By Sherry L. Granader
Enzymes are used for a variety of functions in our pet’s body. Digestion, cellular processes and absorption of dietary nutrients are all dependent upon the right enzymes. Enzymes produced by the pancreas are essential for digestion of nutrients in the diet. Once digested properly by the pancreatic enzymes, your pet can absorb the dietary nutrients.
Just like in the human body, the pancreas produces amylase, lipase and various proteases. In plain English, amylase is used for digesting carbohydrates, lipase digests fats and protease digests protein. Even though the pancreas produces enzymes to aid in food digestion, additional enzymes found in the diet contribute to digestion and absorption and enhance the utilization of nutrients from the food.
Natural raw foods contain a number of chemicals, including enzymes not found in processed foods. Processing alters the nutrients in our pet’s food, depleting it of important nutrients and enzymes. Supplementing with enzymes helps replenish those enzymes lost. Even pets on raw food diets do well and benefit from additional enzymes in supplement form.
Illness, stress, allergies, food intolerances and age reduce digestive enzyme capabilities. Plus medications decrease gastrointestinal function resulting in poor digestion and absorption of nutrients in the diet. Supplementing with enzymes can improve digestion and absorption of nutrients.
In a nutshell, enzymes liberate the nutrients from food. They increase the absorption of essential vitamins, minerals, and certain fatty acids including zinc, selenium, vitamin B6, and linoleic acid by plant enzymes. Your veterinarian or holistic healthcare practitioner can prescribe microbial enzymes, pancreatic enzymes or plant enzymes especially if your pet is dealing with pancreatic disease and enzyme production is inadequate.
Enzymes have also been recommended for treatment of various disorders including inflammatory bowel disease. Plant enzymes are active with a much wider pH range and contain cellulase, something dogs and cats do not normally have in their bodies. This explains why they can only digest some of the plant material found in their diets.
Supplementing with enzymes that contain cellulase as well as lipase, amylase and protease have been shown to help pets with medical health issues because they liberate chemicals such as selenium, zinc and linoleic acid that can end up being bound by fiber in the diet.
Supplementing with enzymes is effective, inexpensive, safe and easy to give to your pet in pill or powder form. Ask your veterinarian or holistic healthcare practitioner about supplementing with enzymes as they can recommend the best product for your pet’s condition. The dosage will depend on the product used and your pet’s weight for maximum effectiveness.
Helpful Tip: Enzymes are inactivated by heat and cannot be added to warm food or mixed with warm water. It is best to sprinkle them onto food right at feeding time.
Reviewed and approved by Dr. David L. Roberts, DVM