August 31, 2016 by The Dog Rules
Drift was diagnosed with Exocrine Pancreatic Insufficiency (EPI). His pancreas doesn’t produce sufficient enzymes to enable him to properly digest his food. This explains why he remained incredibly thin despite being well fed since being taken in by the Shelter. It was also the reason why he had horrible and frequent bouts of diarrhea and flatulence. He now receives an enzyme supplement to assist him in digesting his food and will likely require it for the rest of his life. (The pancreas produces both digestive enzymes and insulin.)
I was elated to have a diagnosis to work with. Drift gained 1.5 kilos (3.3 pounds) in that first week after he began taking the digestive enzymes. His energy improved significantly and he began to show some personality. What had been 5 or 10 minute potty breaks stretched to 15 or 20 minute walks. He didn’t need to sleep after an outing. Instead he would lie down for a short break before he wandered off to investigate the house. The baby gates came out of storage to limit his access until we knew just how much he could be trusted.
Yes, he still inhaled his meals. I tried putting a portion of his meal in a Kong toy. That wasn’t really effective and had me washing the kitchen floor every few days to remove the drool. The vet said Drift is never likely to become a fat dog due to his EPI. Walks became longer as he gained some strength. They also became more challenging as the things he would covertly pick up as edible were not, shall we say, the best choices. We discovered that he had a tendency to eat poop — a behavior called coprophagia (kop-ruh-fey-jee-uh) — ugh! He also sampled pine cones, sticks, rocks, sidewalk chalk… while playing his new, favorite game Is It Edible? Perhaps this compulsion to eat anything and everything was a result of the slow starvation his EPI condition had imposed upon him. We wondered if he would grow out of this phase once he had regained his health.
His EPI also meant Drift cannot be given the variety of treats we are all accustomed to giving our dogs – ever. Without the enzymes mixed into every meal, he cannot digest his food. This was both sad and difficult as he remained extremely food focused. It also eliminated from my toolkit many standard training and distraction methods that work effectively with a food-motivated dog. Alternate forms of reward were necessary to encourage the behaviors that I wanted him to learn. He was doing very well all things considered! And the challenge continued…
BTW this is a ‘dated post’. (March 28, 2016 is when I made these observations) I had been working with Drift since March 3rd. One of the conditions surrounding his foster was that I was not to post photos to social media or otherwise make his plight public. Once he had been diagnosed and the cruelty investigation closed, I was granted permission to tell his story.