If you’re like us and like to read labels, magazines, or the wealth of online articles on the good and bad when it comes to doggie nutrition, you’ve probably come across talk about enzymes. Whether it’s “added enzymes” in your dog’s food or “enzyme supplements” marketed by well-meaning but creepy Google ads, these little digestive nuggets are all the rage when it comes to Fido’s diet. But just what are enzymes and why are they important to your dog’s health? You’re in luck! We’ve got the answers to these burning enzymatic questions and more.
Just What the Heck are Enzymes?
Avoiding the more complicated science and getting straight to the meat of the matter, digestive enzymes are important proteins in both yours and your dog’s body. One of their main functions is assisting in breaking down nutrients, helping turn the food your pooch eats into primary components that are, in turn, more easily absorbed by your dog’s gut and other digestive systems. This process of deconstructing edible material is what provides essential fuel to keep your dog’s vital systems up and running at maximum capacity.
Your dog produces some enzymes naturally on their own, but the majority of what they need is contained within various enzyme-rich foods which, when left to their own devices, they’d consume as part of your dog’s natural model of eating in the wild. Wolves and wild dogs will often consume all parts of their prey, delivering a valuable dose of enzymes from raw meat and internal organs.
The main types of digestive enzymes include:
Protease – Breaks down protein into amino acids
Amylase – The main enzyme for breaking down carbohydrates
Lipase – Critical enzyme for digesting fat
Cellulase – Helps turn fiber into a usable, digestible fuel source
What About Fido’s Normal Diet
When most people pick up a bag of dog food from a major national or local chain or a pet store, they assume that it contains everything needed for their dog to be happy, healthy, and function at their optimal level. But as it turns out, most commercial dog foods are sadly lacking in the enzymes department. Naturally occurring enzymes are destroyed at the high temperatures that are part of the cooking and extruding process. Even canned and “natural” dog foods must be processed to ensure shelf-stability for shipping and selling.
Benefits of Supplementing with Enzymes
So, if your dog’s food is lacking in naturally occurring enzymes, what can you do? For starters, concerned pet owners can try adding in fresh, uncooked foods that naturally are rich in digestive enzymes. Organ meat and certain fresh fruits and vegetables such as papaya, raw honey, and dairy products such as kefir are all rich in these important digestive aids.
For some dogs, these types of additions to the diet may be unsavory or produce other gastrointestinal side effects due to allergies or food intolerance. In addition, mixing commercial dog food with fresh ingredients can also cause upset and imbalance. If you’re dog fits into one of these categories, you’re in luck. The science behind digestive enzymes has progressed so that supplements in both powder and pill form are available by prescription and over the counter at quality pet food stores and online.
The Bottom Line on Enzymes
Enzymes are an important part of your dog’s essential daily diet. In anecdotal studies, dogs that received supplemental enzymes had healthier teeth, coat, and overall better body condition. With the science to back these observations up, it just makes sense for caring dog owners to observe their dog’s overall health and supplement with digestive enzymes or consult with a veterinarian regarding their use.