What are Enzymes?
Enzymes are essentially chemicals (catalysts) that a dog’s body uses for a lot of processes at a cellular level, such as food digestion, fuel production, tissue repair, and more.
There are two types of enyzmes that are responsible for digesting food:
- Food Enzymes – These are enzymes that can be found in foods, specifically vegetables and fruits, e.g. papain (contained in papayas) and bromelain (found in pineapples). Since cooking can easily destroy enzymes or make them inactive, raw foods or those cooked only lightly contain a larger amount of active food enzymes.
- Digestive Enzymes – These are enzymes produced internally by the pancreas, such as lipase, amylase, protease, and cellulase (dogs cannot produce cellulase).
Each enzyme is relatively specific for its activity:
- Lipase – digest fat
- Amylase – digest starches
- Protease – digest protein
- Cellulase – digest fiber
Do All Dogs Need Enzyme Supplementation?
Definitely! Even healthy dogs can benefit from enzyme supplementation because the additional supplements of enzymes can help dogs digest and absorb foods better.
Better digestion means better overall health with fewer digestive problems such as gas, bloat, loose stools, body odor, and bad breath. They will also have better hair coat, fewer skin problems and inflammatory problems.
As mentioned above, digestive enzymes can easily be inactivated or destroyed by heat. Therefore, if you feed your dog cooked or processed foods, you should give your dog supplements of digestive enzymes to replenish the enzymes lost through cooking.
Older dogs also benefit from having digestive enzymes added to their diet since they usually have a more sluggish digestive system. Old dogs are more prone to the development of digestive problems as well.
In addition, dogs with the following health conditions benefit from supplementation of digestive enzymes:
Exocrine Pancreatic Insufficiency
Some dogs, most commonly German Shepherds, suffer from this inherited condition, in which they have a shortage or absence of digestive enzymes and are unable to properly digest the food. This results in diarrhea and weight loss. One treatment component of this condition is the lifelong supplementation with enzymes.
Inflammatory Bowel Disease
IBD is a condition in which the cells in intestinal tract are inflamed. As such, dogs with IBD cannot properly digest and absorb foods.
Using digestive enzymes (along with other supplements, such as probiotics and glutamine) can be extremely beneficial to these dogs.
Dogs with IBD can actually have their IBD meds reduced (sometimes even eliminated) if they are on supplementation of enzymes and probiotics long-term.
Other Stomach Disorders
Dogs who have other stomach disorders such as acute or chronic diarrhea, colitis, etc. can also benefit from enzyme supplementation.
Dogs with allergies such as canine atopy may benefit from digestive enzymes. Research has shown that enzymes can remove inflammation-causing toxins from the body.
Arthritis is an inflammatory condition and enzymes have anti-inflammatory properties, Therefore, enzymes can help arthritic dogs as well.
Many dogs with poor digestion and malabsorption problems resort to eating stools. By adding digestive enzymes to their diet, they will have better digestion and absorption. Therefore, enzymes may just be the point to stop their habit of stool.
Enzymes may be able to reduce side effects seen with conventional cancer treatments including chemotherapy and radiation therapy. Some vets also speculate that enzymes might be able increase T-cell production (cancer-fighting cells), thereby slowing tumor growth and spread.
What Enzymes and How to Administer
Choose a natural product that contains a variety of digestive enzymes, which should include some form of amylase, lipase, and protease enzymes. Many products also contain cellulase which digests plant fibers.
Dogs and cats cannot produce cellulase. Therefore, if you feed vegetables and fruits to your dog, get a product that contains cellulase for better digestion fruits and vegetables and other plant materials in the diet.
Depending on the condition you are trying to treat, you should give enzymes to your dog either with meals or on an empty stomach.
If you want to use enzymes to aid digestion, then give them with a meal. So for dogs with such digestive problems as IBD, colitis, pancreatic insufficiency, etc., they should get enzymes with meals.
For other conditions such as arthritis and cancer, since the enzymes are NOT to be used to aid digestion, you should give them to your dog on an empty stomach or with only a tiny amount of food.