Equine Amylase Supplementation

I wrote before about the issues with horses and starch digestion, and posted a link to the study on how amylase addition helped. Here is another very good article by The Horse summarizing that same study:


Doggie Digestion

happy dog

Did you know that you can tell a lot about what is going on with your dog’s digestion by their stool? It may be obvious that they are experiencing digestive upset if they have an issue with diarrhea, but other observations may be helpful. The article below talks about some things to watch for. Often, when dogs are not digesting their food optimally, their stool will be much larger. Dog owners who supplement their dogs with enzymes often report a significant difference in the dog’s stool, indicating an improved utilization of the food. Changing to a higher-quality food with less fillers will also give your dog more readily available nutrients!


P.S. The same applies for cats!

Poultry Enzymes

Poultry Enzymes

Great article on the use of enzymes in poultry feed!  It explains how “Better feed efficiency also means fewer environmental concerns from chicken litter“.

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

Dangers of Starch in the Horse- and How Amylase Can Help


Anything you read about equine nutrition will tell you about the evils of starch.  But how many horse owners really understand WHY it is so important to avoid starch in their horse’s diet?

First of all- what is starch?  Starch is the energy store of plants.  Also called non-structural carbohydrates (NSCs), starches are found inside of plant cells.  Starch consists of two types of molecules, amylose and amylopectin.

The digestion of starch in horses begins in the small intestine with degradation by the enzyme alpha-amylase breaking the molecules into smaller units.  Amyloglucosidase from the intestinal brush border then hydrolyzes these units, releasing glucose.  This glucose can then be transported from the lumen of the small intestine, through the intestinal epithelial cells and into the bloodstream so that they can be used.  This is what happens in an ideal situation with a manageable amount of starch.  However, when too much grain is fed, or when pasture grasses are too high in NSCs, the limiting factor becomes the amylase.  When there is not enough amylase present, the starch will not be broken down in time for this process to happen in the small intestine.  Instead, starch will enter the cecum.  This is the first part of the large intestine of the horse, and is an area heavily inhabited with microorganisms.  These microorganisms aid the horse in digestion by producing digestive enzymes so that they can break down plant material.  When a large amount of starch reaches the hindgut, microbes will ferment it.  There are several disadvantages and even potential dangers to fermentation of starch in the hindgut of your horse.

First of all, fermenting the starch is a much less efficient usage than breaking it down earlier.  Not many nutrients will be gained from it at the point of the hindgut.  When starch is broken down prior to the cecum, glucose is able to be absorbed through the small intestine, and this is how the horse is able to gain maximum nutrition.

Additionally, a by-product of microbial fermentation is lactic acid.  This lowers the pH of the hindgut, causing something called “hindgut acidosis”.  This acid production can lead to several problems in the horse.  It can cause a general discomfort that may lead to attitude and behavioral problems.  It also may mean gas buildup that could lead to gas colic.  In addition to this, lactic acid from the starch-fermenting bacteria may cause the “good” bacteria to die off and release toxins into the horse’s bloodstream.  This can lead to system-wide inflammation and laminitis.

Now that you understand why people say to avoid starch in your horse’s diet, you may be concerned about the starch that IS present.  You can’t avoid starch altogether, and some starch is needed to meet the nutritional requirements of your horse.  The best thing that you can do to make sure that your horse safely digests their starch is to ensure that they have adequate digestive enzymes to break it down in their small intestine.  This will not only help prevent digestive upsets, but will also help maximize their digestive efficiency.  Horses have a limited amount of amylase, and it has also been found that their amylase enzymes are not as efficient as some bacterial and fungal amylase enzymes.  Supplemental amylase is very beneficial in the diet of any horse, and will also help your peace of mind.

Here is a very interesting study about equine alpha-amylase and starch digestion: http://www.livestocklibrary.com.au/bitstream/handle/1234/19993/191.pdf?sequence=1