Digestive Health in Dogs and Cats

More than 6.5 million dogs and 12.4 million cats suffer from chronic digestive problems*. The symptoms they experience include gas, diarrhea, bloating and nausea. Many more pets suffer the occasional digestive upset due to changing to a new food, antibiotic use or stress. Having intestinal discomfort is no fun for our pets, or for us, but there are effective means to help make them more comfortable and to strengthen their digestive system, naturally.

*MRC Omnibus Study

Digestive Enzymes = Natural Nutrient Delivery System

Digestive enzymes breakdown and deliver nutrients from a pet’s food to every part of the body. We all try to do the right thing for the other member of the family, our pet, but there are many factors that decrease the amount of enzymes available to our pets. Enzyme drains include; age, strenuous exercise, illness, stress, processed diet, genetic factors or antibiotic use. Pets experiencing any of these enzyme drains will benefit from supplementation.

The four key enzymes for dogs and cats are:

  • Protease for Muscle: Provides protein digestion in the stomach and small intestine to build muscle
  • Amylase for Energy: Digests starchy foods to release simple sugars for energy.
  • Cellulase for Fiber: Provides dogs and casts with the enzyme to digest cellulose, reducing the bulking effect of fibrous foods.
  • Lipase for Overall Health: Digests fatty acids allowing the pet to absorb Omega-3 Fatty Acids and Vitamins A, D, E and K .

"We all try to do the right thing for the other member of the family, our pet, but there are many factors that decrease the amount of enzymes available to our pets. Enzyme drains include; age, strenuous exercise, illness, stress, processed diet, genetic factors or antibiotic use."


Deposit Enzymes for a Rainy Day

Enzymes are destroyed in the normal processing of most commercial pet foods. Supplementing with enzymes is an effective way to replace the loss due to heating and processing but there are significant differences in enzymes. Plant based enzymes are stable at the pH of a dog and cat’s digestive system and will start working in the esophagus and continue to the tail. Many industrial or animal based enzymes are effective only at pH levels that are not commonly found in the body, and therefore are of less value.

Because vitamins, minerals and hormones cannot do their jobs without enzymes, a deficiency will affect not just digestion, but the pet’s overall health. Some of the signs of enzyme deficiency and poor digestion include; excessive itching, shedding, hair balls, body odor, rash, runny nose, bad breath, diarrhea, constipation, infection and poor immune system. Supplementing with digestive enzymes can not only address a digestive deficiency, but can also aid in creating stores in the body that will benefit immune function and the pet’s overall health.

Increased Friendly Bacteria = Improved Gastrointestinal Health

Another important tool in the natural digestive health toolbox is native friendly bacteria.

  • Your pet’s digestive system is home to hundreds of different species of both beneficial and potentially harmful bacteria. These intestinal bacteria exist in a delicate balance that influence the way your pet digests food and absorb nutrients. An optimal balance of power between friendly and unfriendly bacteria must be maintained for good health.
  • Your pet’s friendly bacteria play a critical role in many aspects of immune responses. They help to resist infection, and keep the potentially harmful bacteria at bay by helping control their population. They also fight toxins and other internal stresses that can threaten a pet’s health.

Adding a prebiotic to your pet’s food helps friendly bacteria thrive. Prebiotics are the fast food for these friendly bacteria. Prebiotics do not have to be refrigerated and will selectively feed the beneficial, native bacteria in the dog and cat’s system. Prebiotics such as fructooligosaccharides (FOS) are natural and safe. FOS is found naturally in mother’s milk.

Whether you are changing to a new food, your pet is on antibiotics, or you just want to keep their digestive system healthy, supplementing with a digestive aid helps keep your pet comfortable and at the top of their health.


Author: Rebecca Rose, president of In Clover, Inc. Ms. Rose is a biochemist and the developer of animal health products. She is the author of three patents on the composition and method for treating joint disorder in vertebrates. Rebecca is a member of the National Animal Supplement Council’s Executive Committee and chairs the Membership Committee. In Clover is the maker of OptaGest™ , a complete digestive aid of clinically-proven levels of prebiotic and four plant enzymes.


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The articles and information in the Holistic Healthcare Library are presented for informational purposes only and are not intended as an endorsement of any product. The information is not intended to be a substitute for visits to your local veterinarian. Instead, the content offers the reader information and opinions written by our staff, guest authors, and/or veterinarians concerning animal health issues and animal care products.

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