What Are Enzymes and How Can They Help Your Pets?

We have jumped right into talking about enzymes, but what exactly ARE they? Enzymes are protein molecules which perform specific functions. They are not “alive”, like probiotics, but they are only active under certain conditions. This is because proteins- which are made of chains of amino acids- can easily be denatured. Excessive heat or extremes in pH can disrupt the bonds that hold proteins together, rendering enzymes ineffective. This is why enzymes are best stored under refrigeration, or at least in a cool, dry place to maintain maximum activity. Enzymes can come from different sources- animal, plant, or microbial. Animal-sourced enzymes tend to have less stability over different pH ranges. Enzymes from plant sources (such as Papain from papaya and Bromelain from pineapple) and microbial (fungal and bacterial) sources are generally tolerant of wider pH and temperature ranges.

So- what do these proteins do? Enzymes have specific substrates that they act upon. For example, Amylases act on Starch, Cellulases act on Cellulose, and Proteases act on Proteins. In the case of these digestive enzymes, the enzymes work to break these substrate molecules into smaller constituents. Amylase enzymes take the more complex molecule starch and break it down into simple sugars. This is useful in pets such as dogs because sugars are more easily absorbed in the digestive tract. Undigested starch can cause problems (such as bloating) in several animals. However, since each enzyme only acts on a specific substrate, a digestive blend of enzymes should include a range of enzymes which will act upon all components of the food. Dogs cannot digest certain plant components such as cellulose, so supplemental cellulase can help them gain additional nutrients from a source that is otherwise not utilized.

More complete digestion of food provides a great benefit to both pets and owners. Pets tend to experience less digestive disturbances that may be associated with poorly digested food, and they may also gain a healthier looking coat due to the increase in available nutrients. In addition to this, many owners notice smaller, more consistent stools from their dogs due to the fact that less food is getting passed out undigested.

Many of the digestive problems that dogs and cats experience today are the result of a diet consisting only of processed foods lacking enzymes. Whether you feed cooked kibble or a raw diet, all pets can benefit from the addition of enzymes to improve digestion and overall health.
Please feel free to send us an e-mail with any questions about enzymes! animal@specialtyenzymes.com

Intro to Phytase


There are certain enzymes that we are more familiar with, such as the amylase I have discussed in an earlier blog.  Amylases break down starches.  Lipases break down fats, and proteases break down proteins.  However, one of the most widely used enzymes in the animal feed industry is an enzyme called phytase.  The substrate of phytase (the molecule that it acts upon) is phytic acid, an organic form of phosphorus found in grains and seeds.  Why does this matter?  Monogastric animals (non-ruminants) cannot produce (a significant amount) of their own phytase.  Therefore, they can’t break down phytic acid in their diet, so they can’t utilize phosphorus from this source.  This form of phosphorus ends up passing out of the animal in its undigested form.  This is not only wasteful, but also is a significant contributor to phosphate pollution in the environment.

One industry that uses phytase supplementation extensively is the poultry farming industry.  Birds are raised in the most cost-effective manner, which requires maximum utilization of their feed.  If they are passing a phosphorus source through their systems without using it, they are throwing away the farmers’ money.  In this case, the owner of the operation will have to supplement with additional phosphorus to meet the birds’ dietary needs.  The most cost-effective solution is to add phytase to the feed.  This way, less supplemental phosphorus is needed, and there is less phosphate pollution in the birds’ waste.  Other enzymes, such as xylanases and mannanases are also extremely beneficial in poultry farming to maximize feed utilization.  They similarly break down parts of the diet that are otherwise indigestible to the animals.  These are increasing in use, especially as consumers demand foods grown without the use of as many medications and antibiotics.

Swine growers often use phytase for the same reasons as poultry growers.  It helps to increase available phosphorus in the diet while reducing environmental pollution.  Phytase can also be included in equine supplements in combination with several other beneficial enzymes.  The way to optimize effectiveness is to choose the particular enzymes and dosages based on the feed components and the nutritional needs of the animal.  Please feel free to contact me with any questions regarding enzymes in animal feed, or with any suggestions for a blog topic! animal@specialtyenzymes.com