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The Canine Nutritionist

What are digestive enzymes?

Digestive enzymes are the catalysts that enable food to be broken down into nutrients. Dog digestive enzymes enable your best friend to digest his or her food more efficiently. They’re highly specialized proteins that break down your dog’s food into smaller units. Nutrients that can be absorbed by the body to produce energy. They are also used for cell development and to repair and maintain your dog’s physical structure.

There are three main digestive enzymes. Amylase, lipase and protease. Amylase breaks down carbohydrates into sugars. Lipase breaks fats into fatty acids. And protease breaks down proteins into amino acids. Most of these digestive enzymes are produced in your dog’s pancreas from where they’re released to the small intestine. And while the body produces a certain amount of its own digestive enzymes, many of them need to come from your dog’s food. Primarily from meat, dairy products and vegetables.

Digestive enzyme deficiency

A dog’s inability to produce sufficient digestive enzymes is known as exocrine pancreatic insufficiency (EPI). EPI leads to the poor absorption of nutrients which can result in weight loss in dogs, despite the appearance of a normal appetite. If left unchecked, a dog can quite literally starve to death!

EPI can be caused congenitally. The result of a birth defect. It can be cquired as a result of a pancreatic illness such as chronic pancreatitis. Or it can be inherited. Dog breeds considered particularly prone to inheriting EPI include Cavalier King Charles Spaniels, Chow Chows, German Shepherd Dogs and Rough-Coated Collies.

Dogs fed a commercial diet are far more likely to develop a digestive enzyme deficiency. Highly processed commercial dog food is virtually devoid of digestive enzymes. Dogs fed a healthy diet are far more likely to remain healthy in every regard.

Digestive enzyme supplementation

As we’ve established, dogs produce their own digestive enzymes in much the same way we human beings do. These are supplemented with digestive enzymes from food. That is providing that dogs are well fed and that their diet includes plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables. Under those circumstances, a dog should be able to produce sufficient digestive enzymes for its system to function well. For it to remain fit and healthy.

Despite this, there is an argument that most fruit and vegetables today are likely to have been grown in nutrient-depleted soils. Some would therefore argue that supplementation is a necessary evil. Even some holistic veterinarians occasionally recommend supplementing digestive enzymes with synthetic products for that very reason. But most articles written on the subject of digestive enzyme supplementation are written to promote commercially available synthetic supplements. Despite the fact that the body does not absorb synthetic vitamins and minerals in the same way it absorbs naturally occuring vitamins and minerals provided by nature. We as human beings for example don’t get the same goodness from, say, a vitamin C tablet that we do from eating an orange. Apart from anything else, any goodness we do derive from the tablet does not last as long.

The orange also supplies other nutrients. And our bodies are designed to process and benefit from nutrient synergy. When one nutrient works together with another, perhaps making one nutrient more bioavailable, longer-lasting or more effective than a single nutrient on its own. Once again, that applies to both humans and dogs.

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Digestive enzymes supplementation the natural way

I very much believe in my dogs eating well. My dogs eat plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables. Much of them we grow ourselves in good quality, nutrient-rich, pesticide-free soils. I also supplement with supplements provided, like the rest of their food, purely by nature. Their supplementation comes in the form of herbs for the widest variety of nutrients. Herbs which do not work in isolation, but which work together to produce a result far great than the sum of their parts. So my dogs’ digestive enzymes are provided by the likes of alfalfa and dandelion root, burdock root and kelp which work in harmony with the rest of their natural diet to provide them with the healthiest diet available anywhere. I also supplement further with probiotics.

If you do need to supplement your dog’s digestive enzymes, please consider dietary improvements before ever you consider synthetic supplementation. I can provide your dog a diet which includes the likes of papaya, melon, pineapple, raw dairy products and raw honey. It will also include fermented vegetables. All these are proven natural sources of digestive enzymes for dogs. All far more effective dog digestive enzymes than any synthetic product!

Gerald Pepin

Gerald Pepin

Canine Nutritionist

Gerald Pepin is a qualified canine nutritionist, writer, speaker and homemade dog food advocate. Gerald believes that good nutrition can improve or cure most canine health problems and that the natural way is always the best way when it comes to healing man's best friend. A life-long lover of German Shepherds, Gerald and his wife The Dog Chef have two GSDs and live in rural Somerset.


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