Want to make your dog or cat more healthy, less stinky, or less gassy? If there was just one supplement you could add to your dog or cat’s diet what would it be?

Digestive enzymes and probiotics!

You can boost your dog or cat’s digestive and immune systems by adding a high quality enzyme and probiotic combo such as Animal Essentials Plant Enzymes & Probiotics. Microbial and plant enzymes work throughout the entire digestive system, not just in the stomach and small intestine. You can complement this with K9 Natural raw tripe, available in both raw and freeze-dried forms, and Answers Additional raw goat's milk.

Let’s take a closer look.

Although there are some specific medical conditions that require enzyme supplementation, dogs and cats who are fed a traditional cooked diet, who are older, or suffer from chronic illness, tend to have insufficient natural enzyme production to properly digest their food.

There are many types of digestive enzymes and they each have a specific job to do. For example, proteases break down proteins, lipases work on fats, cellulase breaks down fiber, and starches are broken down by amylase. Without adequate enzymes the digestive system relies on fermentation in the large intestine to break down the food. This results in flatulence and decreased nutrient absorption.

Signs that enzymes might be needed:
- undigested food in the poop
- bad breath
- foul body odor
- vomiting undigested food several hours after eating
- really stinky poop
- gas
- bloating
- gurgling tummy

Enzymes come from two basic sources: food and the digestive system. Raw meat and veggies (even those that have been high pressure pasteurized) retain live enzymes, but cooking, including microwaving, will kill enzymes. Dog and cats simply can’t make enough of all the enzymes needed to properly digest their processed food.

Wolves, feral cats, and some indoor/outdoor cats too, will eat pretty much the entire mouse, rabbit, or whatever critter they’ve killed. In so doing they eat the entrails, a good natural source of digestive enzymes. Unless you are feeding a raw diet, your dog or cat will likely benefit from the addition of quality digestive enzymes in his diet.

A natural complement to digestive enzymes are probiotics -- the beneficial bacteria that should naturally live in the intestines. These good bugs help keep the gut healthy. 

A diet of processed food, medication, illness, and even mild stress can adversely affect the balance of gut flora, creating dysbiosis (gut flora imbalance). These healthy bacteria colonize the intestinal wall, crowding out bad bacteria like E. coli and Salmonella, and keep your pet healthy.

All dogs and cats can benefit from the addition of probiotics in their diet, even dogs fed a raw diet. Most raw food these days is treated with high pressure pasteurization to kill pathogens, but in the process healthy bacteria are also eliminated.

Signs that your dog or cat might need probiotics:
- dry flaky skin
- itchy skin
- excessive shedding
- foul body odor
- gas
- loose poop
- stinky poop
- recurrent ear infections
- recurrent urinary tract infections

Antibiotics are sometimes a necessary solution for an acute health problem. The first goal is to get your dog or cat over the acute malady, but then you need to follow up by improving his immune system so he’s less prone to illness. Repeated use of antibiotics puts added stress on the digestive system, weakening the immune system, and creating the ideal situation for another illness-antibiotic cycle. 

Improved digestion and nutrient absorption means less gas, regular bowel movements, improved skin and coat, breath, and body smell, fewer allergy symptoms, and increased energy levels. Studies indicate that probiotics can be an effective way to treat diarrhea, irritable bowel syndrome, and intestinal inflammation, and prevent urinary tract infections.

Why include probiotics if you’re already feeding a high quality food?

These powerful bacteria are very sensitive, consequently food processing such as cooking and high pressure pasteurization kills them. Even though some food makers add probiotics (often labeled as digestive support) during the final processing stage, not all bacteria survive shipping and storage.

Probiotics are measured in colony forming units (CFUs). Effective dosage is usually in the hundreds of millions, much more that what is available in a spoonful or two of yogurt. If you are trying to rebuild or rebalance healthy gut flora, a high quality probiotic such as Animal Essentials Plant Enzymes & Probiotics is needed.

Including natural probiotic sources such as Greek yogurt (a more concentrated type of yogurt) and Answers Additional raw goat’s milk helps maintain healthy gut flora. However, if your dog or cat is recovering from any type of illness, especially one which included antibiotics as part of the treatment regimen, then probiotics can help speed up recovery. If your pet is healthy, probiotics will aid in digestion and help modulate the immune system. Keeping your pet’s immune system strong will help keep him healthy.

Always read and follow the product label for dosage and storage instructions. Some probiotics need to be refrigerated, and for some conditions they may need to be given with a meal. Most gut bugs are host-specific therefore a probiotic intended for humans is not equally beneficial for dogs or cats and vice versa.

Since antibiotics kill good and bad bacteria it’s best to wait until after completing the antibiotic cycle before adding probiotics into the daily regimen. Discuss with your vet what dosage is appropriate to re-populate the gut.