by Dr. Melissa Conrad
Moose, a 2 year old German Shepherd, was presented to Mill Creek Animal Clinic for having diarrhea at home. His parents were concerned because Moose was having diarrhea on a daily basis which was very abnormal for him. Other than his diarrhea, Moose was otherwise doing well with a healthy appetite and abundant energy levels.
Initially, Moose was prescribed several anti-diarrhea medications and a prescription diet which did not improve his diarrhea at home. To gain more information, screening blood work was performed on Moose which showed that his liver and kidneys were functioning appropriately with no evidence of an infection present. His fecal test was also negative for intestinal parasites.
Since his screening tests coming back normal, it was elected to do a special blood test to see how Moose’s intestinal tract was absorbing nutrients as he was now starting to lose weight. With this special gastrointestinal blood profile, we finally got an answer for why Moose was having chronic diarrhea at home.
Moose was diagnosed with exocrine pancreatic insufficiency (EPI) which means that his pancreas is unable to produce the digestive enzymes needed to break down food. Exocrine pancreatic insufficiency can either be caused by a lack of production of the enzymes by the pancreas or chronic pancreatitis (inflammation of the pancreas) causing destruction of the cells responsible for making the enzymes. Given Moose’s young age and breed, his EPI is most likely caused by lack of production of digestive enzymes. While exocrine pancreatic insufficiency is rare, German Shepherds and Rough Coated Collies are the two dog breeds most prone to this disease as it can be genetically inherited from their parents.
With this information, we were able to get Moose on the appropriate treatment plan. We added pancreatic enzymes into Moose’s diet twice daily over his food to replenish the enzymes needed to help him digest his food. Moose was also prescribed a two week course of antibiotics to kill off the bad bacteria within his GI tract. Finally, Moose became a frequent flyer at Mill Creek Animal Clinic to receive cobalamin (Vitamin B12) injections on a weekly basis for six weeks. These vitamin injections promoted better nutrient absorption and intestinal health. After starting treatment, Moose began having well-formed bowel movements and was gaining weight at each weekly check-in. We are so proud of Moose and the progress that he has made!
With exocrine pancreatic insufficiency, Moose will need to have his pancreatic enzymes supplemented for his entire life. The good news is the majority of animals with this disease can continue to lead an otherwise normal life and not have significant complications from this disease. Moose continues to do well at home under the loving nursing care of his parents!