All living things, both plants and animals, depend on enzymes to function. In fact, animals (including humans!) may contain 2,500 or more different enzymes, which act as catalysts for millions of different chemical reactions that take place in their bodies every day.
Enzymes are essential for every metabolic process in your dog or cat, from their immune system processes to the functioning of their internal organs. There are also specific enzymes necessary for your pet’s proper digestion.
These digestive enzymes include:
- Protease: Helps break down protein into amino acids
- Amylase: Helps break down carbohydrates
- Lipase: Helps with digesting fats
- Cellulase: For breaking down fiber
Your dog and cat produce these digestive enzymes naturally, however they do not produce enough of the enzymes necessary to process their food completely and efficiently.
Why Your Pet May Lack Crucial Digestive Enzymes
Your pet’s pancreas, which is the organ that secretes amylase to process carbohydrates, simply cannot secrete enough digestive enzymes to do so effectively.
Dogs and cats don’t produce a lot of amylase because their natural, ancestral diet is primarily meat -- not grains (carbs).
Further, your pets were designed to get some supplemental enzymes from the foods they eat. When cats kill mice in the wild, for instance, they eat the whole mouse -- including the animal’s digestive tract and all of its digestive enzymes.
Likewise, when wolves and coyotes hunt and kill animals in the wild, they eat some of the entrails -- the guts -- to meet their digestive enzyme requirement.
Of course, we typically don’t feed our dogs and cats those entrails they’d be getting in the wild, so most pets in the United States are enzyme-deficient.
Adding to the problem is also the processed diet that most pets eat. While raw meat and vegetables contain live enzymes that can greatly help your pet’s digestive process, those valuable enzymes are killed with heat.
Enzymes begin to be destroyed at temperatures above 110-115 degrees, so if your pet’s diet is cooked (as all canned foods and dry kibbles are) they are also completely devoid of any enzymes.
What this means is that your pet is probably lacking in the enzymes it needs to digest its food properly. This puts extreme stress on his digestive system, which can ultimately interfere with nutrient absorption and cause recurrent digestive issues.
How Your Pet’s Digestive Process Should Work
When dogs and cats consume a meal, the hydrochloric acid in their stomach mixes with the food as a “pre-digestive” step to help facilitate the initial breakdown of proteins.
The food then moves into the small intestine, where the digestive enzymes amylase, lipase and protease mix with the food. The gallbladder also secretes bile to help process fat.
In an ideal digestive process, there should be a rich blend of gastric acid, digestive enzymes, and bile in your pet’s small intestine to facilitate excellent digestion and absorption of nutrients.
However, if your pet does not have enough gastric acid, digestive enzymes or bile to effectively digest its food, maldigestion and malabsorption occurs.
Unfortunately, this happens very regularly in dogs and cats.
Symptoms of Digestive Enzyme Deficiency in Pets
If your pet is not getting any supplemental digestive enzymes from its diet, it must rely on its own supply to break down food. Unfortunately, since many pets are already deficient, this often means “robbing” enzymes from other metabolic processes, such as immune system functioning.
As these enzyme reserves become depleted, it can lead to a range of health issues in your pet, not to mention malabsorption of nutrients and improper food digestion.
Signs that your pet may be lacking in digestive enzymes include:
- Acid reflux
- Belching and gas
- Vomiting undigested food (four or five hours after eating)
- Bad breath
- Abdominal pain, cramping and gurgling
- Foul-smelling stool
- Undigested food in your pet’s stool
All of these symptoms come together to let you know that in one way or another, your pet is experiencing maldigestion or malabsorption, likely due to a lack of digestive enzymes.
In time, this inability to effectively digest its meals can lead to more serious conditions in your pet, as well.
Eating Processed Foods Affects Dogs’ and Cats’ Digestive Health
As I said earlier, the majority of pets in the United States are not only enzyme-deficient on a biochemical level -- again because their pancrease simply cannot secrete enough enzymes -- but also on a dietary level.
Most dogs and cats eat an all-canned food diet or an all-dry food diet, made up of dead, over-processed ingredients. This means the enzymes that were once present in living food are killed during the high-temperature processing, and provide your pet with absolutely none of the digestive enzymes they so very desperately need.
It’s like a double whammy of enzyme deficiency, and it can cause serious disturbances to your pet’s digestive and overall health.
What Can You do to Help Your Pet’s Digestion?
First, transition your pet to a living, raw food, species-appropriate diet. This will help to provide some supplemental enzymes via their food.
Next, if your pet is not eating an all-living and raw diet, he will most likely benefit from enzyme supplementation.
In fact, even if your pet is eating a high-quality, species-appropriate raw-food diet, he can actually benefit from digestive enzyme supplementation as well, because you’re probably not feeding him enzyme-rich entrails and guts.
Digestive enzymes are so important for your pet’s health that I wholeheartedly recommend them for all animals, regardless of their diet.
In searching for a digestive enzyme for your pet, look for one that has gastric acid support, amylase, lipase and protease as well as gallbladder support all in one product.
So, again my recommendation, not only for the pets that are having digestive problems, but for all of you who are interested in creating abundant health in your animals, is to consider adding digestive enzymes to your pet’s diet.
The addition of digestive enzymes will allow your pets to process food more efficiently, and give them the extra support they need to not just survive, but thrive!