The use of enzyme supplements in large animals has been around since the early 1980’s, but it is only rather recently that the use of enzymes for pets has started to catch on.  Enzymes are naturally occurring proteins that act as biological catalysts.  The complex biochemical reactions that make up digestion of food in animals are regulated by thousands of enzymes, each promoting a specific reaction that takes place countless times every day.  Enzyme supplementation in farm animals shows numerous benefits, including aiding in the overall health of farm animals and increasing nutritional utilization of the food given to the animal.  Additionally, enzymes in feed supplements can increase weight gain over a shorter period of time and increase feed efficiencies.  It is for these same basic reasons that the use of enzyme supplements for pets has started to catch on.  Animal feed and pet foods are typically composed of plant material, cereals and vegetable proteins, which cannot be fully digested and utilized by animals.  Enzymes are required to fully digest the food and most animals don’t have enough of the required enzymes to fully digest the food.  In addition, when pet foods are heat processed (as most are), enzyme concentrations in the food itself can be significantly reduced.  For this reason, adding digestive enzymes to pet food will enhance absorption of nutrients. Feed utilization and digestion can often be increased by the addition of external enzymes to the pet food.

There are a number of enzyme supplements on the market designed for pet use.  They typically contain enzymes such as alpha-amylase, cellulase, lipase and protease.  These enzymes are typically manufactured from microbial fermentation processes from certain fungal species including Aspergillus oryzae and  Aspergillus niger.  These enzymes will break down certain parts of pet food.  For example, many cereals have a proportion of their energy in the form of non­starch polysaccharides (NSPs), more commonly known as fibre.  Enzymes are to break down these NSPs, which lead in increase of metabolisable energy and protein utilization.  It is for this reason that pet enzyme supplements such as Prozyme for Pets (from PRN Pharmacal) can unlock food nutrients to improve digestion.  This allows for a more efficient use of the pet food by the pet and therefore less food can be given to the pet at any one time.  That should help with the bottom line of holding down costs to the pet owner!

Dr. Dan DuBourdieu

Dr. Dan holds a Ph.D. and M.S. degree from the University of Minnesota and a B.A. from Macalester College.  He has been involved in basic cell biology, biochemistry and immunology research at Hoffmann La Roche Inc., ImmuCell Inc. and other research companies.  He has worked with Bomac Vet-Plus Inc. for a number of years doing animal nutrition product research and development.