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 enzymes can easily be destroyed or made inactive by cooking, raw foods or those cooked only lightly contain a larger amount of active food enzymes.
- Digestive Enzymes – These are enzymes that are 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 haircoat, fewer skin problems and inflammatory problems.
As mentioned above, digestive enzymes can easily be inactivated or destroyed by heat. Therefore, dogs who are fed cooked or processed foods should be given 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 and are more prone to the development of digestive problems.
In addition, digestive enzymes should be given to dogs with the following health conditions:
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, resulting 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, food cannot be properly digested and absorbed.
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 given 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. It has been 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 and therefore the habit of stool eating can be stopped.
Enzymes may be able to reduce side effects seen with conventional cancer treatments including chemotherapy and radiation therapy. It is also speculated that enzymes might be able increase T-cell production (cancer-fighting cells), thereby slowing tumor growth and spread.
Enzymes for Dogs – What 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.
Cellulase is not produced by dogs and cats. 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, enzymes should be given to dogs either with meals or on an empty stomach.
If you want to use enzymes to aid digestion, then they should be given 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, they should be given on an empty stomach or with only a tiny amount of food.
A Natural Product of Enzymes for Dogs
Here is an excellent natural product of enzymes for dogs:
This product is lactose-free so even dogs who are allergic or sensitive to dairy products can take it. Prozyme contains amylase, lipase, protease, and cellulase enzymes and is in powder form so it is easy to administer.