An enzyme is a compound that speeds the rate of a chemical process. Almost all enzymes are proteins. Proteins are composed of amino acids. These are composed of carbon, hydrogen, oxygen, nitrogen, and sometimes other atoms in specific configurations. Your pet's pancreas secretes digestive enzymes into the small intestine to facilitate the chemical portion of digestion. The pancreas also produces insulin. Amylase digests starch, lipase digests fats. Enzymes are also present in raw food, but are denatured by heat processing which can alter their biological activity. The addition of enzymes to processed food can aid in digestion. If a pet exhibits the signs of digestive disorders such as vomiting, diarrhea, coprophagy (ingesting stool), flatulence, allergies or pancreatic insufficiency (underweight), he may benefit from enzyme supplementation.
A veterinarian can perform blood tests to measure serum enzyme levels, and to test for pancreatitis or pancreatic insufficiency.
Not all enzyme products are the same. Knowledge of the purpose for the supplement, of the desired ingredients, and the quality of the manufacturing is needed to provide your pet with a useful supplement or treatment.
Omega 3 fatty acids
Omega 3 fatty acids are one of the four missing nutrient categories which should be added to all processed food diets. In addition, this category is so important, it would be beneficial to add this to raw diets as well. For our carnivores the ideal source is from fish or krill, not flax. Felines do not possess the enzyme necessary to convert flax oil into utilizable fatty acids. The conversion process is very inefficient for canines as well. Body oils of fish are highest in the anti-inflammatory properties of fish oil. Cod liver oil is higher in Vitamin A and D. Be sure to choose a cod liver oil that contains its original, natural A and D, not that which has replaced the natural with synthetic. Be sure any fish oil products have been independently tested to be free of mercury and PCB's. Some fish oils are rancid at the time of packaging. This happens with poor distillation processes. This makes the oil dangerous due to the development of potentially carcinogenic trans fats. In that case, no fish oil is better than rancid fish oil. Always refrigerate open bottles and use them up within three months. Purchase small quantities. Many consider krill a more replenishable source of Omega 3's. Krill are the abundant plankton which are consumed by whales. This is not only an excellent source of DHA and EPA, but also A and D and a potent antioxidant called astaxanthin. These nutrients are prized for their support of healthy skin, joints, brains and hearts. Their anti-inflammatory properties can decrease pruritus (itching), and arthritic discomfort. When this oil is fed with pumpkin, you have an effective and nutritious hairball remedy!
Probiotics refers to good bacteria. You may recognize the name of a commonly used by humans type called Lactobacillus acidophilus. People with Irritable Bowel Syndrome and other gastrointestinal disorders are being helped by products like Activia, kefir, and other cultured yogurts because they help replenish the gut with good flora which is missing due to meal after meal of processed foods. Our pets need restoration of healthy intestinal flora as well. The commercial preparations may be provided as loose powders, microencapsulated gels or enteric-coated capsules. We prescribe these to prevent and to treat diarrhea. Good gut health is your first and most important immune defense mechanism. So, a pet with allergic dermatitis or asthma may improve with the addition of probiotics to the diet. Good bacteria are present in raw foods. They are killed by heat processing. Therefore, probiotics should be added intermittently to all processed food diets. Some excellent varieties of bacteria exist on the market for pets. Some have proven to be beneficial to dogs and cats with kidney disease. We can guide you as to the best probiotic for your pet household situation.
Whole Food Supplements
Whole food vitamins and minerals come from whole foods, such as fruits, vegetables and herbs. This whole food type of vitamin or mineral is much preferred by the body over its synthetic counterpart, due to its better recognition and utilization. For proper absorption by a carnivore, whole foods need to be broken down to mimic the pre-digestion that takes place in the gut of a prey.
Herbivores possess an enzyme, which carnivores do not, called cellulase. This allows them to break down the cell walls of plants in order to access the vitamins and minerals. Thus, the dog must eat the rabbit who pre-digested the carrot in order to assimilate Vitamin A.
This is why in a home-prepared raw diet or a commercial raw diet the veggies should be blended and some (cruciferous) should be steamed or cooked and blended to mimic nature, and aid in the breakdown process for your carnivore.
Also, in the wild, predators forage. They eat plants to aid digestion, stimulate the immune system and even to treat illnesses. The Native Americans observed wild animals to learn which plants to eat. I believe sometimes our indoor dogs and cats know which outdoor plants they need to consume in order to provide a lacking vitamin or mineral, or which will cause them to vomit if they feel nauseous or need to purge a hairball. However, sometimes, they don't know. Perhaps the grass they seek is unavailable. They may routinely make a bad choice and vomit grass every time they go outside and eat it. Repetitive vomiting is damaging to the esophagus. This would be a situation in which you would want to intervene and prevent your pet from consuming that particular plant material. Generally the cat grasses that you purchase in the grocery store are appropriate and enjoyed by many cats. This and catnip are an intermittent luxury.
There are commercial supplements which can fulfill this need. The Standard Process line, Mediherb, Animal Essentials Organic Green Alternative, Mercola Spirugreen, Pet Kelp and Cranimals are a few examples of quality whole supplements that we stock to fulfill this important category and to fill in nutritional gaps in your pet's nutrition. Always introduce new foods gradually and think of these as functional spices. A little goes a long way! Mix it up a little. You can vary and alternate these depending on the nutritional issue that you are managing.