Conscious Cat

February 8, 2010 10 Comments

Benefits of Digestive Enzymes for Pets

Posted by Ingrid

I previously wrote about how to choose healthy foods for your pet.  In the article, I said that I was not a proponent of a raw food diet, because I felt that the risks outweighed the benefits.  However, I have since come to the conclusion that feeding raw food is truly the healthiest way to feed our pets.  We know from human nutrition that the less processed our foods are, the better for us, and the same holds true for our pets.  Additionally, cats are carnivores, and as such, they are designed to eat raw meat.   That being said, some pets, especially cats, can be difficult to transition to raw food .  For those pets, the the next best thing for achieving the same results you get from raw feeding may be supplementing your pet’s diet with digestive enzymes.

The reason raw food is so good for our pets is because it still contains all the digestive enzymes.  When food is processed and cooked, enzymes are destroyed.   Enzymes aid in food absorption by breaking food down into simple, soluble substances that the body can absorb.  Enzymes are important building blocks for a multitude of metabolic functions and can help the body fight the degnerative processes that come with aging, aid in better absoprtion of vitamins and minerals, and help build a healthy immune system.  Enzyme deficiency can show itself in poor haircoat, allergies, intestinal problems, and voluminous stools, often with the fat still clearly visible. 

If you’re not able to feed raw, you may want to consider supplementing your pet’s diet with digestive enzymes.  There are numerous products on the market.  One I like is Dr. Goodpet’s Feline Digestive Enzymes.  In addition to enzymes, it also contains probiotics.  It also has absolutely no scent or flavor, which can be an issue with cats.  Amber readily accepted it on the very first try and has been taking it for the last few weeks.  The most noticeable difference so far has been a marked decrease in the size and the smell of her stools. 

The research, and testimonials, for the benefits of digestive enzymes, are convincing.  Like pets on raw diets, enzyme supplementation can help your pets  look and feel great.  Pets on a raw diet tend to have glossy coats, clear ears and eyes, and better teeth.  They maintain their ideal weight.   They don’t have allergies or intestinal problems.   If you’re not able to feed raw, enzyme supplementation can help you achieve the same results.

As a side note, I wanted to test the benefits of digestive enzymes for myself, so I began taking them right along with Amber (not the feline version, though!  I choose a product designed for humans, Enzymedica Digest).  While I can’t say that my coat has gotten glossier, I’ve definitely noticed an improvement with my digestion!  I’ve also noticed that I don’t get hungry as quickly as I used to in between meals.   My – completely unscientific – assumption is that it may be due to the fact that my body is absorbing nutrients better as a result of the added enzymes.

Please note:  if your cat is diabetic or immuno-suppressed, digestive enzymes may be contra-indicated.  Check with your veterinarian before changing your cat’s diet or adding supplements.

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10 Responses to “Benefits of Digestive Enzymes for Pets”

  1. Debbi Docherty says:

    This is such a confusing subject for me and I’ve been debating on using the enzymes but I think I’ll give them a try. Everyone has an opinion about food and there are so many choices, it’s mind boggling. Thanks for the info. Helps me to make a decision.

  2. Mason Canyon says:

    Very helpful information for our cats and us as well. I never thought about enzymes helping us so much. Definitely something to check into. Thanks.

  3. animalartist says:

    I never realized the enzymes and probiotics could do so much, and that may be a partial solution to my raw-food dilemma, and to using raw meat to help in treating chronic illness.

    I always have venison on hand in the freezer, and I feed raw slivers warmed in my fingers as treats to the household about once a week. Even 19-year-old Peaches eats it, though she has problems with canned food that isn’t pate style, and I know the fact that she is holding off both hyperthyroidism and chronic kidney failure is due to these “treats”.

    I was also taught years ago by one of my cats who was chronically ill that raw meat is essential when the body is struggling with disease, and even cats who would not even eat canned food would happily eat raw meat, and I could see the benefit right away. I wonder if the enzymes and probiotics would help in these cases as well, now that they are readily available.

    Thanks for the info!

  4. Ingrid says:

    Debbi, I know it gets confusing trying to sort out all the varied information about diets. I’m glad this post was helpful.

    Mason, it is pretty interesting how important enzymes are to general health and well-being, not just the digestive process.

    Bernadette, I’m hoping that the enzymes can be at least a partial solution for people who can’t or won’t feed raw. That’s very interesting that you saw benefits right away when your chronically ill cat ate raw food.

  5. andrea says:

    hi…
    i am wondering if i can give the enzymes to elizabeth. she has hcm murmur 2/6 next echo-aug. no meds yet-or never we hope.
    also-she..her ears get inflamed and there is a tiny bluish polyp(?) but too small to worry about the vet said. so..well..i still worry . also-they said it might be food allergies. tried a few things. no good. she resorted to not eating..and.,.oh-a few things-wont go on. but-i personally am not sure it is a food “allergy” no micro test on the wax not other allergy testing. i need to ask. i finally got her eating again–was not easy.
    do you think this-or hcm will get in the way -or would the enzyme hurt–or help?
    just..wondering?
    will try to get more info…but it is hard-been to vet several times in short time. just -other stuff too–ear drops. laxative for stools. :( tried to give varieous good foods..wet. and a tiny bit of dry–just so when i go away for 1 night (never longer) she will have that to eat. give VERY sparingly otherwise–so she “knows shat it is” (or is that not needed?) food issues are so so complicated. -esp. with her hcm…it is complicated. .. thank you for any thoughts. i know-not enough info..but..maybe ideas on..anything? please? thanks
    andrea

  6. Ingrid says:

    Andrea, I’m not a vet, so I’m not comfortable answering your question – I would recommend that you ask the vet who treats her for the HCM to see if this is okay to give her.

  7. RickC says:

    Thanks for the info. I’m a healthy 63 y.o male. I eat the yogurt with digestive enzymes in it rather than what you mentioned. It seems to do the trick. I’ve been eating yogurt since childhood back in the 1950′s. My mother loved the stuff. We used to make our own but it became too much of a hassle (cleaning the jars, maintain the correct temperature and time to assure the proper coagulation; and making sure that the culture was alive, etc.) so we just bought it in the store. Nowadays the Greek yogurt is widely available and it has a greater abundance of the good bacteria. Eating it every other day works for me just as well as consuming it every day. For some really tasty digestive enzymes drinking raw juice from a variety of fruits and vegetables is key. There’s nothing like wheat grass, beets, carrots and an apple to get the digestive juices flowing for enough energy to last all day long! Before I retired from GM I used to take raw juice to work nearly every day and drink it for lunch. It reduced my desire for coffee to boost my energy in the late afternoon (I’m a coffee fanatic so that was something…). People used to comment that I was very energetic for my age. Living enzymes are important for optimum digestive health as you mentioned. The better the digestion the healthier the organism!

    I have a cat that eats then pukes it up on occasion. Most of the time she’s okay though. I keep her on a regular diet of the same foods and portion sizes so when she pukes it up I’m concerned. It isn’t a matter of too much food consumed although maybe she’ll eat it too fast and therefore the vomit. Her stool is firm. I don’t give her cow’s milk but only the feline suppliment kind as a treat maybe once or twice a week. It has vitamins and taurine.
    I will give her raw steak or surloin burger when I have it. She loves it and never pukes it up. I reduce her other food or eliminate it if I feed her raw meat. I don’t feed her leftovers or table scraps but I do feed her steamed or roasted chicken and a little of the skin once in awhile. Not too much fat though. Her body weight is ideal. I also crush vitamins up in her food and she rarely pukes up a hairball. So whatever is being done is helping to digest the fur she takes in from licking as well. She is very active at 10 years old — she’s playful as a kitten which makes us both happy.

    Thanks again for your info.

    • Ingrid says:

      Yogurt is a great source of naturally occuring probiotics – it’s just not something most cats will readily eat.

      Since your cat doesn’t vomit after eating raw steak or burger, you may want to consider switching her to all raw diet. You can find lots of information about that in our feline nutrition section.

  8. Theresa says:

    I have 5 cats and a dog who are all raw fed. I got lucky with the cats and had very little difficulty switching them over; however, we do have hairball issues, and I’m not sure how to control the problem. Right now, I ‘ giving them access to cat grass every few days and also anytime there is a heaving cat in the house. If nothing else, it usually induces vomiting and helps them expel the hairball so they can get it up before the next feeding. They really like the cat grass, but I wonder what else I might do to help control the problem without resorting to petroleum based products?

    • Ingrid says:

      It’s rare to have consistent hairball issues when cats are fed a raw or grain-free canned diet, Theresa, so there may be something else going on. Do you know whether it’s always the same cat, or does it happen with all of them?

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