To educate you about digestive enzymes and their use in a dog's diet I'm going to use myself as an example. Though this may seem a bit weird, dogs and humans are not that different when you look at a cellular level.
Digestive enzymes are substances that either begin or enhance the speed of biochemical reactions. In this case slicing and dicing food ingredients to smaller and smaller blocks so your dog's cells can absorb the nutrients.
Like many others I too drank milk when I was little. Over the years I developed abdominal cramps, bloating and increased gas within 2 hours of eating or drinking dairy products.
The doctor ran some tests and confirmed that my lactase levels were dropping. Lactase is a digestive enzyme that is required to break down milk sugar (lactose) and I did not have enough of it (anymore)!
During childhood, lactase gradually starts to disappear. In the animal world this is ok as puppies and other young animals drink milk from their mother only up to a certain age. However, we humans tend to continue drinking milk regardless of our age. Have you ever thought about that? Isn't it rather strange actually? Anyway… lactose intolerance is common in several ethnic groups amongst which Asians (and I'm 25% Asian).
Most of the time I try to avoid the food I cannot digest properly. However, lactose is used in many prepared products as a sugar and completely avoiding lactose is not always easy. Thanks to a specific enzyme supplement (lactase capsules) this doesn't have to be a problem.
This is a very specific example: taking lactase supplements to be able to digest lactose.
Now back to the dog world which is why you're here, right? Usually your dog's pancreas will produce sufficient amounts of enzymes for digestion.
But dogs can suffer from depletion of digestive enzymes as well for various reasons, such as:
Pancreatic enzymes include proteases that break down protein into amino acids, lipases that break down fats and amylases that break down carbohydrates.
The pancreas also produces insulin, which is required for the uptake of glucose by body cells.
As enzymes are required for several digestive processes and the breakdown of carbohydrates, proteins and fats in his diet, the symptoms of a digestive enzymes shortage are merely logical. The food doesn't digest properly which results in:
If you notice these chronic symptoms, there's a good chance your dog cannot digest his food very well. You could try switching to a better digestible food (this is the trial & error part - choose higher quality dog food and/or different ingredients) or supplement his diet.
I've found a movie by Dr Tammy Ruefli that explains more about food allergies and the beneficial effect of enzymes. It's not dog specific but the information is valid for dogs as well. And after this link I promise… we are going to talk about POOCHES again! Click here to watch the short video about food allergies and enzymes »
Enzyme supplements for dogs usually contain a number of different enzymes that help augment your dog's own pancreatic enzymes. Enzymes are highly specific so the lactase supplement I used for myself will only aid the digestion of lactose (milk sugar).
Pet Enzymes has a product that has a whole range of natural digestive enzymes for dogs. It aids complete digestion and enables all nutrients in the dog food to reach their goal… as building blocks for your dog's cells.
If you want to try a therapeutic products like this, then Total-Zymes is the most complete product on the market I've seen so far. It contains the enzymes proteases (digests proteins), lipase (digests lipids or fats), amylase (digests carbohydrates), peptidase, alpha-galactosidase, beta-glucanase, malt diastase, cellulase, pectinase, phytase, hemicellulase, bromelain and also has minerals. If you cannot determine exactly what food component causes the symptoms then a wide range of enzymes can ease life.
When your dog is suffering from excess gas or bloating after meals there is a good chance these supplements can help him. Other symptoms include noises after diner and cramps. You have to make sure though that you're feeding the right dog food for him. Change to another dog food brand or switch to raw food and check whether the symptoms disappear.
To enable the enzymatic actions you need to provide the supplement together with your dog's food (though check the instructions on the label as these may differ per brand).
Benefits of enzyme supplements will vary, depending upon your dogs diet and general health. You can expect your dog to have increased energy, decreased gas and more regulated bowel habits. Results vary from miraculous to seeing some improvements to noticing no difference at all.
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