What is it?
The pancreas is a “silent,” solid organ positioned behind the stomach in the upper part of the abdomen. The body’s main digestive organ, the pancreas, is composed of different cells that serve distinct functions. Some cells produce digestive “juices” or enzymes, while the others produce hormones. The pancreatic enzymes break down the three types of nutritional elements: protease digests proteins; lipase digests fat; and amylase digests carbohydrates.
Once manufactured, the digestive enzymes empty into channels (ducts), eventually draining into the first part of the small intestine, called the duodenum. Food that passes through the duodenum stimulates the pancreas to produce more digestive enzymes.
The most important hormone the pancreas produces is insulin, which controls the amount of glucose in our bloodstream. When an insufficient amount of insulin is secreted, the body’s cells are unable to take in glucose, which raises glucose levels in the bloodstream and may ultimately lead to diabetes (though it is not the principal cause of diabetes). In addition to insulin, the pancreas makes other hormones, all of which pass into the blood that flows through the organ (not through the ducts used by the enzymes).
Who can benefit from it?
If your dog has been diagnosed with exocrine pancreatic insufficiency (EPI) fresh pancreas is your new best friend. Fresh pancreas will provide the enzymes lacking in your dog’s system. Feeding pancreas is not necessary to prevent EPI as the disease in usually genetically inherited.
Pancreatitis is different and responds well to a balanced raw diet with low to no carbohydrates and raw fats only. Pancreatitis does not require raw pancreas.
An interesting note if you are having your dog tested for pancreatitis, the test used measures the available enzymes in the blood. This test will show elevated pancreatic enzymes in raw fed dogs and the vet may diagnose pancreatitis when it doesn’t exist.
How Much Do You Feed?
1 – 3oz of raw pancreas is equivalent to 1 tsp of pancreatic extract. Usually your vet will recommend about 1tsp of powdered enzymes per cup of food (1cup kibble = 1/2lb raw food).
3 – 4oz of raw pancreas per 40lbs of the dog’s weight is the recommended amount to feed.
The amount of pancreas needed for each pet varies. If they suffer from EPI, your vet will let you know how much pancreas you will need to supplement with. Once your pet is starting to absorb the proper digestive enzymes and you start to see a change, your vet will usually recommend lowering the amount you will need to feed. Keep in mind that once your pet has suffered from EPI they will most likely always need to have a digestive enzyme with all food they are fed for the rest of their life.
How Do I Feed Pancreas?
Finding the best way to feed pancreas to your pet will take time. If your pet suffers from EPI, it will take a lot of trial and error to find the best diet for him/her. Most EPI pets thrive on a low-fat, grain free raw diet best with little to no carbohydrates or bones. Fatty foods with high levels of carbs and bones are very challenging for a pet with EPI to digest. We do not suggest taking all bones, fat and carbs out of the diet but be mindful of the amount you feed. Work with your vet, local pet store and other pet owners that have EPI to figure out what works best for your pet.
When feeding your pet it is best to feed 3 or 4 small meals throughout the day rather than one or two big feedings a day. Feeding smaller, more frequent meals throughout the day will be easier for your pet to digest the food properly and absorb the proper digestive enzymes.
If you are feeding a raw food diet, mixing raw pancreas in with his/her meal or feeding the pancreas separate all together is completely fine. It does not make a difference if you are to mix it in with their raw food or leave it separate. Be sure that both their food and pancreas is thawed and at room temperature when feeding as it can upset their tummies if fed too hot or too cold.
If you feed a kibble based diet, be sure to keep the kibble and raw pancreas completely separate when feeding. Kibble can take up to 12hrs for your pet to digest whereas raw unadulterated food only takes 3 – 4hrs to digest. It is recommended to feed the raw pancreas throughout the day and then feed the kibble at night so that your pet has the entire night to digest the kibble by the time the morning feeding comes.
If you plan on feeding pancreas in the powdered supplement form it will have to be incubated before feeding it to your pet. Make sure to mix the proper amount in water and then mix in with either their raw or kibble food (whichever works best for your pet). Once it is mixed in with the food let it sit at room temperature for about 20min before feeding.