appear to best agree (or not) with your individual EPI dog. Until we have more answers as to why EPI happens, for now, this is the best information we have to offer.
JOURNAL OF LIPID RESEARCH: http://www.jlr.org/content/48/2/358.full.pdf
“Inhibition of Lipase Activities by basic Polysaccharide”
ADVANCES IN MEDICAL SCIENCE : https://pdfs.semanticscholar.org/3a77/e13ca29e342deddb7ce8872bb021d51d20a8.pdf
“Pancreatic Replacement Therapy for EPI, When is it indicated? What is the goal? How to do it?
“Effect of Dietary Fiber on Pancreatic Enzymes Activity in Vitro”
Dietary fiber has been found to exert an in-hibitory effect on pancreatic enzyme activities.