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The pancreas is an organ close to the liver and the small intestine, whose role (among others) is to produce the pancreatic juice, very rich in various enzymes. Quantitatively and qualitatively, it is the most important source of enzymes that are necessary for food digestion. Actually, pancreatic enzymes are able to attack all the different components of the food:

  • amylase is active upon carbohydrates (starch or glycogen)
  • lipase is active upon lipids (triglycerides)
  • trypsin, chymotrypsin, elastase, collagenase (…), are active upon proteins.
Origin and symptoms of pancreatic insufficiency

In some pathologic cases, the pancreatic juice producing cells become progressively atrophied. So far, there is no clear reason to explain this disease. We can just point out that the German Shepherd breed is obviously the most concerned by this problem. But pancreatic insufficiency can also be a consequence of an acute pancreatic inflammation, from infectious, tumoral or toxic origin…

Whatever the cause could be, the result of a pancreatic insufficiency is always the same: a global deficit in pancreatic juice, inducing clinical signs of poor digestive assimilation. One can observe:

  • important weight loss, whereas the appetite is maintained or even increased. Sometimes, the dog comes to eat his own stools;
  • dull and dry hair, very brittle, due to a impaired absorption of essential fatty acids and fat-soluble vitamins (A, E);
  • intestinal fermentations leading to flatulences, borborygmus, associated to occasionally diarrhea or dungy and discolored stools, with a rancid smell. This is the sign of the presence of undigested fat in the stools and it is called steatoorhea. When it appears, it means that more than 90 % of the pancreas is destroyed.

Treatments of pancreatic insufficiency

Medical treatment
Intestinal cells also produce digestive enzymes, but they are not sufficient to make up for the pancreatic deficiency. Then, a daily administration of pancreatic extracts becomes necessary to supply additional enzymes that are requested for a proper digestion.

To compensate for the alcalinizing role of the pancreatic juice in the duodenum, an anti-acid treatment is sometimes advised, to improve the efficiency of the pancreatic extracts.

Last, a antibiotic treatment can help to regulate the intestinal microbial flora overgrowth, due to the important rush of undigested elements in the intestines.

Dietetic treatment
According to the seriousness of the pancreatic insufficiency, the diet can vary from one dog to another. The main goal is to propose a highly digestible diet: the dry matter digestibility has to be over 85 %. It goes with a very high quality of the ingredients. In general, the fiber content tends to be limited, to minimize the production of undigestible bulk in the large intestine. Once the right balance of the diet is found for a specific dog, the composition should not change: the diet must be as regular as possible.

The optimum fat content is often questionned: one can read or hear that low-fat diets are recommended for pancreatic insufficient dogs. In fact, a compromise has to be done between two opposite constraints:

  • satisfying the high energetic requirements of dogs that are often skinny,
  • dealing with the low-residual capacity of these dogs to digest fat.

Experimentally, it has been showed that a low-fat diet did not bring any appreciable improvment in the clinical status of pancreatic insufficient dogs. In most cases, the dogs can easily stand 20 % fat in their diet, providing that the food is highly digestible and that an enzyme supplementation comes with each meal.


Providing that the dog tolerates it pretty well, a high-fat diet is the best way to provide a lot of energy while minimizing the volume of the meals. The Canistar product S2 is the most advisable. The daily diet will be divided into 2 or 3 meals per day, always distributed according the same rythm. Any kind of supplement should be prohibited, as they are likely to disturb the balance of the diet. The stability of the composition of the diet is an essential condition to prevent from diarrhea recurrence.

Donated by the Borg Cardona and Co. Ltd. visit Borg Cardona website

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