EPI (Exocrine Pancreatic Insufficiency) is a disease that affects many German Shepherd dogs. In fact, it is estimated that about 70% of all dogs diagnosed with this disorder are German Shepherds.
Dogs with this disorder lack the internal enzymes to digest their food normally. In some cases, they may not be able to digest anything without the help of an enzyme supplement. Because these dogs require a more easily digestible diet, it isn’t always easy to choose the right food for them.
With that in mind, we are going to examine five of the best dog foods for a German Shepherd with EPI that we could find online. We will then teach you everything you need to know in order to evaluate them properly.
Best Overall Product: Diamond Naturals Large Breed Chicken & Rice Formula
All of the dog foods on our list are high-quality, but this one seemed like the best all-around choice to us. For one thing, it contains a good mix of protein and fat (23% and 13%, respectively).
This means it is well within the suggested limits for a dog with EPI. In spite of its high quality, this product is a little cheaper than most others of its kind.
We like the fact that all the ingredients are high-quality sources like whole chicken and rice. We don’t see any corn or corn by-products, as most of its carbs come from barley.
Best of all, it contains probiotics that make it easier to digest, which is the main reason we chose it as the best product.
Dogs with EPI need a highly digestive yet high-quality diet, and this fits the bill nicely. Our only complaint is that we would have liked to see a slightly higher level of omega fatty acids in this product.
- Good balance of protein and fat
- Made from quality sources
- Relatively cheap
- Probiotic additives
- Relatively low levels of omega fatty acid
Best Budget Product: Pedigree Adult Dry Dog Food, Chicken & Steak Flavor
This is a cheaper brand of dog food, but it is a decent choice for those on a budget. First, we should mention the only downside: The first ingredient on its list is corn.
At least it’s whole-grain corn instead of some kind of by-product, so it isn’t quite as bad as it sounds. Besides, the high levels of protein and fat would seem to indicate that this dog food isn’t just a bunch of filler.
For a cheaper brand of dog food, this one has a relatively high rating of 21% for protein and 10% for fat. It’s also reasonably high in omega fatty acids, which have a number of other benefits.
There are also a large number of vitamins with which this brand has been supplemented. It contains highly digestible fiber that is meant to ease digestion, though it doesn’t work as well as a probiotic blend.
- Pretty high level of protein
- Made from several good meat sources
- Reasonably high in omega fatty acids
- Very low price
- High in digestible fiber
- The first ingredient is corn
Purina Pro Plan with Probiotics
This is a very high-quality food that fits the requirements of a German Shepherd with ETI…for the most part, anyway. It is 1% over the line on both protein and fat, which is probably not a big deal.
This slight difference is compensated for by the fact that this dog food is also extremely low in fiber. Thus, it fits the profile of what we need overall.
It’s also got a lot of glucosamine, both from chicken and fish-based sources. Overall, its ingredients are wholesome and non-suspicious.
This one is kind of expensive, but offers a very high level of quality. It has excellent nutritional value, which is probably its main upside. At the same time, we don’t see anything here that your dog would have a hard time digesting.
- Very low in fiber
- The first ingredient is a whole chicken
- Lots of glucosamine (multiple sources)
- Lots of antioxidants
- Slightly high in protein and fat
- A little expensive
Honorable Mention: Purina ONE SmartBlend Chicken & Rice Formula
This one is a little bit expensive, but not when compared to other top-shelf products. It’s very high in protein (26%), which should be more than enough for a German Shepherd.
It also has a high level of fat (16%), and a low level of fiber (3%). We don’t like the fact that we see some corn and soy ingredients, but it’s pretty solid overall.
- Very high in protein, low in fiber
- No corn or soy fillers
- Relatively cheap
- No weird supplements added
- Contains a lot of meat by-products
Alternate Product 1: Taste Of The Wild Pacific Stream Dry Food
This one is marketed as being pure and natural. As far as we can tell, the claims are more or less correct. Apart from a few preservatives, this is a very wholesome diet.
Because most of its protein comes from salmon, it is exceptionally high in omega fatty acids, making it a great choice for all dogs with health issues.
If it weren’t for the steep price, this one would undoubtedly have been higher on our list. As it is, this makes a good alternative product for those who want to maximize the benefits of fish-derived fatty acids. As for its value to a dog with EPI, it does contain a lot of probiotics to aid digestion. Therefore, it’s a pretty good option for them.
- Very high in protein
- Comes from whole and natural sources
- Exceptionally high in omega fatty acids
- Good, natural Chicory fiber
- Very expensive
Alternate Product 2: Iams Large Breed Chicken & Whole Grain Recipe
This is a decent middle-sheld option, and we include it as a good choice for dogs that don’t like high-protein diets. This one has 22% protein and a proportionate amount of fat, so it should be a great solution.
It also has plenty of Glucosamine and Chondroitin to promote healthy bones and joints. It also has plenty of those good probiotics and digestible fibers for which we are looking.
We also like the fact that this food isn’t made from a bunch of suspicious meat by-products. Our only complaint comes from the inclusion of dried egg product, which brings a higher risk of food poisoning. Yes, eggs are very good for dogs, but they don’t necessarily keep well in storage.
- Made from a whole chicken
- Lots of probiotics and digestible fiber
- Good middle-ground protein level
- Includes both Glucosamine and Chondroitin
- Contains dried egg
Frequently Asked Questions
Here are a few of the most common questions that we receive on this subject.
What kind of food should I get for a German Shepherd with EPI?
The thing about EPI is that it requires enzyme supplementation. You should already be giving your dog an enzyme supplement, and that will do most of the work. However, you need to help things along by choosing dog foods that are easy to digest.
This means that you should avoid dog foods that are excessively high in protein (anything over 26% is probably a bad idea) because protein is relatively hard to digest.
You also want something that is low in fiber (preferably below 4%). As for fat, it should have 10% less than the amount of protein to ensure a proper balance of these nutrients.
Where can I go to find out about dog food recalls?
Unfortunately, not all dog food companies use ethical or safe practices in their manufacturing. When your dog has a digestive condition like EPI, these things become even more dangerous.
Every once in a while, you can end up with a tainted product that can make your dog sick. Some dogs have even died from tainted products. So, to find out about dog food recalls, you can check the FDA’s website.
Best Dog Food For EPI German Shepherd Buyer’s Guide
We have shown you some of what is out there, and we have tried to give everything a fair evaluation. However, that was just a preliminary affair. Now, let’s talk about the things you should look for, in order to tell a good dog food from a bad one.
We will mostly discuss the various nutrients that can be found because you should usually judge a brand of dog food by its nutrient levels.
In the end, that is the only fair measuring stick (and the only one that can be backed up by science). Obviously, we will be evaluating everything from the perspective of an ETI German Shepherd owner.
As dogs are mostly carnivorous, protein is an essential part of their diet. Technically, they are considered omnivores, but their diet in the wild would consist primarily of meat. Plant-based sources of proteins (like peas and soy) are generally less desirable for dogs.
Soy, in particular, is often used as a low-cost filler, and should generally be avoided. Dogs can digest plant material, but it is harder for them.
A small amount is nothing to worry about, but you should beware of any dog food that uses plant matter as the primary protein. That is usually an indicator of poor manufacturing standards and poor quality in general. More to the point, it means that a dog with ETI is going to have a rough time with its digestion.
In general, the important thing is to get a dog food without an excessive amount of protein. Protein is harder to digest than most other nutrients, so you want to avoid anything with a protein level above 26%.
You also want foods whose protein comes from a high-quality source. Most of the time, a protein source will be the first ingredient listed. Chicken meal is a common ingredient and is usually bought as a by-product.
When chicken meat is processed for humans, there are always certain things left behind, and these are often used to make dog food. That being said, these are not as good as whole-meat sources.
Also, whole-meat sources contain more enzymes, making them a natural digestive aid. In fact, some people recommend feeding raw red meat to dogs with ETI for that reason.
Fish and eggs are also some of the best options, but brands that use egg products are likely to have a shorter shelf life and are more likely to spread salmonella.
In general, dog food protein levels range from 18% to about 36%. Dogs with ETI need to stay on the lower end of that range while still eating food that is low in fiber. We would say that 20-25% protein is optimal, but 26% should be fine.
Obviously, you don’t want a whole lot of fat in your dog’s diet, but a certain amount is essential for good health. For one thing, the health of certain bodily systems (including the brain) will depend on the use of fats.
Furthermore, the body needs fat in order to process large amounts of protein. In fact, it actually takes more energy to process protein than it does to process either fats or carbohydrates.
It is actually possible to die of protein poisoning if you eat too much lean meat and don’t get any supplementary fat in your diet. This phenomenon is called “rabbit starvation,” and it can happen to both humans and dogs.
For this reason, dog foods that are extremely high in protein while being very low in fat are not usually the best choice. These foods can cause digestive upset in many dogs, especially German Shepherds with ETI. In extreme cases, it can cause a lot more harm than that.
As you probably know, fat is a form of stored energy. For dogs, this kind of thing is particularly important. In the wild, a pack of canines might go days or even weeks without making a kill.
When they do, each one eats as much as they possibly can. This “gorge and starve” lifestyle has shaped their biology, so they need fat a little bit more than you do.
For humans, fat might be described as “deep storage” since it is the last source of fuel to be used (after carbs and protein). However, dogs can use fat as a direct energy source.
So, how much fat should your dog food contain? For German Shepherds with ETI, we would recommend 10-15%. Anything with a fat content that is higher than 20% should definitely be avoided.
Fiber doesn’t really provide any nutritional value in itself, but it helps your dog to get more nutrients out of other sources. Fiber helps to promote good digestion by acting upon the gut in a certain way. As it sits in the digestive tract, it breaks down into fatty acids. These are used to control the growth of bad bacteria while fueling the good bacteria. All of this leads to a healthier digestive system in general.
For dogs with ETI, this is very important. At the same time, that tendency to sit in the gut for a long time can cause some serious issues.
Thus, fiber is a tricky issue for these dogs. You see, some sources of fiber are more digestible than others, and that is why some dog foods are more digestible than others. In general: the softer the source, the easier it is to digest.
So, how much fiber should your dog food contain? There is a lot of variation here. Commercial dog foods will usually contain somewhere between 1% and 10% fiber, but you need to stay on the lower end of that spectrum.
In fact, anything higher than 4% should definitely be avoided. More importantly, you need to make sure that the fiber comes from natural, non-processed sources. It is also better if the fiber comes from soft sources like fruits rather than tough, stalky vegetables.
Carbohydrates serve as one of the primary energy sources for dogs. As with humans, carbs provide short-term energy that the body can either use immediately or store as fat.
For this reason, dogs with weight problems might not benefit from a high-carb food. You also have to watch out because poor-quality carbs are often used as filler in cheap brands. These will provide quick energy, but no lasting nutritive value, and are basically just wasted space.
It is recommended that your dog food should not contain more than 50% carbohydrates, as dogs simply don’t need any more than that.
Besides that, a high level of carbs can indicate a poor-quality food that was made in the cheapest way possible. That being said, carbohydrates are not generally dangerous to dogs with ETI because they are so easy to digest. Still, we would recommend keeping that carb level at 30-40%.
The very best sources of carbohydrates for your dog would have to be whole grains. Corn is not the ideal source, although whole corn is also acceptable.
Corn by-products are often heavily processed and are not the ideal thing at all. You want something that is made from a plant source with as little alteration as possible.
Omega Fatty Acids
These are technically classified as fats, but they are special kinds of fats that have been shown to have all sorts of health benefits.
Fish oil is one of the most common sources of omega fatty acids in dog food, and we have already looked at some products that contained either omega-3 or omega-6 fatty acids.
There doesn’t seem to be any real difference between these two substances, other than the fact that their molecular structures are slightly different. That being said, it is good to have a healthy balance of the two, as they complement and balance one another.
These omega fatty acids are beneficial for the health of the eyes, brain, heart, and kidneys. In addition, they have shown a lot of potential for helping dogs (and humans) with cognitive disorders.
As such, dog food that is high in omega fatty acids is an ideal choice for older dogs that may be more prone to these disorders. To find a dog food that is high in these substances, look for any fish or nut-derived ingredients on the label. The more you see, the higher in omega fatty acids the product will be.
So, how does this relate to a dog with ETI? Well, that’s simple. Omega fatty acids improve the diversity of the gut’s natural digestive microorganisms.
When combined with fiber and probiotics, they work even better. Thus, it is reasonable to assume that these things will work well in combination with your dog’s enzyme supplements.
Glucosamine and Chondroitin
Finally, we come to two nutrients that have been widely adopted by dog food manufacturers in recent years. Glucosamine and chondroitin have often been used by humans to treat bone and joint problems.
As it turns out, they work pretty good for dogs as well. These substances are naturally present in both the human and canine body, so we aren’t recommending anything weird or unnatural here.
Older dogs suffering from arthritis can benefit especially from the inclusion of these nutrients in their diet. Even younger dogs can benefit from these nutrients since they reduce the likelihood of getting arthritis in the first place.
This one doesn’t really relate to EPI, but you certainly don’t want your dog to develop bone problems as well!
Recommended daily dosages:
- 5-20 lb dogs: 250-500 mg of Glucosamine, 900 mg Chondroitin
- 21-45 lb dogs: 500 mg Glucosamine, 900 mg Chondroitin
- 46-90 lb dogs: 1000 mg Glucosamine, 1000 mg Chondroitin
- 90+ lb dogs: 1500 mg Glucosamine, 1800 mg Chondroitin
Feeding a dog with EPI is not an easy thing. However, all of these dog foods should work well with your dog’s enzyme supplements and should complement their action nicely.
By reading our information section, you should now know which nutrients are most important for your EPI-afflicted German Shepherd.
That will allow you to choose a dog food that works well for them. We hope you have enjoyed this article, and we hope to see you again.