Are Digestive Enzymes for Dogs & Cats Really Necessary?

Written by Nikki Lyn Pugh

Reading Time: 5 minutes

American pet owners collectively spend upwards of $63 billion per year pampering their furry loved ones, according to the American Pet Products Association (APPA). This includes a great many people who are happily willing to fork over top dollar in exchange for everything from fancy toys and plush bedding, to cute little outfits and top-notch grub.

This love of animals is fueling a burgeoning market for pet products that’s currently expanding at a rate of about four percent annually. [1]

Pet parents naturally want what’s best for their pets when it comes to their care and nourishment. That’s why the pet food market in particular has been seeing some impressive transformations. Pet owners are increasingly opting for more than just the standard kibble products of the past.

Depending on what you’re willing to spend, there are all sorts of premium, super premium, and even ultra premium pet foods on the market from which to choose. Each features a wide range of specialty ingredients and formulas.

All-natural and organic pet foods are one such segment that’s rapidly growing in popularity, along with the grain-free kibble craze. “Simple” is a popular buzzword that’s also garnering plenty of attention, as are dog and cat food formulas that contain only ingredients that are easy to identify and pronounce.

But despite all this, there’s still one key ingredient that’s often missing from even the most lavish dog and cat food products: digestive enzymes.

The Role of Digestive Enzymes for Dogs & Cats in Nutrient Absorption

Unless your cat or dog is eating a well-balanced, strict raw food diet, chances are they’re not getting very many (or even any!) enzymes in their food. It’s a widespread problem in the modern world and a particularly serious one. Especially because the primary function of enzymes is to convert larger foods into smaller nutrients that your pet’s body can use.

Consuming food without enzymes is a lot like putting fuel in a car that doesn’t have an engine and expecting it to run: it’s just not going to happen!

Pet food devoid of enzymes (which is any cooked or processed food) is energetically dead. Sure, it might make your pets happy for a little while and keep them alive, but don’t count on it to provide your furry friends with the strength and vitality they need to live long, healthy lives.

Besides the fact that their bodies aren’t designed to digest many of the ingredients, dogs and cats fed a steady and exclusive diet of conventional kibble often suffer eventual health problems. This grim reality hinges in large part upon the fact that these products are devoid of natural digestive enzymes.

That’s because when your pet isn’t getting enough enzymes, it’s also not getting enough nutrients. This creates a nutrient deficiency that, over time, can lead to chronic disease and death (as it does in humans). The only solution is to either change your pet’s diet or supplement it with the enzymes your pet needs to live a life full of health and vitality!

Why Digestive Enzymes for Dogs and Cats?

happy healthy dog playing in the grassWhen digestive enzymes are missing from food, a dog or cat’s body will draw from its internal stores until there’s nothing left.

No matter how premium a pet food product claims to be, the truth is that it’s really only as good as its enzyme content.

Remember, enzymes are the catalysts that turn crude food matter into energetic nutrition that a pet’s body can actually use to nourish itself. When enzymes are lacking, a pet’s body will attempt to fill this gap by producing its own – which isn’t sustainable.

While internal enzyme production in things like saliva and digestive acid is completely normal for pets, it isn’t a substitute for the enzymes found naturally in living foods.

Most kibble products, which are not living foods, undergo heavy processing before being bagged and stocked on store shelves, which means their enzyme content is next to nil. When pets eat this stuff, their bodies have to work overtime in order to compensate, wearing them out much more quickly than normal.

Having to produce extra digestive enzymes also places immense strain on systems like the small intestine and pancreas. Both are forced to draw all available resources to themselves in order to derive even minimal nutrition from the “dead” food they’re processing.

This not only taxes your dog or cat’s body to an enormous degree, but it further depletes their internal enzyme stores, which constitutes a recipe for a health disaster.

Digestion and Beyond: Enzymes Are the “Currency” of Life

When it comes to digestion, enzymes are categorized into three primary groupings [2]:

  • Proteases for converting proteins into amino acids
  • Lipases for converting fats into fatty acids and glycerol
  • Amylases for breaking down carbohydrates into simple sugars

But there are also many other types of enzymes that perform functions beyond just food processing like those that support immune function, inflammation levels, detoxification, waste removal, hormone regulation, and staring at a bowl of kibble

Early enzyme pioneer Dr. Edward Howell discovered back in the 1930s that enzymes are so critical to the health of both humans and animals that they are probably better categorized as nutrients.

They’re really no less important than ordinary vitamins and minerals, and enzymes deserve far more appreciation than they’re currently afforded.

Dr. Howell was also among the first to observe that enzymes function as a type of life-giving currency, with the body serving as their “bank account” for long-term storage.

Similar to how one makes cash deposits at the local bank branch, consuming enzymes in high quantities will serve to store more of them up inside the body. This is critical to the life of your pet, especially as they grow older.

Similar to how it works in humans, the aging process in pets is inversely correlated with enzyme production, meaning the older little Spot gets, the less enzymes his body is able to produce. Loading him up with enzymes as early as possible will help to give him an upper hand in life – potentially lengthening his lifespan and even helping him to maintain his lively spirit well into his older years.

It’s Never Too Late to Improve Your Pet’s Diet

Don’t fret if your furry friend is already getting up there in years, as it’s never too late to start feeding more enzyme-rich foods or supplementing their diet with living enzymes. Raw honey and bee pollen, raw dairy, and fermented vegetables are some of the most powerful enzyme-rich foods out there that will make a great addition to your pet’s diet, regardless of age.

(And remember… people are animals and need enzymes too!)

Organixx Enzyme 17 contains a whopping FIVE kinds of powerful protease enzymes in combination with one of the most advanced enzyme blends on the planet. It’s scientifically designed to help your body break down and process nutrients for better absorption, digestion, and overall health.

Organixx Enzyme 17
Nikki Lyn Pugh
Nikki Lyn Pugh, MFA, INHC is a natural health researcher and writer. She is also an integrative nutritional health coach specializing in autoimmune conditions, chronic stress, and energy medicine. She loves to inspire people to become empowered with their health through education and gentle guidance. Nikki lives and works in Cottonwood, AZ, with her bunny "Mr. Dot."

Article Summary

  • American pet owners collectively spend upwards of $63 billion per year pampering their furry loved ones. Much of that is spent on dog and cat food.

  • There’s still one key ingredient that’s often missing from pet food products (even premium ones): enzymes.

  • When enzymes are missing from food, a pet’s body will draw from his internal stores until there’s nothing left.

  • Digestive enzymes are categorized into three primary groupings:

    • Protease for breaking down protein
    • Lipase for breaking down fat
    • Amylase for breaking down carbohydrates
  • Consider adding these four enzyme-rich foods to your pet’s diet or supplementing with digestive enzymes:

    • Raw honey
    • Bee Pollen
    • Raw Dairy
    • Fermented Vegetables

Reader Interactions


    • In my experience as the director of an all-breed dog rescue, I would caution against the “Pet-Fresh” brands of refrigerated dog foods. They
      have a very short shelf life, and should be thrown out after about three days. Because they are refrigerated, most consumers think they can be kept for long periods because of this. I purchased one package of Pet Fresh and noticed that, after only three days, it started to become moldy. Mold can kill! I would much rather recommend the frozen raw dog foods, using only small portions at a time and keeping the rest frozen. Other good choices are canned sardines (again, not kept past three days in the refrigerator), canned pumpkin, raw meaty bones (for a tiny dog, raw chicken wings are good).

      • I use Dr. Marty’s Nature’s Blend food for my gorgeous Morkie named Mandy. It is a freeze dried raw food and has Flax & prebiotics , omega 3’s and organs. All naturally derived vitamins and minerals and is grain free. Plus it contains all the nutrients and she needs. I cannot believe the difference in her energy and coat since I started her on this 6 months ago.

  1. I have 3 large dogs making the cost of this product impossible. Guess it wouldn’t be as profitable for you if it were simply an ingredient added to a good quality kibble that most people could actually afford.

  2. Since I watch and purchased the 7 day webinar, I stopped giving my dog kibble. I changed his diet for the better. Thank you.

    • I use Stella and Chewy’s freeze dried brand. Just know the company you’re dealing with. A lot of huge conglomerates have purchased some brands and have changed recipes for profit sake. Make sure the food is from the US.

    • I feed my dogs a mostly raw food diet; no kibble. I supplement with Primal raw dog nuggets and there hasn’t been a recall on that. I wonder if the dog food industry is behind this so called recall. People are beginning to recognize the value of feeding a species specific diet to their pets.

  3. I was under the impression that cats are strictly carnivores thus only meat eaters. To add vegetables into their diet is for us not them. Dogs can have them but apparently vegetables are not for cats, certainly not dairy so I am not sure why it’s being suggested in the section under “ it’s never to late to improve your pets diet”.

    • Indeed, in fact our felines are considered obligate hypercarnivores . I have been raw feeding my own cats for many years .
      SO many of the health issues our poor felines are facing these days are due to feeding them basically junk food for pets, food their digestive systems ( which have NOT changed since before they were domesticated ) find it extremely difficult to cope with, such as kibble / carbohydrate heavy cat food, aka a species INappropriate diet .
      It is VERY important to be aware that our felines are in fact descended from desert animals , & as such they do not instinctively possess a very high thirst drive. Pet food, especially kibble is extremely detrimental to feline health, especially in the longer term, being only around 8% moisture against around 70% moisture for wet /raw, as our cats having an instinctively low thirst drive , they do not FEEL thirsty, they are not driven to drink as their digestive systems a developed to extract moisture from the food that they eat, thus they do NOT tend to make the difference up at the water bowl, no matter HOW MUCH we may SEE them drink. it has been found that a purely kibble fed cat only drinks around half the amount of fluid that a wet/raw fed cat does, this discrepancy leaves the cat with overly concentrated urine, & it leaves the cat in a state of chronic ongoing mild dehydration , which will go unnoticed, & is not observable … at first.
      They also cannot metabolise dietary carbohydrates very well at all, & for several reasons, they do not posses dietary amylase for one, thus in particular the kibble based culture being recommended by our misguided misinformed vets, who , unless they do their OWN independent research tend to get all their feline nutritional information from big pet food ( those who profit from the sale of these foods ), & we have to also keep in mind the other elephant in the room & ask the awkward question here as to who profits from the knock on health problems which so often result from the feeding of these diets , those conditions such as FLUTD, the blockages / stones / urinary problems such as cystitis & also CKD ( chronic kidney disease ) which so often sets in as they grow older due to the stress put on these organs from insufficient moisture &, also potentially the diabetes which can often arise from the years of feeding excessive dietary carbohydrates, & also digestive disorders such as IBD, & this risk, though lower, & a improvement of sorts will still apply, whether this cooked adulterated food be grain based, or connected to other carbs such as potato peas etc which are substituted for grain in ‘ grain free’ cat food,
      These ‘healthier choices’ such as grain free, are being heavily promoted right now due to the pet food industry realising that savvy consumers are becoming via the internet much more informed via advocacy of what our felines SHOULD ideally be eating for optimum health, ( a raw species appropriate diet ), & also the detrimental effects of feeding their heavily laden carbohydrate grain based products, particularly in the longer term .
      An example here : When our poor fur babies develop CKD from that kibble over time, what happens when we take them to the vet ? … they are often then put on kibble, a prescription dry kibble diet for that CKD. This, bearing in mind the above, is SO very wrong its unreal .
      Please look at the teeth of a feline, & research in depth the history of the pet food industry & all connected subjects, become informed, as our vets, sadly on feline nutritional matters are not so much, & lastly always keep in mind the following ..
      When did YOU last see a lion, or a tiger eating kibble for dinner ? or a wildcat of any description cooking its prey, its food before eating it?
      This link is very informative, a good place to start , also google feline nutrition, & cat for more information on our precious felines & the subject of diet.

    • I meant to say ‘ they do not possess salivary amylase above ‘ ^^^ not dietary amylase , my apologies .

    • awww sorry to hear that. Take baby steps, one thing at a time. Check out and for more info on how to get your health on track first. For the animals, for now, just don’t buy the cheapest products, they are the worst.

  4. It should be our vets. who are spreading the word re. TRUE dog nutrition, but as they barely cover the subject in their university curriculum ( and have little to gain from clients knowing the truth ) it’s very unlikely that they will ever tell owners what they need to hear!

  5. I want to make dog food for my dog, but everyone seems to favor something different. Can you give me a dog food recipe?

  6. I am looking for a healthy cat and a dog food that is affordable on my budget. Can you recommend a healthy food for both of them? Thank you

    • I have a cocker, 10 yrs. old. eats poop and sometimes grass. I am housebound and need to know how to correct this and what kind of food she should be eating.
      Thank youu

  7. We have an almost 20 year old cat. I recieve a lousy $885 per month on social security. It’s very difficult to survive. I split 1 can of Fancy Feast between 2 cats. Is there anything natural I can give them to help with enzymes? We’re currently in the (nasty) desert. Social worker put us here. I’m so concerned.

  8. We have three cats. This is way too expensive for us to buy since one container only last for 30 days. We love our pets but there has to be a line where we have to say if it is really good for our pets it should be affordable.

  9. I have an 11 year old Jack Russell who has lab verified episodic pancreatitis. Can I give her the digestive enzymes?

    • Sue,
      We would suggest speaking with a trusted vet about your pet’s specific health issues and how digestive enzymes might effect them.

  10. Bee pollen from a local beekeeper is affordable. I just dis overexposed Halo. No grains, no animal meal. I hope it’s a good one

  11. Dogs in Thailand get left overs or just plain rice. Dry food in Australia contains unfit ingredients like oil which has been deemed unsafe for human consumption, potentially carcinogenic, which they also put in stock feed – the stock then are eaten by us & our pets. Add in GMOs, antibiotic, drugs, pesticides, fertilisers & goodness knows what else & you have a time bomb. Cheaper in the long run to cook extra food for your dog including fermented food (good tip guys, thank you). Also ensure your food is grown using rotting material (compost, worm farms) to produce fulvic acid which carry nutrients to cells. This is the problem with modern agriculture. Not only is our food nutrient poor but it lacks the enzymes to carry and absorb the nutrients. Illness only affects plants & animals which are nutrient poor & have things out of balance like pH, & (not plants) oil ratios (omega 3, 6, 9). We need to return to a traditional diet. We have been arrogant people to think we are above nature. Cudos to native peoples & “the 3rd world” rejecting WHO & WAO advice on how their traditional food is unhealthy.

  12. I would love a good recipe for dog food I have a Chihuahua that was a rescue,it was alMost dead ,he’s still a little thin

    • Hello there, I have one rescue Jack Russel and a Havanese dog. They are both 2 years old. I feed them fresh meat and fresh organic just blanched veggies cut very small. The Havanese never had any other food. I tried some high protein kibbles, but he seldom takes a few. We have fun together in the kitchen preparing their food, so, make it fun for you and the pups.

    • Take kibbled dog food and mix in some drippings from any meats that you cook for yourself, it is healthy for your dog and they will love you for it. Also, give them “FRESH” bones or boiled bones, the marrow and bones themselves are great additional nutrients.

    • Charmaine Lopez,
      rescued a near dead, starving Chihuahua 4yrs. ago.
      He was 1lb when I found him, he is nearly 3&1/2lbs now.
      I didnt think he would survive the 1st few days, but, he just turned 19yrs old.
      U can look up his story on facebook, If u have questions about feeding/supplements, u can contact me thru pNuts messenger. Best of luck with your new fur baby. Chih’s r awsum!

  13. So what’re the brands recommended for dogs?? I can give mine enzymes from raw honey, etc., but WHO/BRAND do you know is healthiest for dogs???

    • Mic,
      Are you asking what type of enzymes are the best for dogs? Or what the best brand of food is for dogs?

  14. I would like to know how to supplement electrolytes when drinking distilled or purified water? I would like to be able to supplement for my pets water too.

  15. I started doing this a few weeks back. Its awesome to get affirmation to what I started doing by instinct !
    People who know me will understand this. Dogs need enzymes. I started doing this before I read the article below. I know, I am a freak, actually I am a freak about my dog, and anybody who knows me, knows that (and hopefully loves me anyway). So, I’ve been feeding her spinach, kale, carrots, apple, blueberries, and blackberries, along with her can and kibble food. Dogs (wolves) in the wild eat rabbits, and they eat also eat the rabbits stomach, which is full of predigested veggie bits that rabbit ate earlier. So if I just put raw fruits and veggies into Bella’s bowl, her short digestive tract would be almost completely unable to digest these and get the nutrients from them her body needs in their raw state. So…for the past few weeks I have been adding my digestive enzymes by chewing said fruits and vegetables in my mouth, and chewing them very well, and instead of swallowing, yep, they go into the dog food bowl, along with spirulina powder, nutritional yeast, tumeric powder and moringa leaf (anti cancer herb from south america). Its a really easy way to feed her raw food she can actually digest. It might seem gross, but its pretty instinctual for me.

  16. My cat is 18 years old. She has no health problems. I got her when she was 6 weeks old. She is a Manx with a temper sometimes. I fed her Purina cat chow for years. Then as she got a little the Vet recommended to switch her to a better quality food which she was eating the Taste of the wild, before they sold the company. Then the ingredients changed. And she no longer liked it. So I asked the vet what should I give her and she suggest a canned food. Newman Own. She loves it and is very healthy.. She is 18 years young ! That says something right here.

    • Judy,
      We don’t have any specific brands that we recommend. We may have recommendations in the future.

  17. I really like ty bollinger but i am getting tired of all the emails that are prmoting products. It seems a little tacky to me when someone is pushing their product. Leaves a bad taste and discredits him.

    • Wendy,
      Thanks for the feedback! We have been asked for years what we use or what supplements we recommend. If this isn’t something you are interested in you can always unsubscribe from our emails.

  18. I would love a recipe for making healthy catfood for my two dears. I hate to think what I’ve been doing to them feeding them commercial food. If we could find a way to do away with money most of our problems would be solved.

  19. Can’t afford all these add ons . Pet food is too expensive too. The problem is the same fir adult food….not enough enzymes.

  20. inn the program you mention cats have different sensativities than dogs so when you refer to dairy and bee pollen are cats ok on these? How would we know if honey might bump them into diabetes if they have a tendency?
    aslo I feel there needs to be a way to be able to feed our pets healthy and raw where we don’t have to spend a fortune or worry about salmonella….etc. it should be a right to have sustainable food..makes me sick to think we are slowly killing our pets as some of mine have had cancer and diabetes the whole gambit…so sad

  21. Cats can’t digest. You should make a clear distinction of something like this at the site of the first posting of information. If I’m the one who is wrong on this, please correct me. If I’m right , please correct the post about adding this for cat pets.

  22. I am trying to change diet for my 5 year old lab who is so itchy he keeps me awake at night, scratches his lips till they bleed and licks his backside raw. Vet wants me to allergy test him for $700 when I see this as food allergies. Help!!! What can I do?

    • Poor dog. I have some ideas that may be helpful that I used for my dog. He lived longer. I did not need a vet to help us. Contact me.

      • I too am interested in getting some information. I have a Shitzu Yorkie mix and he’s suffered with itchy skin for years. He’s now five years old and he spends hours scratching and biting his skin until it’s raw. Any suggestions would be great 🙂

    • I too am in the same predicament with my fur baby. He’s up all night scratching and biting his itchy skin. I spent $150. on a food intolerance test and modified his diet but it has only been a week so I am not sure if it is working. If you find out any information…please share. I am desperate to help my baby.

  23. I add turmeric powder, ginger powder, cinnamon, and moringa powder to the kibble and allow it to soak in hot purified water for 40 minutes before serving. The vet tells me that she would judge my 12 year old chocolate lab to be seven. She says “Don’t stop doing what you are doing!”
    Another thing about my dog is that she’s like a little goat. I harvest kale, collards, and mustard greens daily and she will eat bowls of the chopped stalks. Gotta be a lot of enzymes there!

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