Pancreatic Insufficiency

Digestive Issues in Dogs

A serious but unusual problem, Pancreatic Insufficiency (PI), also known as maldigestion syndrome, is a devastating, but treatable disease.

What is It?

Usually seen in dogs under 2 years of age, PI causes digestion problems.

In a normal system, there are specific cells in the pancreas which secrete digestive enzymes into the small intestine after each meal. In affected dogs, these cells atrophy or dry up, and do not produce the necessary enzymes needed for proper digestion. This prevents nutrients from being absorbed by the body.

What Causes It?

It is believed to be a genetic disease. While it can be found in all dogs, large breeds, particularly German Shepherds, are predisposed.


Symptoms of PI include:

  • collection of oil in the hair around the anus (due to the release of undigested fat)
  • diarrhea grey in color with a fowl odor
  • greatly increased appetite
  • severe and rapid weight loss

How is it Diagnosed

An experienced vet can normally diagnose PI by observing the symptoms. A specific blood test (serum-trypsin) can be performed to confirm the diagnosis.


The best thing to do is supplement frequent daily feedings (2-4) with digestive enzymes. A highly digestible, low fat diet is best until the diarrhea is under control.

Vitamin supplements are also recommended as vitamin absorption is reduced in cases of PI.

It may take a while for your dog to regain the lost weight. In some cases, the loss is permanent due to changes in the tissue of the small intestine.


PetAlive Pancreas Booster Dog & Cat Herbal 60 CapsulesWhile there is no clinically recognized prevention for PI, digestive enzymes are extremely beneficial even in seeming healthy dogs. I supplement my dog's food with enzymes & probiotics to promote "friendly" bacteria in the intestine. This is a good prevention tactic.

If your dog already has PI, a booster can supply pancreatic enzymes to pets with a low-functioning pancreas.