The only way to confirm EPI is with a TLI (Trypsin-Like Immunoreactivity) blood test.
cTLI tests have a rare false-positive results one should re-evaluate EPI dogs for possible acute Pancreatitis, or have Ultra Sound to rule out other organ issues and check for possible tumor/growth obstructing pancreas or verify atrophy, fortunately even with a severely atrophied pancreas a EPI dog can still produce Insulin. .
The following is from Texas A&M University (TAMU) GI Laboratory explaining the TLI test: Serum Trypsin-Like Immunoreactivity (TLI)
Control Ranges: (normal ranges)
Canine 5.7 - 45.2 µg/L
Feline 12.0 - 82.0 µg/L
INTERPRETATION: In dogs, values below 2.5 µg/L are diagnostic for EPI. Values between 3.5 and 5.7 µg/L are rarely if ever associated with signs of EPI but may reflect subclinical pancreatic disease such as subtotal pancreatic acinar cell destruction secondary to on-going immune-mediated lymphocytic pancreatitis. Progression of the disease in such patients may ultimately lead to EPI. Values between 2.5 and 3.5 µg/L are sometimes (but rarely) associated with clinical signs due to EPI. In these cases the TLI assay should be repeated after one month paying particular attention to ensuring that food is withheld for 12 to 15 hours before the blood sample is collected.
In cats, values equal to or below 8.0 µg/L are diagnostic for EPI, with values between 8.0 and 12.0 being equivocal. As in the dog, repeating the assay one month later should be considered.
Serum TLI values above 50.0 µg/L (dogs) and 100.0 mg/L (cats) are consistent with either acute or chronic pancreatitis or decreased renal excretion due to severe renal insufficiency, although our experience suggests that serum TLI is often minimally increased even in severe renal failure. Elevated serum TLI concentrations are also seen in some malnourished patients (dogs usually) without evidence of pancreatitis, and in some cats with patchy pancreatic hypertrophy/atrophy (generally considered to be a benign age-related change). Serum TLI is increased in approximately 30-40% of cats and dogs with pancreatitis; it is important to recognize that normal test results do not rule out the possibility of pancreatic inflammation. We believe that in acute pancreatitis testing of samples obtained as soon as possible after the onset of clinical signs is most likely to yield an abnormal test result. If pancreatitis is suspected, a PLI test should be performed. In cats increased serum TLI is often also observed with small intestinal disease. In these cases serum concentrations of cobalamin and folate should be determined for evaluation of the small intestine.
0.5 ml fasting (12-18 hours) non-hemolyzed serum for canines
0.2 ml fasting (12-18 hours) non-hemolyzed serum for felines
Serum TLI is extremely stable and serum can be shipped at ambient temperatures.
Exocrine pancreatic insufficiency (EPI) occurs as a consequence of insufficient synthesis and secretion of digestive enzymes by the pancreatic acinar tissue. The functional reserve of the pancreas is considerable, however, and EPI only develops when the exocrine secretory capacity is reduced to less than 10 - 15% of normal. At this point residual pancreatic function together with extra-pancreatic mechanisms of digestion cannot support adequate nutrient digestion and so weight loss, diarrhea, and other clinical signs ensue.
Small quantities of zymogens (inactive precursor molecules) of pancreatic proteases are present in the blood of normal animals. Trypsinogen is synthesized exclusively by the acinar cells pancreas, and measurement of this zymogen by assay of TLI provides an excellent indirect index of pancreatic function. This assay detects both trypsinogen and trypsin (hence the use of the term TLI to describe the total concentration of these two immunoreactive species), but the active enzyme (trypsin) is only present in the serum when there is pancreatic inflammation.
Administration of oral pancreatic extracts does not affect serum TLI concentrations in either normal dogs or cats with EPI, so withdrawal of enzyme supplementation prior to testing of dogs and cats that are already receiving supplementation is unnecessary.
Additionally, assays of serum cobalamin (vitamin B12) and folate are strongly recommended whenever serum TLI is assayed. Serum vitamin abnormalities are common in dogs and especially cats with EPI. Therapeutic supplementation may be essential before an optimal response to enzyme supplementation is obtained.
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Parent C, Washabau RJ, Williams DA et al. Serum trypsin-like immunoreactivity, amylase and lipase in the diagnosis of feline acute pancreatitis. J.Vet.Int.Med. 1995;9:194 (abstr).
Swift NC, Marks SL, MacLachlan NJ, Norris CR. Evaluation of serum feline trypsin-like immunoreactivity for the diagnosis of pancreatitis in cats. Journal of American Veterinary Medical Association 2000;217:37-42.
Steiner JM, Williams DA. Disagrees with criteria for diagnosing pancreatitis in cats. J.Am.Vet.Med.Assoc. 2000;217:816-7.
Steiner JM, Williams DA. Serum feline trypsin-like immunoreactivity in cats with exocrine pancreatic insufficiency. J.Vet.Intern.Med. 2000;14:627-9.e pancreatic insufficiency. J.Vet.Intern.Med. 2000;14:627-9.