It only took one tweet from a Rescue site and seeing a scruffy, forlorn
German Shepherd and I knew she had to be ours.
Dogs with health problems can be harder to home but we wanted her.
Kira, a six-year-old, had moved from home to home, lived long-term in kennels, and had several foster homes before coming to us. She is adorable, but not without her problems.
At first we concentrated on Kira’s EPI (Exocrine Pancreatic Insufficiency). We knew treatment would be an ongoing cost for the whole of her life and working out our budget and what it would entail was our priority. We were also aware that she suffered anxiety and was reactive around dogs and new people, but having had an anxious German Shepherd before, we felt equipped to deal with that.
In actuality, her EPI was the easiest thing to deal with! Her reactivity around other dogs is the biggest problem as it affects how and where we can walk her. We’ve taken training advice and going back to basics with Kira is the best thing to do. She’s such a good dog, listening and learning fast, so she’s making progress, and had already benefitted from a caring foster parent who took time to train and love her too. We’re now working with our local vet practise to help her acclimatise to the surgery and the vet, and this helps with socialising and encouraging her not to be scared of new people. It’s not going to be a quick turn-around, but she’s getting there.
EPI is a condition, once prevalent in German Shepherds, where the body is simply missing the right enzymes to break down food. If left untreated a dog will eat ravenously but lose weight and eventually become skinny and malnourished. With EPI no nutrients are absorbed from ingested food and it doesn’t get broken down, it just passes through the system with no nutritional value. It will cause discomfort, bloating, severe weight loss, diarrhoea, constant hunger, coprophagia (eating stools), and a complete failure to thrive.
This insufficiency can be diagnosed by a vet with a TLI (trypsin-like immunoreactivity) blood test and your dog will need replacement pancreatic enzymes for the rest of their life. There are a couple of ways to do this. The enzymes are found in animal pancreas and are most commonly available as a powder, capsules, or in raw pig, beef, or lamb pancreas.
Raw pancreas can be bought at your butcher or an abattoir by arrangement. Though hugely cheaper than buying powder or capsules, you must bear in mind that animal pancreas is toxic to humans, so preparation must be done with care. Raw pancreas can be blended or finely chopped and frozen to keep. A few ounces (suggested 2 – 4 oz to every 20kgs of dog’s weight) of raw pancreas given with your dog’s meal can replace the lost enzymes.
I chose not to go the raw route, my kitchen is tiny and storage space a minimum, so prep and storage health and safety would be difficult. I buy powder and add it to Kira’s food. Enzyme powder or supplements are not cheap. The average price for Panzym at my nearest pet store is over £70 for a tub of 225g and even more at my local vet. We found it supplied for less than half that price by an online *supplier at £122 for 650g (UK only). Shop around.
Panzym powder is added to Kira’s food: one level teaspoon (5ml) twice a day. The only way to judge if treatment is working is by watching her stools. Without treatment Kira has runny poo like a cowpat, but with the right amount of Panzym her poo becomes firm again. The amount you give your dog will be judged on their stools. Kira has had various amounts, and when we first got her she was on double the dose we have her on now. As it settled the dose was lowered to a maintenance amount. Every dog is different some will require more, some less. Some EPI dogs need more small meals each day, some need enzyme added to every piece of food – even treats – some won’t. Kira manages with two meals a day with Panzym, and has a few treats without added enzyme.
We keep an eye on what she eats, and a diary of her meals and bodily functions, so if something new affects her we know straight away. Kira eats grain-free and we add a small amount of tinned meat to her slightly wetted kibble with Panzym. The powder adheres better to meat than kibble. Some enzyme powder needs to be incubated, left to develop on wet food, but Panzym doesn’t need to do this.
Kira’s EPI is totally under control and we barely notice it. She does suffer from other connected issues though, flatulence is one of them, but it goes with the territory! She also has allergies, possibly connected to her stomach problems. Grain-free food helps as many other dog foods have added grain to bulk and it often causes allergies.
Dark-red/brown fur on her paws also alerted us to allergies. Many sensitive dogs have itchy skin, paws, and ears, and her red fur is a reaction to allergies or to prophyrin a protein found in saliva or tears. Directed by our vet we use Malaseb shampoo and bathe Kira’s paws once a week. She’s a paw-licker, probably due to itchy skin and possibly developed a habit. Her sensitive ears are also treated and cleaned regularly.
Kira is a very happy dog, incredibly loyal, immensely loving and affectionate – winding herself about our legs and trilling like a Tribble, her version of a purr – and her anxieties are lessening gradually. There’s something so rewarding about giving a rescue dog a forever home. We had Roxy from a puppy, but Kira has never had that security and it’s beautiful to see her so relaxed and happy with us.
She fits into our family like a rediscovered lost puzzle piece.
If you’re looking for a new pet think about rescuing rather than buying,
if you can, it’s hugely rewarding.
*Note – this post is not sponsored or promoted or in any way connected with Panzym or the supplier I use. Links are for reader’s reference.