Most people are familiar with the pancreas as the organ that produces insulin which regulates blood sugar in animals and people. However, a part of the pancreas also has a function in digestion. This part is called the Exocrine Pancreas. The Exocrine pancreas produces enzymes that break down fats, proteins and carbohydrates. When these pancreatic cells are not functioning well, then the dog or cat can not digest its food. This results in weight loss, diarrhea, increased appetite, large, greasy stools, and a poor hair coat. This conditions is known as Exocrine Pancreatic Insufficiency (EPI). It is most commonly seen in German Shepherd Dogs.
A diagnosis of EPI is confirmed on clinical signs and blood tests. The Canine TLI ( trypsin-like immunoreactivity) test is the standard test to diagnose this problem. Dogs or cats who have this condition have very low TLIs.
Treatment for this condition involves supplementation with pancreatic enzyme powders or raw chopped pig pancreas. In my experience the chopped pancreas works better than the enzyme powders. Vitamin supplementation with Vitamin B12, E. and K are necessary as well. A good homemade diet that is low in fat and has moderate amounts of protein is also required. Milk thistle, slippery elm, probiotics and homeopathic remedies are also useful for this problem. If you seek the advice of a holistic veterinarian, he or she can help you with diet, herbs and homeopathics for this common condition.