Australian Shepherd Health & Genetics Institute

Australian Shepherd Health & Genetics Institute

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Exocrine Pancreatic Insufficiency


What is exocrine pancreatic insufficiency (EPI)?

Exocrine pancreatic insufficiency – sometimes called pancreatic acinar atrophy (PAA), pancreatic hypoplasia, malabsorbtion, or malassimilation – is an autoimmune disease which attacks the parts of the pancreas that produce digestive enzymes.

 How do I know if my dog has EPI?

Dogs with the disease typically exhibit loose “cow pie” stools and may lose weight to the point of emaciation despite a voracious appetite.   EPI can be mistaken for a number of other gastrointestinal diseases, including cobalamin malabsorbtion which can be primary or secondary to EPI.  The only positive way to diagnose EPI is a cTLA (canine Trypsin-like Immunoreactivity) test.

 What does having EPI mean for my dog?

This is an incurable disease that is potentially life-threatening if untreated.  It requires regular veterinary monitoring.  The disease can be managed with special diet and pancreatic enzyme supplement.

 How common is EPI in Aussies?

It is rare.  However, it is important to keep in mind that breeders should approach all chronic autoimmune disease as a single health concern; different types of autoimmune disease frequently occur in affected families.

 Is EPI inherited?

Yes.  All autoimmune diseases are genetically predisposed:  The dog must have the genes to get the disease, but not every dog with the genes will become ill.

 Is there a screening or DNA test EPI?

Not at this time.

 What does EPI mean for my breeding program?

Breeders should approach each autoimmune disease as part of an overall health and breeding issue because different autoimmune diseases frequently occur in an affected family.  See Autoimmune Disease & Breeding.