In detail

Causes of dog EPI and diagnosis

EPI is a chronic weakness of the pancreas in dogs that requires lifelong treatment. Nevertheless, a healthy and happy life is possible. Find out more about the causes of EPI and what the diagnosis looks like here. Chronic pancreatic weakness EPI can have several causes - Shutterstock / NEstudio

EPI is short for "exocrine pancreatic insufficiency". Unfortunately, the pancreatic weakness is incurable and, if left untreated, leads to severe indigestion, which affects the entire body of the four-legged friend. The problem with chronic EPI: the pancreas no longer releases enough digestive enzymes. This allows food to pass through the small intestine without breaking down fats, proteins and carbohydrates. The result is a lack of nutrients, since the nutrients are largely excreted unused.

Possible causes of EPI in dogs

There are several causes of dog EPI that the vet can highlight. In addition to hereditary causes, certain previous illnesses can also lead to exocrine pancreatic insufficiency. These causes include:

• Autoimmune reaction: an inherited form of pancreatic weakness occurs in young dogs. Even if the pancreas initially functions normally, it can shrink in puppy age (pancreatic atrophy) and the young dogs show the first symptoms between their first six to 18 months. The reason for this is probably an autoimmune reaction that causes the shrinkage.
• Pancreatitis: EPI can also develop as a result of inflammation of the pancreas (pancreatitis). Acute inflammation can in rare cases destroy so much tissue that there are no longer enough cells to cover the need for digestive enzymes.
• A narrowing of the pancreatic canal can lead to a backflow, which can lead to inflammation and poor circulation, which can result in EPI.
• Tumors: In very rare cases, tumors can trigger EPI.
• Hereditary disease: EPI can be an inherited disease in German shepherd dogs.

Chronic and acute inflammation of the pancreas in dogs

Inflammation of the pancreas can also be acute or chronic in dogs ...

Diagnosis: how can EPI be diagnosed?

The vet can usually easily diagnose EPI with a blood test. The blood serum is examined with a focus on the so-called TLI (trypsin left immunoreactivity). This way it can be determined whether the pancreas is working normally or not. If parts of this are not active and too little trypsinogen is released, the TLI value drops. If it falls below 2.5 micrograms per liter, the diagnosis of exocrine pancreatic insufficiency in dogs is obvious. Healthy fur noses are between five and 45 micrograms per liter.

If you have your four-legged friend examined for EPI, it may be necessary to have another one after the first blood test. This is the case if the TLI value is in the gray area. Important: Your dog must fast for eight to 12 hours before the TLI measurement. Your vet will tell you in case of an emergency.

As far as the examination and diagnosis are concerned, it makes sense to check other blood values, such as the vitamin B12 content and the folic acid content. Both can indicate a bacterial imbalance in the small intestine.

How you can recognize EPI in your dog and what the right treatment looks like, read in the guide: "EPI in dogs: Chronic pancreatic weakness".