3 Essential Nutrients for Dogs with Exocrine Pancreatic Insufficiency

Posted on: 6 November 2017

Finding out your dog has exocrine pancreatic insufficiency (known as EPI or digestive enzyme deficiency) can be scary. While EPI is often caused by an irreversible condition like PAA (pancreatic acinar atrophy), it can be treated with lifelong enzyme supplements and nutritional changes. In particular, there are 3 essential nutrients your dog will need (either via their diet or through supplements and injections). Here's all you need to know about them.

Vitamin B12

Vitamin B12, also known as cobalmin, is a nutrient that most dogs with EPI are deficient in. It's also one of the most crucial vitamins they'll need in their diet. Dogs without enough B12 in their system will be tired, lose weight, and suffer from brain fog and confusion. The reason most dogs with EPI are B12 deficient is that the lack of digestive enzymes in their system prevents them from absorbing vitamin B12 from food like a healthy dog would. As a result, increasing B12 levels in your dog's diet or giving them oral supplements won't address the deficiency. Instead, you'll need to take your dog to a vet clinic weekly for regular B12 injections. Over time, you'll be able to decrease the frequency of your visits, and you may even be able to administer the shots at home by yourself. 

Digestible Fibre

Also known as soluble fibre, digestible fibre will help your dog's body break down food and absorb nutrients from it. It also reduces your dog's chances of bacterial overgrowth in their small intestine (which will improve intestinal health and reduce their chances of getting diarrhoea), increase your dog's levels of "good bacteria", and help food move through the digestive system and pass without discomfort. Thankfully, digestible fibre comes in many forms, so even owners with the pickiest dogs will be able to find a source their dog will eat. Options include fruit and vegetables, oats, psyllium husk, bran, and flaxseed. Your vet will be able to advise you on how much fibre your dog needs and whether they're getting enough from their usual food. Avoid giving your dog extra fibre without talking to a vet first, as too much fibre can stop the pancreatic enzymes from functioning as they should.

Fatty Acids

As digestive enzymes are necessary for breaking down fat, your veterinarian may recommend that you feed your dog a low-fat or moderate-fat food to help their enzyme replacement supplements succeed. As a result of this lower fat intake, you may need to give your dog a supplement containing fatty acids and MCTs (medium chain triglycerides). Unlike regular fats, these fat sources work efficiently for dogs with EPI, and they'll help them absorb other nutrients more readily. The most common sources of MCTs and fatty acids are coconut oil and fish oil respectively, so ask your vet about the best way to get these oils into your dog's diet.