bobzilla MegaDork
1/2/20 5:42 p.m.

Our youngest is a long haired German Shepherd and she has a genetic issue where she doesn't create enough enzymes to process her food. It's been an on and off again issue to keep weight on her. Bet just prescribed Hills Science diet i/d but damn that stuff is crazy expensive. 

anyone have it know any less expensive options? This dog eats 4 cups a day and this $50 16lb bag isn't going to last long. Suggestions?

Jason McRoberts
Jason McRoberts New Reader
1/2/20 5:56 p.m.

In reply to bobzilla :

My sister in-law is a dog trainer and has four or five Dobermans and an English Shepard.  She has a dedicated deep freeze and buys restraint quantities of chicken thighs.  Every few days she boils up a batch for the four legged kids.  It isn't cheap or particularly convenient, but it's cheaper than three dollars plus a pound and avoids the crap that gets put in commercial food.

underpowered Reader
1/2/20 6:16 p.m.

I feel your pain...  The one on the left eats anything and doesn't get sick.  The one on the right eats anything and gets an upset stomach.  So...Hills science diet sensitive stomach it is....the BIG bag lasts almost 3 weeks.

84FSP SuperDork
1/2/20 6:45 p.m.

Talk with some experts and figure out what particular ingredients are the best/worst.  It may be a bit trial and error.  We had a number of corn intolerant animals among other issues.


For urgent get calories in moments we've had great luck with the below.

Boiled/pre-cooked chicken

Pumpkin (cheap and dogs taste it as very sweet)

Cottage cheese


For dry food options - Tractor Supply or Chewy

Nutro - various options with rice not corn meal

Wholesome - various options with rice not corn meal

Nutrish - various options



einy HalfDork
1/2/20 6:46 p.m.

Our passed on pup had the exact same problem.  Canine I/D was the only food she could keep down, and we tried everything.   We had to buy it at the local small town vet,  who went out of their way to hold any and every coupon and rebate offer they could come by for us.  It helped, was hugely appreciated, but still was very expensive.  

I truly feel your pain.

JThw8 UltimaDork
1/2/20 8:19 p.m.

I assume you are speaking of Endocrine Pancreatic Insufficiency (EPI) ours had it as well.  I'll assume your vet has already suggested the medication which provides the missing enzymes, ours did and as I recall it was about $350 a month or so.  Yeah...that's crazy.  So what we did find is the active ingredient is pancreatin.   Back at the time we were able to order it by the kilo for about $100 from a scientific supply house.  A kilo for our 75 lb GSD was about a 3 month supply.   I cannot recall the name of the place we got it but a quick web search of pancreatin shows you can order it off amazon as a supplement pill these days.

Before diagnosis our dog dropped from 75 lbs down to 40 and NOTHING was being digested, things came straight through.  After adding that to his food he was back to a healthy weight within a few months and lived another 8 years with no further issues from the disease.

Discuss it with your vet, I suspect the versions being packaged as supplements are more expensive than the bulk we bought and probably lower dose but they might be a good way to see if it is effective for your dog.  If I can find the place we used to order from I'll update.

rob_lewis UltraDork
1/2/20 8:50 p.m.

If you're buying it from your vet, check to see if one of the big box stores carries it.  You can take a prescription into the store (vet should give it to you) and buy it from them.  For my dog's weight control, the store was about 1/3 the cost of the vet for the exact same food.


JohnInKansas SuperDork
1/2/20 9:39 p.m.

My dog-minded wife agreed heartily with what Jthw8 had to say, and added the following thoughts. 

No raw food, no treats, smaller and more frequent meals (3-4 a day), soften hard food with some warm water (which you can use to mix in enzyme powder). Probiotics may help as well, and you can get probiotic chews if the dog needs something to chew on between meals. Low fat, low fiber is what you want. - watch for recalls, you don't want to feed the dog anything strange. Big name brands are generally better for a reason.

Check the ingredients of the vet-prescribed food, and look for other foods that use those ingredients.

Try some things, and see what works. Be prepared to adjust (i.e. spend more money in the short term).

Once you find a food the dog can digest, you'll probably find that you can feed less quantity, as the dog will actually be getting the nutrients from the food. That should help assuage the pain of expensive food somewhat.

Floating Doc
Floating Doc SuperDork
1/2/20 11:29 p.m.

I'm sorry you're having to deal with this.

It's been several years since I have managed a dog with EPI, but I'll try to make a few points that I hope might be helpful.

First, I wouldn't recommend trying to formulate your own pet food under any circumstances, and certainly not for this dog. A study published in 2019 tested multiple home cooked diet recipes, sourced from websites, books, blogs, magazines, and veterinarians. Not a one was balanced.

Raw meat is NEVER a good idea, or even safe. If your pet gets salmonella, you're at risk, too.

My go-to source for client handouts is This is an excellent article on EPI.

I don't know about alternative sources of the enzyme supplements. Make sure you check with your vet.

bobzilla MegaDork
1/3/20 4:42 a.m.

Funny but both dogs are on the pancreacare powder. She's mostly maintained for the last 6 years but has started to get this again and stress makes her got diarrhea on us. This good seems to be helping that and getting her weight back up. 

914Driver MegaDork
1/3/20 7:51 a.m.

My son's dog has digestive troubles once in a while, the Vet suggested a mix of broiled chicken, pumpkin and brown rice.  Chicken gives protein, pumpkin lubes the tubes and the rice binds things together.  I've only used this recipe once but it worked great. 

It may have no effect at all on a genetic driven issue, but it's damn sure cheaper than Hill Science, Blue Buffalo et al.


Good luck, Dan

volvoclearinghouse PowerDork
1/3/20 8:27 a.m.

We've had really good luck with our dog with Taste of the Wild food.  It runs about $45 for 28 lbs.  Its really colorie dense, so at the 2 cups a day feeding rate our 47 lb dog actually gained a few pounds, and we had to scale it back to 1-1/2 cups a day.  We also give her a joint supplement and fish oil daily.  And the occasional table scrap (carrots, lean meat)

bobzilla MegaDork
1/3/20 8:58 a.m.

We are currently using the hills and a cup of rice. Up until yesterday we had her at a cup of the high protein food we had been using for several years(with her powder), a cup of rice and cooked chicken. That slowed down the diarrhea but she can't gain back any of the weight she's lost. I think she's down to 63lbs for an extra large GS breed. 

the other dog is less of an issue. She's been on the pancreacare for almost 10 years now and the high protein dry food. 

Curtis73 UltimaDork
1/3/20 2:47 p.m.

Have you tried feeding raw?  It may not help, but some of the proteins that are "set" by cooking also mean they need a whole new enzyme to process cooked food.  Raw can help.

I used to do it for our pups.  I would buy a whole brisket, untrimmed, and a bucket of cheap offal like chicken kidneys and livers, sometimes tripe.  I would take it home and grind it along with about 15% veggies and a bunch of enzymes and an algae supplement.  Divide into portions and freeze.  At the beginning of the week I would just get out 7 portions per dog and thaw.  I also added garlic, partly for flavor but it also helps prevent fleas and ticks.  It was expensive, but not Hill's Science Diet expensive.  Of course, this was back before everyone and their brother discovered the joys of Brisket.  That stuff costs almost as much as a ribeye these days.

You could find a butcher and ask for offal scraps and some organ meat.

bobzilla MegaDork
1/3/20 3:55 p.m.

I love my girls, but that isn't cheap nor easy as there aren't a whole lot of butchers around here. I'm ok spending the money for the food if it helps her. The wife wanted me to find an option that was just as easy as picking up a back of food but was cheaper. 

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