Is Your Dog or Cat's "Healthy" Diet Missing These 7 Key Elements?

Written by Nikki Lyn Pugh

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Dog and cat food comes in all shapes, flavors, varieties, and formulas. But it might surprise you to learn that even high-end dog and cat food brands that you assume are “healthy” are often still missing one vital ingredient… enzymes.

In fact, much of the pet food on store shelves is lacking in at least seven unique enzyme types that are critical for healthy digestion and absorption of nutrients. Enzymes are inherently delicate and very easily damaged or destroyed by heat and other factors [1].

Enzymes are typically absent from anything that’s been cooked or processed – including most major pet food brands on the market today. This is a serious problem. Without enzymes in their diets, dogs and cats are deprived of an important energetic substance that directly contributes to [2]:

  • proper nourishment
  • sustained energy production
  • vibrant immunity
  • healthy body weight
  • sturdy teeth and gums
  • balanced detoxification
  • strong bones and joints

All of these are vital for your four-legged friend to live a long and vivacious life.

Without Enzymes, Pet’s Bodies Are Forced to Compensate

dog waiting for food by bowlThere are essentially two classes of enzyme that dogs and cats need for optimal health [3]:

  1. digestive enzymes
  2. metabolic enzymes

The two are very similar, with the primary difference being that digestive enzymes are supposed to come from food, while metabolic enzymes are manufactured inside the body.

When animals consume what they were designed to eat (living foods that haven’t been cooked or otherwise altered), they get plenty of digestive enzymes naturally.

This allows the metabolic enzymes to perform their respective duties. Unfortunately, most pets aren’t given the raw food diets of their wild ancestors, and their bodies need to adjust to make up for the enzyme deficiency.

Metabolic enzymes can be repurposed to serve as digestive enzymes when necessary. Your pet’s body can produce a finite (limited) amount of enzymes before exhausting itself and depleting its internal stores. This is when problems like digestive dysfunction start to arise, which can eventually progress into various chronic diseases.

This grim scenario is obviously something that every pet owner wants to avoid, which is why it’s critical to take action before the situation spirals out of control. This requires either completely revamping your pet’s diet to include more raw and native foods, or actively supplementing it with digestive enzymes in order to fill the nutritional gap.

A Healthy Diet for Dogs & Cats Requires Enzymes

Not everyone has the time and budget to prepare a well-balanced raw food diet for their pet on a daily basis. Many conscious pet owners choose to enhance their pets’ existing diets with a high-quality enzyme supplement, making them more nutritionally complete.

But what, exactly, constitutes a high-quality enzyme supplement? And more specifically, which enzymes are most critical for the health of your pet?

It all starts with the four basic types of digestive enzymes: amylase, protease, lipase, and cellulose [4].

#1: Amylase, an enzyme primarily found in saliva and pancreatic fluid that’s responsible for converting starches and glycogens into simple sugars. In essence, amylase catalyzes the conversion of carbohydrates into smaller monosaccharides like glucose, fructose, and galactose that a pet’s body can actually absorb. These monosaccharides travel through the intestines into the blood and liver, where they’re transformed into a usable source of energy.

If your pet pal seems to lack energy on a regular basis, this could be a sign of an amylase deficiency. This is because carbohydrates consumed aren’t being broken down into their simplest and most usable forms for energy production. Other common symptoms of amylase deficiency include skin rashes, constipation and gas, and blood sugar problems [5], which represent many of the same symptoms associated with other enzyme deficiencies.

#2: Protease, or proteolytic enzyme, is responsible for hydrolyzing, or breaking down, the peptide bonds of food proteins in amino acids. Amino acids are the basic building blocks of proteins that a pet’s body utilizes for basically every essential biological process. Whether it’s generating new cell tissue, building muscle mass, manufacturing hormones, or balancing fat stores, amino acids are there to make it happen [6].

#3: Lipase is the enzyme responsible for breaking down lipids, which are also known as fats. In the presence of triglycerides, lipase works alongside liver bile to split fat molecules into their base components, which include fatty acids and monoglycerides: two fundamental fat compounds that function as backup sources of energy for a pet’s body, as well as fuel for the central nervous, endocrine, and cardiovascular systems [7].

#4: Cellulase is an enzyme that tackles the breakdown and assimilation of vegetable fibers and other cellular material found in plants. Like other enzymes, it converts larger, less-absorbable substances into smaller, more absorbable substances. Unlike amylase, protease, and lipase, cellulase isn’t produced inside a pet’s body at all, which means it has to be supplemented through nutrition.

You may be surprised to learn that your pet may not be getting everything they need from their food. Watch this video to learn more about the seven critical nutrients that are likely missing from your pet’s diet.

#5: Bromelain is another digestive enzyme similar to protease that helps ease the burden of breaking down proteins. Most commonly found in the flesh and stems of pineapples, bromelain has been found to support healthy inflammation levels, help relieve pain, reduce swelling, and boost wound healing [8].

A 2010 mouse study published in the journal Inflammatory Bowel Disease reported that bromelain given to mice with colitis “decreases inflammation severity and the incidence and multiplicity of inflammation-associated colonic neoplasiahas [9].”

#6: Xylanase plays a more distinct enzymatic role, breaking down a very specific type of fiber known as hemicellulose, found in vegetable and plant matter, into a simple sugar known as xylose. Xylanase works to produce more food matter for the beneficial bacteria that live inside a pet’s gut, as this collective microbiome is responsible for extracting and assimilating nutrients while further supporting the digestive process [10].

#7: Beta glucanase is actually a grouping of enzymes that, similar to amylase, is responsible for breaking down carbohydrates. It differs, however, in the fact that it targets a specific type of polysaccharide known as beta glucans that, without the presence of beta glucanase, can’t be digested naturally by your pet’s body.

Beta glucans function as a type of intestinal fiber that helps to promote regularity, balance cholesterol and blood sugar levels. They also prevent the formation of damaging bacterial growths known as “biofilms” that directly contribute to the formation of malignant yeast overgrowths like Candida albicans [11].

Why Your Pet Needs More Enzymes

When all of these powerful enzymes are joined together, they create a digestive army of synergistic crusaders that ensures every last nutrient in your pet’s food is put to good use.

This enzymatic entourage also frees up your pet’s metabolic enzymes to perform their normal functions, rather than picking up the slack of the digestive enzymes that are nowhere to be found in most store-bought kibble.

Remember: Even if the food you give your pet falls on the healthier end of the spectrum, it’s more than likely still deficient in enzymes. That’s why most pets can still benefit greatly when their food is fortified with natural, living enzymes.

Oh, and by the way… people 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.

ENZYME 17 - Advanced Enzyme Formula
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

  • Modern pet food is generally lacking in many enzyme types that are critical for healthy digestion & absorption of nutrients.

  • There are two classes of enzyme that pets need for optimal health: digestive enzymes and metabolic enzymes.

  • 7 enzymes most critical for the health of your pet:

    1. Amylase
    2. Protease
    3. Lipase
    4. Cellulose
    5. Bromelain
    6. Xylanase
    7. Beta glucanase


  1. I feed my dogs on a raw diet containing meat, bone, offal and organ meat and in my opinion all animals should be fed a species appropriate diet (BARF or Biologically Appropriate Raw Food)!

    • I also feed my dogs a raw diet of fresh beef, Roo & mixed vegetables that i mince up.Then they get chicken necks, beef marow bones to clean their teeth.

    • Our dog was diagnosed with a loose patella-knee cap--and scheduled for a $2500, unguaranteed surgery. Someone told us about feeding raw. Within two weeks of feeding raw, Sparky no longer screamed in pain when his patella dislodged. Just two weeks! Surprisingly, our vet was and is, very against raw food for dogs. But, our dog is healthy and we are grateful.

      • Sad to say many vets don't know about raw food diets as they have many incentives from they pet food business. Pet food companies and vaccines are always lobbying doctors, political figures and other health care professionals which has now resulted in forced vaccinations for both animals and humans. Yet everyone is less healthy, there are more outbreaks of disease. Common sense is ...this is not working!

        It is never too late as I have a rescue Jack Russell who was fed the cheapest kibble as a youngster and has been eating raw since 4 years of age. I also give him supplements and probiotics, coconut oil and at 15 he is going strong!

  2. Thank you for this info it is very helpful, as are all your reports. Vets do not tell us all we need to know. Lost 2 -14yr old pets this yr who i wish i could have help them more.Vet said i did my very best , but i miss them.


    • Thank you so much for all information it is so help fool I was planning to buy all series to spread the people I Was short of money I'm steel like to get is it steel available and this nutrient is so important I will get later. God bless you work

    • I have 'done my best' on more than one occasion, but when you lose someone it is of small comfort since they are gone. I am glad that I did my all, but my babies that went last year are sorely missed as I am sure yours are. I only got keep two of them for six and nine years respectively. It hurts.

  3. I appreciate all you've written about pets. However, I have a kitty who is so picky, she'll only eat Friskies which is really crappy food. I've attempted to feed her healthy, but she'll starve before eating it! She's lost a lot of weight - how do I get her to eat what you're suggesting???

    • Try blending higer quality food with it to phase out the friskies. Any over the counter canned food at grocery store is poor quality. High in by products. My cat lived to be 21 years old. She just passed almost 3 weeks ago now. I did not feed her raw but both high end wet and dry food.

    • Try sardines with her kibble. It adds the omega 3's . Add coconut oil as well. Slowly wean the kitty off. Try different foods. Beef heart, beef liver, chicken gizzards. Experiment.,

      • Being critical doesn' help this person deal with her kitty's problem. She is asking for advice so she can take better care of her cat.

    • Wondering if the enzymes in (I use) Braggs Organic Apple Cider Vinegar will help. I put a 50% solution of organic Apple Cider vinegar & water on my cats fur (legs, paws, sides – as long as they can reach it) to lick off (they dont like it, but it helps) morning & night for two days, when they have a Urinary Tract infection (bleeding in the urine, painful) & the bleedng stops totally & they are happy again!?. Amazing. (Apparently too much salt in their diet, causes crystals in their urine, which causes the bleeding when they urinate!! Not nice!)

      Yes, I have mainly fed my cats some top (?) brand dry food which unfortunately doesnt help. Have supplemented with a tin of 'tuna in springwater' & water, as advised by a Vet.

      So point being, could this Apple Cider Vinegar be a point of supplement for pets (especially urinary & perhaps their bowel processes too).

      Oh & have used Cod Liver Oil with bowel issues (like not being able to poop too) on the fur (as above) & had success within a few days. So not sure, but be interesting to see if helps dogs digestive system

      too. Just a suggestion.

      ?? Cat lover.

      • Thanks for the suggestions regarding ACV on paws and CLO as well. I never thought of that and it's a great way to get the kitties to ingest these healthful nutrients. :)

    • We would suggest speaking with a trusted veterinarian about your kittens diet and how to help your kitten eat better. Best wishes!

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