Why Raw? Helping Digestion in Dogs and Cats

There are over 78 million owned dogs and over 84 million owned cats in the United States.  This contributes to the over $20 billion pet food industry.  If you own a dog or cat, you have surely seen the endless food choices, and there is a good chance that you may not think there is much of a difference.  Dog food is dog food, right?  Don’t they just eat meat?  Dogs are designed to eat meat, but if you look at the kibble that you buy at the store, it likely does not resemble any kind of meat you are familiar with.  This is because even if you have selected a food with a high protein content that is made of meat products, it has been highly processed.  Cooking and processing food to make it into a kibble drastically changes its properties from the state the food would be in if the dog were to eat it naturally.

There is a growing recognition in the pet food industry that these processed foods are not natural for dogs.  This has led to the development of several raw food diets for pets.  While this may sound unappetizing to us as humans, it is actually the way that our pets evolved to eat.  The ancestors of your cat or dog had to hunt for their food, and they did not cook it prior to eating it!  Why feed a raw diet?  Normal pet foods will provide your pet with the recommended levels of protein, fat, vitamins and minerals, but the main thing that processed foods will not include is enzymes.  Raw foods are rich in natural enzymes, but these are denatured when foods are cooked.  Enzymes aid in the breakdown of components of food, helping it to be better utilized by your pet.  Nutritional deficiencies in pets can manifest themselves in several ways, from weight loss to poor skin/coat, to the unpleasant habit of coprophagia.  A raw food diet may help alleviate several problems by helping get your pet back to the way they are naturally meant to eat. Raw filet steak

However, a raw food diet may not be feasible for your situation, or your pet may still have some digestive issues once on this diet.  Enzyme supplementation for your pet is an increasingly well-recognized option to help their digestion.  If they are on a processed diet, enzyme supplementation will help replace the natural enzymes that were destroyed in their food when it was cooked.  If they are on a raw diet, it will give them even more of what they need to properly break down their food so that it can be fully absorbed.  If your pet still seems to have digestive upsets, supplementing with a probiotic may help restore the natural balance of “good” bacteria in their gut.

Whether or not you want to commit to a raw food diet for your cat or dog, adding enzymes and probiotics can drastically help to keep their digestive system in balance!  If you have any questions regarding the use of enzymes or probiotics, or if there are any particular topics you would like to see covered on this blog, send me an e-mail, I would love to hear from you! jamie@specialtyenzymes.com

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

Reiner

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