I often get requests from people wanting digestive aids for their dogs. By the questions I receive, it seems either folks do not understand the differences between enzymes and probiotics, or they get the two confused. This newsletter explains the differences and benefits of both so you can make the right choices for your dogs.
Enzymes and Probiotics are two different supplements that both support digestion, but each of them works differently to support the digestive system.
Enzymes help break down proteins, fats and carbohydrates into smaller units so they can be more easily absorbed in the small intestine. There are certain health conditions and diseases hinder the body's ability to do this on its own, so adding enzymes to the diet helps assimilate the nutrients and aids in better digestion.
In humans, carbohydrate digestion starts in the mouth because humans have amylase in their saliva. However, dogs are carnivores and they do not produce amylase in their saliva, so the digestion of carbohydrates begins in their stomachs, as well as some protein digestion. Hydrochloric Acid is released in the stomach, which in turn, stimulates the production of pepsin. This starts protein digestion. Hydrochloric Acid (HCI) has a pH of one, which helps kill microorganisms.
Fats are only broken down (into lipids) in the small intestine. Bile releases and emulsifies the fats. The enzymes released from the pancreas contain pancreatin, which breaks down the fats in lipids. The enzymes released from the pancreas also include amylase, which reduces the carbohydrates to sugars or glucose. Protease helps break down proteins into amino acids. Lastly, the pancreas secretes bicarbonate to raise the pH 1 from the HCI in the stomach to a more neutral pH number.
When looking for a digestion aid, it is important to find an enzyme product that covers all stages of digestion. For dogs, this includes Ox Bile extract, which helps stimulate HCI production, and pepsin, which aids protein digestion for the stomach. For the small intestine, pancreatin and pancrealipase are important for fat digestion. Amylase is important for carbohydrate digestion. Trypsin is important for protein digestion.
Papain (made from papayas) and Bromelain (made from pineapples) are plant enzymes. These two enzymes are helpful for digestion as they help control gas and indigestion. Bromelain not only assists with proper digestion, it also helps inflammation, if not given with food. Both Papain and Bromelain enzymes enhance the enzymes already in produced in the body by the pancreas.
Some health issues can be helped by adding additional enzymes to the diet.
If your dog suffers from allergies, adding in enzymes to their diet can help break down the proteins that may be causing the allergic reactions.
Liver issues can be helped as well! Adding in enzymes to the diet can help with the digestion of fats. This helps relieve some of the stress that is on the liver.
Irritable Bowel Disease (IBD) is another common health issue with dogs and adding extra enzymes to the diet can help digest fats, proteins and starches for better digestion and absorption of nutrients.
Dogs suffering from autoimmune diseases and cancer can also benefit from extra enzymes because their bodies and organs are compromised. Adding additional enzymes to your dog's diet can assist with the breakdown of proteins, fats and carbohydrates so the nutrients can be more easily absorbed.
If you are looking to change your dog's diet, from a commercial food to a raw or cooked diet, adding extra enzymes to the meals helps ease the transition from one diet to another.
Lastly, if your dog suffers from inflammation issues, many enzymes help lower inflammation response.
Depending on the health condition of the dog, I recommend two supplements. For dogs needing an extra enzyme boost, there is Berte's Zymes, which is a blend of digestive enzymes from both plant and animal based enzymes. For dogs with more serious digestive health issues, there is Berte's Digestion Blend. This product contains pancreatic enzymes and amino acids, medicinal herbs and beneficial bacteria (probiotics). It also contains 500 mg of the amino acid l-Glutamine helps heal the intestinal lining due to inflammation, assists in metabolizing proteins and sugars and supports immune system function. This product was developed to help dogs with irritable bowel syndrome, colitis and ulcers.
The term Probiotics refers to the beneficial bacteria in the digestive tract. These bacteria help to keep the 'bad' or unfriendly bacteria in check. Common beneficial bacteria include lactobacilli and bifidobacteria, which are often called acidophilus and bifidus. These bacteria are thought to produce antimicrobial metabolites, which help support the immune system and aid in mucosal conditioning. When certain factors reduce the friendly bacteria, an overgrowth of pathogenic bacteria can result which can cause digestive upsets and yeast infections. Some things that can cause a reduction in the friendly bacteria include antibiotics, stress, illness, and diarrhea.
Using probiotics helps help keep the friendly bacteria in the digestive tract balanced and it can replenish the friendly bacteria lost through antibiotic use, illness and diarrhea. It helps maintain a healthier digestive tract and helps keep stools firmer. Probiotics are often a recommended supplement if your dog has Irritable Bowel Disease (IBD) or Irritable Bowel Syndrome as these conditions can be associated with bacteria overgrowths in the digestive tract. It is very beneficial to add probiotics to your dogs' diet after any antibiotic treatment or during stressful times such as changing diets, boarding, traveling, training, or after surgery. Berte's Ultra Probioticscontains a mix of beneficial bacteria and is an excellent supplement to support the digestive system.
Immediacare GI is another recommended product that helps firm up loose stools, supports rapid gastrointestinal balance associated with microflora imbalances, garbage gut, food sensitivities, stress, age, and traveling. It is also great for whelping moms, puppies and dogs that will take a paste form better during illness than a powder. This is a great supplement to consider for your first aid kit if you are traveling with your pet this summer.
It is very safe to use both Probiotics and Enzymes together if needed. While both support digestive function, they each address different digestive issues. I hope that this information clarifies any confusion you might have had about the purpose for and benefit of these two supplements and how they support the digestive system.
We hope all you Dad's get wet doggie kisses on Father's Day!