Treating Enzyme Deficiencies and Chronic Diarrhea in Dogs

PetMD Editorial
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PetMD Editorial
Published: January 25, 2011
Treating Enzyme Deficiencies and Chronic Diarrhea in Dogs

There are many things that can cause diarrhea. Stress, indigestion or diseases which affect the intestinal tract, for instance, can all be contributing factors. Another serious condition that can lead to diarrhea is exocrine pancreatic insufficiency (EPI).

EPI prevents your dog’s body from producing sufficient digestive enzymes to break down food and inflames the intestine. This causes the dog to have loose, pale-colored stools as well as a ravenous appetite and bouts of weight loss. In addition, because the food is not broken down in the gut, your dog is not able to absorb the nutrients from the food, and is essentially starving to death.

Your veterinarian will need to perform blood tests to evaluate the level of digestive enzymes present. These tests, along with a history of weight loss, diarrhea, and increased appetite can help make a definitive diagnosis of EPI.

Dietary Supplements and Other Treatments for Better Digestion

Treatment for this condition may include dietary changes so that food can be more easily digested. For instance, dogs with chronic diarrhea, may be placed on a low-fat, high-fiber diet in order to make the stools firmer. Digestive enzyme supplements are also added to the diet to help resolve the diarrhea. If your veterinarian recommends this course of treatment, he or she may recommend a moderate amount of fat in the dog's diet, assuming the carbohydrates are very digestible.

If diagnosed with EPI, your dog will require supplemental digestive enzymes added to the food for the rest of his life. These special enzymes work to break down food so the animal can absorb the available nutrients. Other supplements that help promote better digestion and may alleviate diarrhea in dogs with EPI include probiotics, prebiotics, and plant-derived enzymes.

Enzyme Replacement Therapy

Dogs suffering from EPI also run the risk of developing a vitamin B12 (cobalamin) deficiency because the vitamin is not absorbed from the food eaten. Vitamin deficiency of this sort is seen in more than half of dogs with EPI. Once a deficiency of B12 occurs, your dog will have difficulty gaining (or maintaining) weight, even when he or she may have been doing well on enzyme replacement therapy.

Because of this, any animal that is not improving on enzyme replacement therapy should be checked for B12 deficiency to determine if supplementation is necessary. The most effective method of giving vitamin B12 is by injection. Injections will be given until levels are high enough and any secondary intestinal problems are improved.

Image: Annette Shaff / via Shutterstock

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