Exocrine Pancreatic Insufficiency in Older German Shepherds

Updated: Apr 10

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 fur friend has symptoms of EPI, it is important to get him or her diagnosed and treated as soon as possible. Thankfully, EPI can be successfully managed with proper care.

In this blog post and podcast, we talk with Olesia Kennedy founder of EPI 4 Dogs who schools us on everything EPI. Her website, epi4dogs.com is a wealth of invaluable information for those who have a fur friend with EPI or suspect their fur friend 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!

“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.”

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 Senior 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 fur friend is really not all that difficult. If you and your vet suspect EPI as the culprit, your vet will request a stool sample from your fur friend and perform blood work. The test to determine if it is in fact EPI is called cTLI or Canine trypsinogen-like immunoassay. She will most likely include testing the Vitamin B12 and folate levels in your fur friend in an effort to get the best assessment of your fur friend's pancreatic function.

How Is EPI Treated In Dogs:

If your fur friend has been diagnosed with Exocrine Pancreatic Insufficiency (EPI), you may be feeling overwhelmed and scared, but the good news is that he has been diagnosed and can now be treated properly. 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 totally 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 Senior German Shepherds With EPI:

If your fur friend has been diagnosed with Exocrine Pancreatic Insufficiency (EPI), you may be wondering what the prognosis is. Fortunately, many dogs respond well to treatment and can live long, happy lives, and if you have a senior German Shepherd with EPI that is still doing well, then he is a prime example of just that!

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 and tune into this week's #LifeWithOldDogs® podcast and listen to Olisea really cover all things EPI. Trust me, you won't be disappointed. Also be sure to check out the website