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Exocrine Pancreatic Insufficiency in Older German Shepherds

Updated: Oct 27, 2022

If you are a German Shepherd owner, you should be aware of Exocrine Pancreatic Insufficiency (EPI), a potentially life-threatening disease. EPI is caused by the pancreas not producing enough digestive enzymes, which can lead to malnourished and other health problems. EPI is a common health issue in German Shepherds, so If your dog has symptoms of EPI, it is important to get him diagnosed and treated as soon as possible. Thankfully, EPI can be successfully managed with proper care.

n this blog post and podcast, we talk with Olesia Kennedy, the founder of EPI 4 Dogs, who teaches about everything EPI. Her website, is a wealth of invaluable information for those who have a dog with EPI or suspect their dog has EPI.

There’s even a forum you can join and chat with other EPI dog moms and dads who share their stories and advice....and IT’S ALL FREE TO YOU..... So be sure to check it out and share it with others, so they are in “the know,” too!

What Causes EPI German Shepherds?

Exocrine Pancreatic Insufficiency (EPI) is a condition found in dogs where the pancreas does not produce enough digestive enzymes to break down food. The digestive enzymes include amylase to digest starch, protease to digest proteins, and lipase to digest fats. If these enzymes are not present or there’s simply not enough, food is not broken down properly, and the nutrients in the food will not be absorbed and utilized by our fur friends, which leads to malnutrition, weight loss, other health complications, and even death.

What Are The Signs Of EPI In Older German Shepherds?

  • Weight loss, which can be extreme

  • Excessive eating

  • Eating everything and anything (even nonfood items)

  • Inability to gain weight

  • Rumbling sounds coming from the digestive tract

  • Passing gas, which is often smelly

  • Frequent diarrhea

  • Light-colored stool (yellow or gray)

  • Fatty looking stool

  • Nausea

  • Dull and sometimes greasy coat

How Is EPI Diagnosed in dogs?

Fortunately, checking for EPI in your dog is not all that difficult. If you and your vet suspect EPI is the culprit, your vet will request a stool sample from your dog and perform blood work. The test to determine if EPI is present is called cTLI or Canine trypsinogen-like immunoassay. She will also most likely include testing your dog’s Vitamin B12 and folate levels to get the best assessment of your dog’s pancreatic function.

How Is EPI Treated In Dogs:

If your dog has been diagnosed with Exocrine Pancreatic Insufficiency (EPI), you may feel overwhelmed and scared, but the good news is that he has been diagnosed and can now receive proper treatment. As we learned from Olisea in our podcast, treatment involves the whole dog, and it may take a bit of trial and error to get it right, but it is doable.

Treatment includes diet changes to include:

  • Highly digestible, low-fat foods with prescribed pancreatic enzymes mixed in with every meal.

  • B12 supplements (type of B12 will be specified as not all B12 is appropriate)

  • Good pre and probiotics added to the diet

  • Controlling overgrowth of bacteria in the small intestines SID (small intestinal dysbiosis)

Prognosis For Older German Shepherds With EPI:

If your dog has been diagnosed with Exocrine Pancreatic Insufficiency (EPI), of course, you will be concerned about his prognosis. Fortunately, many dogs respond well to treatment and can live long, happy lives.

According to Olisea from EPI 4 Dogs, “Once EPI is being managed, these dogs can and do anything any other dog can do, and they can live just as long too. The recovery rate was once stated at 97%.

If you want to learn more about EPI, do yourself a favor, tune into this week’s #LifeWithOldDogs® podcast and listen to Olisea, who covers all things EPI. Trust me; you won’t be disappointed.

Also, be sure to check out the website to read in detail about EPI and to join the forum.

If you’d like to listen to the podcast that coincides with this blog post, click on the link:

If a dog has a pork allergy and has trouble using the powdered porcine enzymes….there are other options that EPI 4 Dogs can try to help you with. This part was inadvertently cut off and not fully explained in the podcast.


***** Disclaimer: Throughout the “20 Most Common Health Issues in Senior German Shepherds” series, each blog post is expressed explicitly from our point of view and is not to be substituted for the professional medical expertise of your trusted veterinarian.


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