The Importance of Digestive Enzymes and Friendly Bacteria

by Claudia Loomis

Digestive enzymes breakdown and deliver nutrients to every part of your pet’s body. Therefore, in addition to being fed a high quality all natural diet, all pets require enzymes and in order to maintain digestive efficiency. Since enzymes are destroyed in the normal process of heating and processing most commercial pet foods, even the highest quality kibble, supplementing with enzymes is an effective way to maintain digestive health.

There are four classes of enzymes necessary for proper digestion and optimal health:

Amylase - Necessary for energy, Amylase aids in the digestion of starchy foods and releases simple sugars.

Protease - Necessary for muscle growth and maintenance, Protease aids in the digestion of proteins in the stomach and small intestine.

Lipase - Necessary for overall health, Lipase aids in the digestion of fatty acids and allows the pet to absorb Omega-3 Fatty Acids and Vitamins A, D, E and K.

Cellulase - Necessary for the digestion of fiber, Cellulase aids in the digestion of cellulose, helping reduce the bulking associated with eating fibrous foods.

Along with digestive enzymes another important part of digestive health is the proper balance of prebiotics and probiotics commonly known as “friendly” bacteria in the digestive system. There are hundreds of species of good and bad bacteria in your pet’s digestive system. There must be a balance of the both good and bad bacteria in order for your pet to digest and absorb food. Without the proper balance of friendly bacteria proper immune response is compromised and our pet’s become prone to illness and infection.

Without the proper concentrations of digestive enzymes and friendly bacteria in intestines an enzyme deficiency will occur. Some of the symptoms of enzyme deficiency and resulting poor digestion include:

Intermittent or chronic diarrhea


Gas and bloating

Body odor

Excessive itching and rash

Hair balls

Runny Nose

Bad BreathInfection and poor immune system response

Joint problems and resulting arthritis

Allergic reaction

Some of the factors that will decrease the amount of enzymes available for your pet’s proper digestion of nutrients will cause an enzyme drain. These include:

Age- Digestive enzyme production decreases with age, so it is particularly important to supplement with digestive enzymes in older pets.

Strenuous exercise or overwork - The more physical work we ask our pets to perform requires more energy input and taxes the balance of digestive enzymes in your pets system.

Stress and anxiety - Pets are just like humans and stress has an overall negative effect on the body including hampering the production of digestive enzymes.

Illness - Anything that attacks or affects the immune system effects the production of digestive enzymes.

Poor diet - Pet foods that contain highly processed, poor quality, hard to digest ingredients such as corn, wheat, animal by products, artificial colors and preservatives will place additional strain on the digestive system.

In addition to pets that are prone to gastric issues and poor digestion, most all pets will benefit from supplementation with digestive enzymes and additional friendly bacteria. It will be most beneficial to pets that are:

Switching Foods - it will help ease or eliminate the gastric distress that comes with getting accustomed to a new food

Experiencing Bowel Issues - will help with diarrhea and constipation.Senior pets: help add to the diminished capacity of older pets to produce enzymes

Gas - proper digestion eliminates excessive gas

Dogs that eat their feces (also known as coproghagy) - There are many reasons why dogs eat their own poop. However output that is free of undigested food will be less likely to entice pets to eat their feces.

Pets taking or have taken a course of antibiotics - Antibiotics are equal opportunity bacteria killers. They not only destroy the harmful bad bacteria that cause infection, they also kill the good bacteria and upset the delicate balance of the digestive flora in the intestines. It is important to re-build the stores of good bacteria in the intestinal tract so that proper digestion and absorption of nutrients can occur to encourage healing and optimal health.