Enzymes are catalysts for biochemical reactions. Think of tiny little keys, each one fitting into a specific lock. Dietary enzymes unlock the breakdown of carbohydrates, fats, and proteins into components that are useable by the body. We, pets and people, need enzymes to breakdown the foods we eat. Our body makes digestive enzymes, and raw foods contain enzymes as well. And that's where the problem arises.
Enzymes are heat sensitive and will be destroyed by temperatures above 116 F. That is far below the temperature at which most foods are cooked. When we eat food that is devoid of digestive enzymes, our body must do all the work. There are 3 big problems with this:
1. The body may not make enough enzymes to breakdown food completely. This causes malabsorption and putrification, which can cause gas, diarrhea, allergic-type reactions, yeast infections, skin problems, and more.
2. The greater the workload on the body, the sooner the system will show signs of wear and tear. Increased production of enzymes, partially digested foods putting greater stress on filtering systems, low-level dietary deficiencies from malabsorption are taxing over time. If we want anything to last longer, from luggage to car stereos to our bodies, we need to treat it carefully, not over work it.
3. A healthy gut is the foundation of overall health. When we don't have enough enzymes to digest food properly, bad bacteria can flourish. These bad bacteria can cause all kinds of bad things - from simple illness and allergies to cancer. (See this study of how enzyme supplementation reduced the amount of proximal carcinogens in humans.)
If you or your pet eat primarily cooked foods, it is pretty safe to assume that you are at risk in all 3 of the above areas. And yes, this applies to small animals like rabbits and birds eating a pelleted diet too. But fear not - the solution is so simple!
Option 1: Feed more raw food. I feed my dogs exclusively raw food like Primal (frozen - similar to hamburger), The Honest Kitchen (dehydrated - similar to dried soup mix), and Ziwi Peak (air dried - similar to jerky). All of these products are available for cats as well. Using raw food as a meal topper for dry food is another option for getting dietary enzymes at the time they are needed. Small animals like rabbits and birds should have species appropriate fresh vegetables and fruits daily.
Option 2: Give a digestive enzyme supplement. Available in a powder from that is sprinkled on meals. Prozyme, Animal Essential's Enzymes & Probiotics, and In Clover's Enzymes. All are available at FOLT, and all are appropriate for dogs, cats, birds and small animals.
Posts made after 2/1/2013 written by Kelly. Most older articles written by Cathy. She accepts sole responsibility for typos and bad grammarisms.