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Exocrine Pancreatic Insufficiency In My White German Shepherd Dog
What's Wrong With My Dog? Exocrine What?
My beautiful dog, a White German Shepherd, was diagnosed at the age of two with Exocrine Pancreatic Insufficiency. At the time, I had no idea what any of those words meant. I did, however, quickly find out. It took a while to diagnose the problem that my dog was having. He lost almost ten pounds and was starving. He was eating constantly and immediately after he would go to the bathroom. His poop looked like puddles and you could see food in them. I know now that this type of stool is called a "cow pattie" and it's a sign of the exocrine pancreatic insufficiency, or EPI as it is called.
If your pet has EPI they cannot make the enzymes that digest the food in the stomach. Dogs and cats who have this can actually starve to death while eating everything in sight. Here's the story of me and my beautiful dog... how I found a way to treat his problem and how he is now. If you are a pet lover, read our story. You will enjoy it, and you will understand the wonderful bond between me and this gentle dog..
How Did I End Up With A German Shepherd?
I Was Attacked By A Dog And Now I Was Afraid
How did I end up with a huge German Shepherd? It beats me! I was attacked by a dog when I was in my 30's. It was a wild German Shepherd that had not been socialized and the attack traumatized me. I was lucky I wasn't bitten. I did, however, have deep scratches in my legs that took about two months to heal...but I was terrified by those big teeth that tried to bite me. Thank goodness someone pulled him off me or I would have been severely injured. As it was, I was traumatized.
I had always loved animals, dogs were my favorites, and now I was afraid of them. I didn't like being afraid, but I was. My children wanted a pet but I couldn't bring myself to adopt any of the shelter dogs we would visit. I am a firm believer in adopting dogs instead of buying from a breeder. Well, at least before the attack I was. Now I was frightened by any dog I saw and animals can sense that, so they all knew it.
We Got A Puppy
And That's How I Got My Dog
Finally my daughters and I found a puppy I wasn't afraid of and we did adopt him. His name was Sydney, a Springer Spaniel mix, and what a charismatic fellow he was. He was a sweet ball of fluff and grew to be a great dog and a good friend. My daughter moved into her own apartment and took Sydney with her. But now my entire family missed having a dog...even me, the scaredy cat.
Now we all wanted a dog in the house again, but I was still afraid of them. It was very difficult to be afraid of something I loved, but no matter how I tried, I was afraid of anything but puppies. And I couldn't find a puppy at the shelter. At that time my daughter was getting into dog training...she was becoming a trainer...and she came to study under a trainer by the name of Katie. Katie was both, a breeder and a trainer. I went to the dog training session to visit with my daughter and Sydney and that is how I came to see Lux.
Lux was the biggest, most beautiful dog I had ever seen. Of course, I was terrified of him, but I was also in awe of just how perfect he looked. I found out that Lux had been mated to a black shepherd and the litter was due any day. That was how I came to find the perfect puppy for me. I wasn't afraid of the puppies and before I knew it, we had purchased one of the new litter...before it was even born. I wanted a white one, like Lux, and if there was one in that litter, Katie agreed it would be mine.
The Perfect Puppy - My German Shepherd
My Dog Was Born On January 20, 2000
We got the news on January 20, 2000 that our puppy had been born. He was one of seven pups and his color was how we decided he would be mine. We got the first pictures of him when he was three weeks old. He was the most adorable thing I had ever seen. I fell in love right away, before I had even met him. We made a couple trips up to Katie's to meet him before we brought him home at the end of March in 2000.
Even as a growing pup, Pharaoh never jumped on people, he never went on the furniture...in fact, one day I put him on the sofa and he jumped off. It just wasn't his style. The best part about my dog? He choose me as his person. He was always thrilled to see me and the sweet guy still is! I would come in from work everyday and he would almost do cartwheels. He was just crazy about me. And that made me more crazy about him...so here we were...made for each other. I couldn't believe how lucky I was to find this one special dog. It wasn't a one way love affair...he loved me as much as I loved him. It was like we were perfect together!
As he got older he got bigger, and bigger, and bigger. But I just didn't notice, and even now when I see him at 11 1/2 years old, all I see is my sweet little puppy dog. I once took him for a walk and someone asked me if I was walking a pony. LOL That's how big he was. Think of a German Shepherd and double it. He was growing and filling out more and more each day. By the time he was about 2 he was about 30" high at his back and he weighed about 80 pounds. He was also very thin. He didn't have an ounce of fat on his body.
Eat And Poop - Eat And Poop
What's Wrong With My Dog?
Right after his second birthday something went wrong. Pharaoh was eating normally and then all of a sudden he wanted to eat all the time. It was then I noticed that as soon as he ate it would come out the other end. I kept feeding him, he kept pooping, and he was getting hungrier. I just fed him more and more and he wanted to eat more and more. His stool looked like big puddles of mucus with food mixed in. I know now that is called a "Cow Pattie" and it is a symptom of what was wrong with him. But I didn't know that then.
I took him to the doctor several times that week. The doctor thought perhaps he had a stomach bug and told me not to feed him for 24 hours. He hated that...he was hungry. Then I was told to give him chicken and rice...I did and it went right through him. Another couple days went by and my dog was still hungry and pooping. I took him to the doctor again and she said there might be a test she could do, but didn't think we should do it yet, it was expensive...by now my dog had lost about 5 or so pounds and he was ravenous. He would try to eat just about anything in sight. It was so unlike my dog. I told her to just do the test. It was called the Serum Trypsin-like Immunoreactivity Test. This blood test should have results in the 5-35 mg/L range. If the range is 2.5 or lower the pet is diagnosed with Exocrine Pancreatic Insuffieciency or EPI. My dog's results were .04.
Endocrine and Exocrine Functions
The pancreas is a two fold organ. It has an endocrine and an exocrine function. The endocrine function of the pancreas is to control the body's blood sugar by producing and secreting insulin. The exocrine function of the pancreas is to make digestive hormones. My dog's pancreas had atrophied and the parts of it that were supposed to be making digestive enzymes had died. His blood count range for the Serum TLI was 0.04. My darling boy could not produce the enzymes he needed to break down the food he ate so his body could absorb the nutrients. Everything he ate was passing right through him and he wasn't getting any nourishment at all even though I was feeding him almost all the time.
This is all way more than I ever wanted to know about the pancreas!
My Dog Is Sick And The Medicine Is Expensive
OH BOY. There was a medicine that could help him. The medicine was actually made from the pancreas of pigs and turned into a powder form, it is called Viokase-V. Since my dog was so big he would need three tablespoons a day on his food...twice daily. The medicine cost 190.00 a bottle and I would be using a bottle a week. I am not a wealthy person in terms of money. I didn't have almost 600.00 a month to put out for everything I would need to treat my dog. I was already putting the doctor bills and medicines on my credit card. One visit alone cost me 1000.00 and it included an ultrasound to rule out any growths or cancer since the calcium levels in my dogs blood tests came back very high. So here I was...broke, charging everything and now I find out that at this rate my card will be full in a year and my dog won't be cured. People actually came and said that I should put my dog to sleep.
Here's what one office visit cost::
Serum TLI test - 200.00
Ultrasound - 400.00
Medication - 190.00 every 2 weeks
Medication 2 - 1.00 a day
Special Prescription Dog Food - 1.35 per can (5 cans a day)
My dog was a pup, he was 2 years old and all he needed to be healthy was a powder on his food. There was no way I could put this dog to sleep. He wasn't deformed, in pain, broken, he just needed Viokase-V on his food. He did also need one more medication. It is called Metronidizole (I might have spelled that incorrectly) and it is an anti-biotic that would control the flora (bacteria) in his intestines, since he wasn't producing any enzymes that would normally do that, we had to replace them. I was also told Pharaoh would need special food from Science Diet. He had to eat a low fat, low fiber, highly digestible diet...it was as boring as it sounds, but he couldn't digest fat so he had to eat this. I can't even remember the name of it, but I will fill that in later. Each can was 1.35 each and I fed him 5 cans at a feeding. So now I couldn't not only afford the medicine, I couldn't afford his food either. I started to feed him once a day, the five cans with 3 tablespoons of Viokase-V. He was okay on that schedule and I could afford it...barely, but it was much more managable than double that cost since feeding him twice a day meant double the medication.
I asked my vet to order me 10 or 20 cases at a time and give me a discount but she wasn't willing to do that. She told me the manufacturer gave her a price she had to sell it at. Okay, she wanted her profit. I also tried to get a discount on the Viokase-V...but that didn't fly either. I didn't need it once or twice. I needed two bottles a month for the entire life of my dog. EPI wasn't going away. Pharaoh had a life long condition and nothing could repair it. So I charged everything and didn't worry about it. I was worried enough about my dog, the heck with the money part of it.
I was spending hundreds of dollars a month. The Viokase-V alone was 380.00 and the Metro was about 30.00 plus the canned dog food. I bought the canned food because the dry stuff was so bland...it was like feeding my dog oatmeal.
I Have To Do Scientific Research
On The Digestive Enzymes Needed By Dogs
After less than two years, I was really feeling the strain of the price of the Viokase-V and the dog food costs. I began to research and find other sources of Viokase. I got some enzymes from Thomas Labs and gave them to my dog and they were cheaper, but I need to give him more so in the end they were not as cheap as I thought and the Viokase worked better. I really began to research the problem and try to find a solution. My second credit card was over half way to it's limit and I could not afford to keep charging. So now I have a very healthy four year old dog with a life expectancy of 7 to 10 years and I had to do something so I could afford to keep him healthy and me with a roof over my head!
Now I know all about the pancreas and it's functions. I know all about digestive enzymes and EPI...and I was hot on the trail of a less expensive way to help my dog digest his food. I felt like an explorer on the verge of some new discovery. And, actually, that is exactly what I was.
Calling Butcher Shops Looking For Pancreas
I Found A Place That Sold Raw Pancreas
I started to call butcher shops to see if I could buy the pancreas from the animals they killed, and when that didn't work, I started to call farms and slaughter houses. I had read online that Porcine Pancreas (pancreas from a pig) was best but the pharmaceutical companies bought that all up to make products like Viokase-V. So I started to investigate beef pancreas. I FOUND A SOURCE where I could buy the raw beef pancreas already ground up, frozen, packed in one pound packages and have it shipped to me. It would cost about 2.00 a pound...it's now almost 4.00 but it's still a great price, and that would end up costing me somewhere around 40 or 45 dollars a month... Instead of the 380.00 for the Viokase-V. (I am sharing the name of the raw foods pet foods website with you. If your dog needs pancreatic enzymes to digest it's food, the raw pancreas is a much cheaper way to provide those enzymes. You can save a ton of money, your dog will be eating food he can enjoy and your pet will gain weight, his fur will become glossy and thicker, it's just a better way to provide the enzymes a dog needs.)
I ordered the pancreas, got it and was pretty grossed out at first. Even though it actually looks like ground beef, I knew it wasn't. But I had to do this. My vet didn't think it was a good idea. She talked about how the pancreas might not be healthy, I could get a bad batch...and I have to believe that she honestly thought this. But I did not have a choice. I was going down the tubes financially and had no other option.
I think most vets, like doctors in the AMA, just believe the methods they were taught in vet school are the best ways to treat problems in animals..just as medical doctors don't usually agree with chiropractors or homeopathic practitioners in many areas of treatments. The medical and vet schools are usually heavily endowed by the pharmaceutical industry and the dog food companies in our country, and they practice healing through pharmaceutical ways more often than more natural ways of healing. They also recommend diets made by companies like Science Diet. It's what the vets learned, it's what they know ... that doesn't always make it the only way.
Well, Pharaoh not only did well on the raw pancreas...you actually mix just it in with his food...he loved it. Instead of bland low fat grain dog food he was getting beef pancreas with his food. It was like a filet mignon every night for him. Before he ate only because he was hungry. You could see his food wasn't tasty at all. Now he gobbled down every bit and licked the bowl clean. His stool, which had been on the soft side, was now hard and firm. (I know you are all happy to know that!) He loved dinner time. His coat became shiny, thick and soft. It had always been nice, but now it was outstanding. He was really getting lots of nutrients and vitamins because he was absorbing the nutrients in his food.He gained about 20 pounds, going from 80 to 100. He looked great! His fur felt luxurious! He felt great and if I told you he had a digestive problem you would have thought I was crazy!
What Did The Breeders Say?
I came to find out that if only one parent has the EPI gene the puppies in the litter will not have it...both parents must have this gene. It is called an autosomal recessive gene. My dog's parents, both of them, came from the same kennel in Canada to live with Katy, the breeder I got Pharoah from. I suspect the problem is in the dogs at the Canadian kennel, but I cannot prove it. (I don't suspect, actually, I know!) I contacted the breeder of my dog, I got no response at all. I contacted the kennel where both of my dog's parents both came from and they did reply to my email. They said they did not have a problem with EPI in their dogs. That's strange since both my dog's parents came from there and the only way for my dog to have EPI is for both those dogs to have the gene.
I also contacted three of the major kennel clubs where these dogs were registered. They told me all the breeders involved were members in good standing. Being the WITCH that I can be, I sent a response and asked what did being a member in good standing involve? Paying their dues?
I didn't want anything for myself or my dog. I wouldn't want my money back since in cases like this you must return the dog. I wasn't going to do that. I just wanted the dog breeders involved to be aware and watch what dogs they bred together. I didn't want this to happen to anyone else. I also wanted someone to tell me they were sorry. I can't explain why, I just did.
Most people in my position would not have been able to keep this dog alive. If my kids were younger, I would not have been able to afford the medicine and treatment I need for Pharaoh. He would have been put to sleep...I do thank God everyday that I was in a position to save him. I joke about it and call him my Mercedes Benz, but in truth, it's not funny. It was a difficult decision I gave a lot of thought to. Did I want to be financially strapped? Did I want to be in debt? This was going to change my life, as well as my dogs. It wasn't an easy choice to make, but in the end, I could not kill an animal that only needed a powder on his food. It was my choice and sometimes it has been hard, but I never regretted making the decision I made. I have regretted ever hearing about EPI!
For those of you out there with EPI dogs, let me know how you solved your problem. If your dog is small, the amount of Viokase-V enzyme replacement would be a smaller amount than I had to use, so it would also be much cheaper. I could have done it easily if my dog had only needed one teaspoon instead of three tablespoons. It's in the big dogs that the treatment gets really expensive. Even if your dog is small, the stuff can be expensive. I just looked online and saw prices for the 12 ounce bottle I used to use and the price was 159.00 to 215.00...so I guess no matter how much you use, it is expensive.
EPI, What It Is And It's Symptoms
What To Look Out For
EPI is exocrine pancreatic insufficiency. It means that part of the pancreas has atrophied (died) and doesn't make the digestive enzymes it is supposed to. The digestive enzymes are what helps the stomach digest the food we eat. When the food is digested it can be absorbed into the body so we get the nourishment we need to be healthy. Without the enzymes to digest food, the body will starve...and then die. This is sometimes called malabsorption.
Symptoms of EPI are:
- weight loss
- increased appetite
- coprophagia (when the dog eats it's own stool)
- stool that looks grayish, mucusy or oily
I get my pancreas from a place called Hare Today. They can be found by clicking the picture of the pancreas above. I do not get any kind of commission from them at all. You can find everything you need to feed your dog a raw diet there too. It's a great place to find some healthy food and snacks for your pet. And if your dog has EPI you can try the pancreas to replace the more expensive enzyme pills and powders on the market.
Tell me your story...I would love to hear it!
The good news about EPI is that life can go on just fine with it. My dog has had it for about ten years and you can see he looks great. Most important, he feels great. Here is a picture of him at another's doggies first birthday party. LOL He is having a great old time in his personalized party hat!
I have more pictures of my pooch but they are stuck in another computer. As soon as I can retrieve them I will post some of the puppy pictures I have. I can't wait for you all to see my sweet boy when he was small!
Pharaoh Was 12 Years Old On January 20, 2012! As of this writing, it's May 2012 and he is laying beside my PC as I type this in, he is beginning to fade, but it's not because of Canine EPI. His life has been longer than most people ever expected it to be, and like any old couple, we just take things slower these days. I am still his favorite person and he is just the apple of my eye.
Pharaoh's Father, Luxor Valley of the Kings
Who is Lux? His full name is Luxor, Valley of the Kings and he was a huge white German Shepherd dog. Lux scared the heck out of me. I was also in total awe of him. His size, his stature, his beautiful coat, he was a majestic dog. Simply stunning...terrifying, but stunning. We learned that Lux had been mated with a black German Shepherd and she was due any day now. My family decided if that litter had a little white puppy, we wanted it. We talked it over with Katy and she agreed. We gave her a down payment and waited to hear that the pups had arrived.
The litter arrived on January 20, 2000 and there was a little white pup that looked just like his father. There were 2 buff puppies, 1 white one, and 2 black pups. All were healthy and all was good...now we just had to wait for the pups to be old enough to leave their mother. I got my first picture of my pup when he was three weeks old. I fell in love with him before I even met him.
We were able to take our puppy home in March. I was so totally thrilled with this little boy, even more so once I got him home and found out how soft he was. He was a gentle, sweet thing. He was easy to house train, he never did any of the rotten puppy stuff that makes pups so much work, he chewed one shoe...once, and that was it. I named him Pharaoh...King Of All You See. It seemed fitting since his dad was Luxor, Valley of the Kings...I liked the Egyptian theme.
UPDATE ~ My Dog Was 12 Years Old In January, 2012
The Breeder Where Both My Dog's Parent's Came From Is Out Of Business
I just found out that the breeder in Canada, where both my dogs parent's came from, is out of business. I haven't bothered to look them up for a couple of years, and when I did, I found this news. I would love to know why they are out of business and if it had anything to do with the Canine EPI that was in the gene pool of their animals. If anyone knows about Artica Kennels and why they are no longer in the dog breeding business, please let me know.