Animal & Bird Medical Center of Palm Harbor
Medical Database

Gastrointestinal Disorders

Exocrine Pancreatic Disease

Animals Affected – Dog, Cat, Rodent

General Information
The pancreas is an organ that is attached to the first section of the small intestine and is divided into exocrine and endocrine portions. Nearly 98% of the pancreas secretes digestive enzymes and other substances, including an enzyme inhibitor that protects the pancreas from digesting itself. This is the exocrine pancreas. The remaining 2% of the pancreas secretes insulin and is termed the endocrine pancreas.

Exocrine pancreatic disease (EPD) refers to a degenerative process of the non-insulin-producing portion of the pancreas. The pancreas secretes its juices into the small intestine at all times, 10% of the juices between meals and 90% in response to eating a meal. The pancreas receives signals to secrete its enzymes through an interplay of nerves and from hormones that originate in the intestines. EPD is much more prevalent in the dog and is rare in the cat.

An animal may survive without its pancreas, but it would require both daily insulin administration plus enzyme and vitamin supplementation and a very carefully regulated, special diet.

Pancreatic acinar atrophy (PAA) is the most common form of EPD and results from the destruction of the basic enzyme-secreting element of the pancreas. The cause of PAA in the dog is not well known, but it may occur at any age and is inherited in the German Shepherd. Suspected causes of PAA include obstruction of the ducts leading from the pancreas, infections, poisons (originating from either inside or outside the body), lack of proper blood supply to the pancreas, and immuno-mediated (self-allergy) disorders. Other less common forms of EPD include pancreatic cancer and a chronic inflammation of the pancreas. Signs of EPD include having a ravenous appetite, weight loss, large volume of light-colored stool (due to increased fat), abdominal pain, recurring digestive problems, increased flatulence (frequent passing of gas), and poor haircoat.

Important Points in Treatment
1. Serum and fecal laboratory tests may be required, depending upon your pet’s clinical signs and response to initial diet changes and enzyme supplementations.
2. Enzyme replacement, dietary modification with vitamin supplementation, antibiotic therapy with or without corticosteroid administration are all options that may be considered in your pet’s case. Lifetime treatment is often required in most cases.

An Important Update From Animal & Bird Medical Center On COVID-19

We are committed to offering a safe and healthy environment for our clients, pets and hospital team here at Animal and Bird Medical Center. The best way to avoid becoming ill is to avoid exposure to the virus. Taking typical preventive actions is key.

In being cautious and mindful of everyone’s safety, we are actively working to minimize your exposure to crowded exam rooms and long waits in the lobby.

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, we have made some changes to our protocols in-hospital for the time-being…

In order to limit exposure while still providing quality care for your pet, we will be implementing special protocols to keep you safe.

We will have our veterinary technicians get a history of the patient’s symptoms and owner’s concerns via phone prior to coming into the clinic.

  • Upon arrival, owners can call us from the curb in front of the clinic and we will have a technician assistant come to your car and bring your pet inside.
  • From here, your pet will be examined and the doctor will develop a treatment plan which he will then communicate via phone with the owner.
  • At the end of the visit, an invoice will be brought out to your car and payment can be taken via phone.

Our goal is for you to be able to bring your pet in for medical care but have no risk for you or our dedicated staff of transmitting the COVID-19 virus.

The Doctors and staff are dedicated to making sure your pet’s medical needs are taken care of during this national crisis.

We can still fill prescriptions for pick up, however, for those who prefer, non-narcotic and non-urgent prescriptions can be mailed to your home.

As always, careful hand-washing and other infection control practices can greatly reduce the chance of spreading any disease.