The Role of Digestive Enzymes

Digestive enzymes break down food and allow the nutrients to be absorbed and distributed to cells throughout the body.

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.

By giving your pet a digestive boost and keeping his intestinal microflora in balance, you can be assured that your favorite friend is getting the maximum nutritional benefit from his food. Best of all, with improved digestion, your pet’s energy will rebound, giving him the quality of his life he deserves.