The Role of Digestive Enzymes
Some enzymes are produced by the saliva glands, stomach, and pancreas. Enzymes are also present in raw and unprocessed foods and these active enzymes work together with digestive enzymes to break down food during the digestive process.
Enzymes that are important for proper digestion include:
- Amylase - breaks down starch and other carbohydrates into sugars
- Protease - digests proteins and turns peptides into amino acids
- Lipase - digests lipids (fats) into fatty acids
- Cellulase breaks down cellulose, the carbohydrate that is the main part of the cell walls of plants
- Hemicellulase is a mixture of enzymes which can hydrolyze the indigestible components of plant fibers.
What causes an enzyme deficiency in dogs and cats?
When foods are cooked at high temperatures, as most commercial pet foods are, the enzymes are destroyed and so pets must rely on their own limited supply of enzymes to break down the food.
Also, as dogs and cats age, their production of digestive enzymes decreases either because of the slowing of their metabolism or from conditions affecting the pancreas. This deficiency in enzyme levels can lead to a host of digestive problems including:
- Undigested food which can ferment in the stomach
- Low energy levels or sluggishness
- Malnutrition or vitamin deficiency because nutrients aren't absorbed
- Coprophagia (when a cat or dog eats its own stool)
- Bloating and gas
- Irritable Bowel Syndrome
Some of these digestive disorders can also be linked to an overgrowth of bad bacteria in the gastrointestinal tract. Probiotics are often used with digestive enzymes to promote healthy digestion and restore balance in the gastrointestinal tract.