Benefits of Added Digestive Enzymes for Dogs Part 2

May 12, 2021

Benefits of Added Digestive Enzymes for Dogs Part 2

Dog gastrointestinal problems such as vomiting, diarrhea, and horrid smelling gassiness (flatulence) are common issues in dogs. The causes and underlying issues can range from minor to life-threatening.

When a dog suffers from frequent bouts of digestive problems, most pet owners and veterinarians tend to change the dog's food. Knowledgeble veterinarians and pet parents will try a broad spectrum dog digestive enzyme supplement to address the dog's digestive problems. A number of dog dietary supplements formulated these days to treat or prevent gastrointestinal issues in dogs are a combination of probiotics and digestive enzymes or are purchased individually and dosed together.

Basic Dog Nutrition Information

The six basic food nutrients are protein, fat, carbohydrates, vitamins, minerals, and water. The first three are classified as macro-nutrients. In order to be absorbed and utilized by the body, protein, fat, and carbohydrates must be broken down into their simplest forms through digestion.

When food enters the body, it undergoes physical (mechanical chewing) and chemical digestion. Physical or mechanical digestion occurs when food is chewed, swallowed, or moistened with saliva and stomach juices. On the other hand, chemical digestion happens when digestive enzymes  act on the digested food and convert them into forms that can be absorbed and utilized in the body.

What are Digestive Enzymes?

Digestive enzymes are proteins that break down complex nutrients into their subunits which are then absorbed in the intestine. The main digestive enzymes in pets are lipase (for fat), protease (for protein), and amylase (for starch). Most of the enzymes are produced in the pancreas, a small organ adjacent to the stomach and small intestine.

 There are 3 main types of digestive enzymes in dogs:

  •  Proteases act on proteins, breaking them down into amino acids, the simplest form of protein, so they can be used by the body.
  •  Amylases act on carbohydrates to break them down into monosaccharides. Compared to humans, dogs don’t produce enough of these enzymes thus they are not as efficient in breaking down carbohydrates.
  •  Lipase act on fats and lipids to break them down into fatty acids and glycerol.

Normally dogs are able to make sufficient amounts of their own digestive enzymes. Additional digestive enzymes can also be obtained from their food intake, especially fresh fruits and vegetables. However, there are instances when a dog suffers from a particular health issue that can affect the body’s production of digestive enzymes. In this case, supplementation of high quality digestive enzymes is highly recommended to restore digestive and metabolic efficiency. Very often senior dogs can also benefit from supplementation as they help to betetr digest foods and extract more nutrients.

Health Issues That Benefit From Digestive Enzyme Supplementation 

Dog Exocrine Pancreatic Insufficiency (EPI)

Dogs that suffer from exocrine pancreatic insufficiency (EPI) don’t have enough digestive enzymes for proper digestion of fats, carbohydrates and proteins. The problem occurs when the part of the pancreas that produces enzymes is destroyed from infection or injury or genetics. EPI condition is more commonly seen in breeds suchh as Chow Chows, Cavalier King Charles Spaniels, Rough-Coated Collies, and German Shepherd Dogs.

The progressive loss of enzyme-producing cells in the pancreas results in the lack of available enzymes. This can eventually lead to poor digestion and fewer nutrients that are absorbed in the body. Affected dogs often have insatiable appetites and are voracious eaters, however, they generally lose weight and become underweight. They also have greasy, yellowish - gray,  strong-smelling diarrhea, called ‘steatorrhea’  or "fat in the feces".  

The treatment regimen of EPI involves placing a dog on a highly digestible, low-fat diet that is supplemented high levels of Lipase, Amylase and Protease  digestive enzymes. The regimen is usually given for the rest of the dog’s life.

Chronic Pancreatitis in Dogs

When the pancreas is working normally, the pancreatic enzymes become active only when they have reached the small intestine. However, with chronic pancreatitis, the enzymes tend to activate while they’re still in the pancreas. This can lead to inflammation and damage to the pancreas and surrounding organs and tissues. The activated enzymes appear to ‘digest’ the pancreas, which can be extremely painful to the dog.

If your dog suffers from chronic (or recurring) pancreatitis (inflammation of the pancreas),  supplementation of Lipase, Amylase and Protease digestive enzymes could reduce the workload of the pancreas and help maintain digestion efficiency. With an external source of digestive enzymes, there is enough time for the inflamed pancreas to rest thereby allowing the body to heal itself.

Pancreatitis can be a one-time only problem or a long term chronic condition; it can also be life-threatening. The good news is that most dogs with uncomplicated pancreatitis recover after a single episode and do well long term, so long as high-fat foods are avoided.

Dog Diabetes

With diabetes, the dog’s pancreas is not working up to par to  produce the HORMONE insulin. Insulin is involved in the control of glucose ( blood sugar) metabolism, it is not an acting as an enzyme. Dogs with diabetes are always thirsty, and then they urinate frequently.

If the diabetes condition cannot be contrioled with diet then daily insulin injections may become necessary. Adding digestive enzymes to their diet can help ensure that  diabetic dogs can get as much nutritional value from food as possible however enzymes do not help solve the actual issue of moving glucose (sugar) out of the blood stream and into the celels to use as energy.

Coprophagia (eating of feces)

Supplementation with digestive enzymes can make the dog’s poop less attractive as nutrient extracion is more complete and may help reduce coprophagia (eating of feces). Also, with increased nutrient absorption from foods, the dog may not have the same urge to eat poop.

Allergies and Food Sensitivities

Food allergens are made up of proteins. When there is a lack of sufficient  protease digestive enzymes, improperly digested protein from food may cross the intestinal barrier and enter the bloodstream if there is a leaky gut condition. When the immune system detects the presence of these proteins, an immune response is triggered and the dog suffers an allergic reaction.

 Protease digestive enzymes will help the dog to properly digest the proteins in their food. 

Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth (SIBO)

Digestive enzyme supplementation promotes efficient food breakdown and helps reduce bloating, gas, diarrhea, or constipation. PROPERLY DIGESTED FOODS do not provide nutrients to the bad pathogenic bacteria and yeast in the gut.  Digestive enzymes deliver a marked improvement in the ability of a dog with SIBO to better digest their food and absorb more nutrients.

Age-Related Digestive Enzyme Deficiency

Aging  has been associated with the slowing down and deterioration of the body including its physio-chemical processes. The digestive system is  not exempted from the effects of aging. With age, senior dogs become less efficient in digesting food and absorbing vital nutrients. There is also a decline in enzyme production and activity in the body. To help with digestion and absorption, high-quality digestive enzyme supplements are often recommended.

Medical conditions affecting the stomach and small intestine can have a negative effect on the quantity and function of digestive enzymes that are produced in the body. In these cases, digestive enzyme supplements can be an extremely vital addition to a dog’s diet.


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