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German Shepherd Exocrine Pancreatic Insufficiency | EPI | Chronic Pancreatic Insufficiency | Maldigestion | Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment

Also known as “maldigestion syndrome,” exocrine pancreatic insufficiency (EPI), which can be very common in the German Shepherd, is a pancreatic disease, affecting the organ than controls the production of enzymes needed to break down foods and absorb necessary nutrients. Pancreatic insufficiency occurs when a failure in the pancreas makes it impossible for the German Shepherd dog to break down fats, starches, and proteins in their diet into a sufficiently small size to be absorbed through the intestinal wall. Unable to absorb nutrients, the dog may starve to death even as he or she continues eating.

Signs of pancreatic insufficiency are usually relatively clear, making this a somewhat easy condition to diagnose. The disorder may come on suddenly, or the onset may be slow. In either case, you will notice your German Shepherd dog undergoing massive, rapid weight loss, caused both by loss of fat and by muscle atrophy. The coat of your dog may become less glossy and less healthy-looking, and your dog's stool will be diarrhea-like in consistency and yellow or clay-colored. Undigested fat may also be in the stool. Your German Shepherd will be constantly hungry and eat as much as possible, but be unable to keep his or her weight up.

Luckily, this disease is treatable. However, a life-long course of treatment for your German Shepherd is likely to be expensive and time-consuming. You will need to effectively bring in outside pancreatic enzymes to perform the functions that your own German Shepherd dog's pancreatic enzymes cannot. The best medication for this is a ground and freeze-dried mixture of pancreases of hogs and cattles, which is then processed and sold as the tablets or powder Pancrezyme and Viokase. These medications should be fed to a dog either mixed in with his or her food or thirty minutes prior to a meal. This medicine can cost $60-100 a month. Another option is the feeding of raw pig pancreases to your German Shepherd dog, although this is a less practical option for many pet owners.

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