Is a Digestive Enzyme Deficiency Causing Your Pet to Have a Nutritional Imbalance?

Posted on April 11th, 2016

Most of us are aware of the fact that the pancreas produces insulin that helps to regulate blood glucose in ourselves and our pets. This is the pancreases endocrine function.

Did you realize that the pancreas also has an exocrine function?

The purpose this exocrine function is to produce a digestive enzyme which will help breakdown ingested nutrients into a form the body can absorb and utilize.

This enzyme is called trypsin.

When this enzyme is deficient, Wikipedia refers to this condition, as an exocrine pancreatic deficiency (EPD).


  • Bacterial infection
  • Blocked pancreatic duct
  • Trauma
  • Improper surgical intervention
  • Genetics
  • Food allergies
  • Tumors
  • Antibody deficiencies

Chronic pancreatitis is the most common cause of a trypsin deficiency in humans and cats.

Trypsin deficiencies in dogs are caused more commonly by genetics.

The most common breed that this seen in is the German Shepard, however over the years, a trypsin deficiency has become quite common with many breeds and non-breeds.


  • Chronically soft stools
  • Multiple voluminous stools
  • Chronic diarrhea
  • Increased appetite with weight loss.
  • Smaller structure than expected(runt)
  • Skin and hair disorders
  • Chronic weight loss
  • Chronic inflammation of the pancreas
  • Copraphagy (eating feces.) This occurs with a trypsin deficiency, allowing undigested food to be excreted in the feces. If your dog is eating its own feces, your dog has a deficiency. If your dog eats another dogs feces, that dog has the deficiency.

NOTE: Most dogs will eat cat feces because the amount of protein used in cat food is too high for the cats to digest, therefore it is excreted in the cat’s feces and makes it nutritionally attractive to dogs.)

Even if none of the above clinical signs are present, the easiest way to identify a trypsin deficiency, is by looking at the angle of your dog’s wrist, where it connect to the paw.

If a trypsin deficiency is present, because your dog never absorbed calcium correctly, it has caused a laxity in the ligaments, which can be identified with curved wrists. If the lack of calcium absorption was very severe, it may appear like you dog is walking on its heals

The normal position of the wrist, as it attaches to the paw, will be at a 90 % angle.

Also in the rear, the dog may have the paws facing slightly outward in a lateral direction.

This condition is called “cow hocked”.

If you are not sure if this is the case, asked your veterinarian to look for you.


  • TLI test which = Serum trypsin-like immune-reactivity test. NOTE: In my own clinical experiences, I have found that the measurable trypsin that occurs in the blood, often is in greater quantity than the amount of trypsin that ends up in the gut.
  • Fecal elastase levels
  • Jasper test. This is usually not performed any more. This test involved mixing the dog’s fecal matter in a solution of sodium bicarbonate, in a test tube. Then a small piece of an undeveloped x-ray film was introduced into the solution. The surface of the film was covered with gelatin and if trypsin was present in the feces, the x-ray films would become clear, because the trypsin would digest the gelatin, which is a protein.


If your pet has been diagnosed with a trypsin deficiency, it will be necessary to provide some form of trypsin to each meal your pet eats in order to help predigest that meal.

  • Desiccated Bovine(Beef) pancreas
  • Desiccated Porcine(Pig) pancreas
  • Combination plant based digestive enzymes
  • Over the years, I have favored the use of a plant based digestive enzyme, manufactured by Rainbow Light called Advanced Enzyme Systems. It is best to merely open the capsule, and sprinkle it on the food, however if you decide to merely leave the enzyme in the capsule, make sure it is vegetarian capsule, and not a gelatin capsule, which is beef.

Actual trypsin is not used because of its expense and plant based digestive enzymes consist of several different enzymes that will do the same job as the actual, trypsin.

Please realize, if your dog is allergic to beef or pork, those kinds of replacement digestive enzymes, may be harmful.

If the pancreas is harvested from an older animal, the quantity of digestive enzyme that may be present, may be in reduced amount.

Any digestive enzyme that you or your pet use, must be in a powdered form.

Any enzyme that has been made into a tablet will have very little enzymatic properties left because the pressure of making the tablet, creates heat and destroys the properties of the enzyme.


In today’s modern world, digestive enzymes deficiencies are becoming more common every day, especially in dogs.

Trypsin deficiencies had been recognized many years ago in German Shepard’s and even now, those dogs that are only part German Shepard, have this imbalance.

This imbalance is becoming more and more common, and seems to be passed on through genetics.

This enzymes imbalance can lead to many different problems.

The lack of calcium absorption caused by this imbalance, can lead to weakened bones and ligaments, and may be the reason why some dogs sustain ligament ruptures, particularly in the knees.

The ingestion of fatty ingredients, will not be properly broken down when the digestive enzyme is not present in proper amounts and can lead to a slugging effect, and not only does that sludging effect prevent the absorption of vitamin A, D, E and K, but it may reduce the colon from resorbing water, which can lead to increased drinking and increased urination.

Besides all the nutritional imbalances a trypsin deficiency may cause, it can cause a dog or cat to be small in size (runt), because they never absorbed enough nutrients to grow properly.

Allergies, auto immunity and cancer can all be caused by a hormone antibody imbalance.

This hormone antibody imbalance can be created by a trypsin deficiency, which causes a lack of nutrients going to those glands and those organs that produce those hormones that regulate the immune system.

In the beginning, a trypsin deficiency might seem quite innocent, but in the long run of life, it can cause catastrophic diseases.

These are just my thoughts, and I hope they will help keep both you and your pet healthy.


Dr. AL Plechner