Can Supplementary Enzymes Help Dogs with Digestion Issues Associated with Kibble and Raw Diets

Apr 28, 2021

Can Supplementary Enzymes Help Dogs with Digestion Issues Associated with Kibble and Raw Diets

The dietary regimen of dogs has a profound impact on their health and well-being. The integrity and function of digestion and metabolism are significantly affected by various digestive issues that are caused by factors ranging from infectious diseases to metabolic disturbances to physiological stress conditions to the type of diet. One potential cause that has come into scrutiny by veterinary experts is the practice of feeding kibble (dry food) or raw food to dogs and how supplementing with digestive enzymes can enhance a dog’s health and well-being.

Enzymes And The Digestive System

What are digestive enzymes?

Digestive enzymes are types of specialized proteins that break down food  into their simplest forms so the nutrients can be absorbed and utilized by the body. Digestive enzymes are synthesized by the body and are secreted during the process of digestion. There are specific enzymes from the salivary glands in the mouth, the glands in the stomach, and the pancreas. Once food enters the mouth, it is already acted upon by specific enzymes.and the digestive process has begun.

 Digestive Enzymes In Dogs






Salivary glands in the mouth




Helps break down large molecules of starch or carbohydrates into smaller molecules


Gastric cells in the stomach




Breaks down protein






Breaks down fats






Breaks down proteins






Breaks down starch and carbohydrates


The digestive enzymes from the pancreas are released into the intestine as digested food leaves the stomach and enters the small intestine. These pancreatic enzymes are very important for the final digestion of food releasing nutrients in the small intestine that can be absorbed and utilized by the body's cells. The pancreas is a small organ that is near the stomach and small intestine and is critical to the digestivbe process.

Unlike humans, dogs produce only small quantities of the amylase enzyme which means their digestive system is not as efficient in breaking down carbohydrates (complex sugar molecules).

Factors That Cause Digestive Enzyme Deficiency In Dogs

There are many factors that can cause digestive enzyme deficiency in dogs. These include the following:

  •  A diet that is high in starchy/carbohydrate ingredients, such as most kibble (with grain or grain free) and some freeze-dried or dehydrated pet food. Dogs don’t produce enough of the digestive enzyme amylase to break down an over abundance of starch. Also, high quantities of starchy carbohydrates in kibble can create abnormal spikes of insulin, glucagon, and cortisol throughout the day which can be metabolically stressful to your dog.
  •  Processed foods -- Any natural digestion enzyme present in food can be destroyed by the very high temperatures and pressures that are used to make kibble.
  •  Raw food diet -- Raw diets generally includes muscle meat, organ meats, bone (whole or ground), dairy products, raw eggs, as well as fresh fruits and vegetables. A raw diet for dogs can be homemade or pet store-bought. Since raw dog food contains ingredients that are not highly processed and are processed at lower temperatures, there are higher amounts of naturally occurring enzymes and vitamins that are available to your dog. However, even dehydrating and freeze-drying can cause some losses in natural enzyme acdtivity.
  •  Age -- As a dog ages, the body produces lower amounts of digestive enzymes which can further compound the problem of properly digesting foods such as dry kibble. 

Does  Your Dog Need Supplemental Digestve Enzymes?

Many experts believe that dogs with a normally functioning pancreas don’t need additional enzymes to enhance digestion and overall health. However, there are certain health issues that need support from digestive enzyme supplements.  According to Dr. Jean Hofve,  “Digestive enzymes can be used for pancreatic and GI issues, but are also beneficial for healthy patients eating heat-processed pet foods.

Health Issues That May be Helped From Digestive Enzyme Supplementation

l  Age-Related Digestive Enzyme Deficiency

Dr. Edward Howell, a well-known pioneer in digestive enzyme research, summarizes his findings with his now popular Enzyme Nutrition Axiom --“The length of life is inversely proportional to the rate of exhaustion of the enzyme potential of an organism. The increased use of food enzymes promotes a decreased rate of exhaustion of the enzyme potential.

What the good Doctor basically is saying is that as a dog ages, their body produces less digestive enzymes and the body’s enzyme production capability may eventually be depleted. This can negatively impact health and longevity of older dogs. By supplementing your older dog’s diet with digestive enzymes, the process of age-related deterioration of the body may be slowed down as the dog can extract more of the nutrients in their food. This also means that the pancreas is spared from being subjected to unnecessary tremendous stress to help digest food, particularly higher in fat processed kibbles and high fat content raw dog foods.

l  Exocrine Pancreatic Insufficiency (EPI)

Dogs that have been diagnosed with Exocrine Pancreatic Insufficiency (EPI) are unable or inefficient in digesting fats in foods and utilizing necessary nutrition.  “Digestive enzyme replacement therapy is an efficacious, evidence-based treatment for dogs and cats with exocrine pancreatic insufficiency” (Wiberg ME et al 1998).

l  Chronic Pancreatitis

When a dog suffers from chronic pancreatitis, supplementing with LIPASE digestive enzymes can help reduce the workload of the pancreas.

Other digestive issues in dogs where digestive enzyme supplementation can also be beneficial include Leaky Gut Syndrome, Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD), and acid reflux.

The availability of sufficient quantities of digestive enzymes creates a better digestive environment where food is broken down into its simplest forms so optimal nutrient absorption and utilization can be achieved.


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