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Daniels Pharmaceuticals

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Pancreatic Problems

By Daniel Pharmaceuticals, a subsidiary of Jones Medical Industries, makers of Pancrezyme, to help you better understand some of the diseases that effect the pancreas.

The Pancreas

The pancreas, is one of the most important glands in the endocrine and digestive system. It is located next to the stomach and large intestine. The pancreas serves two major functions in the body. One is to produce insulin and alter hormones that regulate carbohydrate metabolism. The other is to secrete digestive enzymes which break down dietary proteins, fats and carbohydrates so that they can absorbed by the body.

Dog Pancreas


Normally, the pancreas secretes inactive enzymes into the small intestine, where they are then activated for digestion. Pancreatitis develops when inactive enzymes become active in the pancreas itself. The result is the pancreas inappropriately begins to digest itself.


Symptoms are wide ranging and varying in severity. The most common symptoms may include poor appetite, vomiting, depression, dehydration, abdominal pain, diarrhea and fever.


Since pancreatitis mimics other gastrointestinal disorder and renal failure, laboratory test, x-rays or ultrasound may be necessary to confirm or rule out pancreatitis as a diagnosis.


The cause of pancreatitis is usually unknown, therefore your veterinarian will treat the symptoms. Treatment usually includes administration of fluids while withholding food to allow the pancreas to rest. Your veterinarian may want to prescribe antibiotics and may wish to evaluate other medications or environmental factors to be sure it is not drug or toxin induces.


Patients should improve within 24 to 48 hours, depending on the severity of the problem. Pancreatitis can be a one time problem or may be chronic or recurrent. Most patients with uncomplicated pancreatitis recover after a single episode and do well as long as high-fat foods are avoided.

Exocrine Pancreatic Insufficiency

Exocrine Pancreatic Insufficiency (EPI) is usually caused by atrophy of the pancreatic cells. Clinical signs usually appear between the ages 1-5 years, although they may occur in older dogs as well. EPI may be present many months before symptoms become apparent. A genetic predisposition to develop EPI has been reported in German Shepherds and Rough Collies.


Patients with EPI usually excrete large volumes of pale colored stools which may have a foul smell. Stools may range from soft to severe watery diarrhea. Weight loss is associated with this disease despite the ravenous appetite that usually occurs. Some dogs may vomit frequently.


The most reliable test for EPI is assay of serum TLI (trypsin-like immunoreactivity). Stool analysis is sometimes useful I the diagnosis of EPI.


Most EPI patients can be successfully managed by supplementing each meal with pancreatic enzyme extracts (Pancrezyme). Additional measures such as antibiotics, dietary modification, vitamins or steroid therapy may be helpful.

Enzyme replacement is the key to treating EPI. Enzymes must to fed with every meal with two meals per day being sufficient to promote weight gain. Diarrhea and the ravenous appetite should resolve in a few days and weight gain of ½ to 1 pound per week should be expected. As soon as improvement is noticed, the minimum effective dose of enzyme replacement should be established that prevents return of symptoms.

Enzyme replacement, and a low fiber regular maintenance diet should help your dog or cat regain its original weight and live many more years, happy and healthy.

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