Should You Give Digestive Enzymes For Dogs?

Should You Give Digestive Enzymes For Dogs?

Amy Thompson

Digestive health plays a crucial role in your dog’s overall well-being. While we often assume the food we provide is enough to keep our pups healthy, the truth is that many dogs need additional support to fully absorb the nutrients from their meals.

One vital component of a healthy digestive system is digestive enzymes. Without sufficient digestive enzymes, even the best diet can leave your dog nutrient-deficient.

But what exactly are these enzymes and how do they work? And how can you tell when you should give digestive enzymes for dogs?

Below, we'll help you identify signs of enzyme deficiency, and guide you on how to choose and administer these supplements to enhance your dog’s digestive health. First, let's get clear on what digestive enzymes are.

What Are Digestive Enzymes?

Digestive enzymes are proteins that play a crucial role in breaking down food into nutrients that your dog’s body can absorb and use. These enzymes help decompose complex food molecules into simpler substances, ensuring that your dog gets the most nutritional benefit from their meals.

The main types of digestive enzymes that dogs need are protease, amylase, lipase, and cellulase.

  • Protease: This enzyme breaks down proteins into amino acids, which are essential for various bodily functions, including muscle development and immune support.
  • Amylase: Amylase helps convert starches into simpler sugars, making them easier for the body to absorb and use for energy.
  • Lipase: Lipase is responsible for breaking down fats into fatty acids and glycerol, which are vital for energy production and overall health.
  • Cellulase: Unlike humans, dogs do not naturally produce cellulase, which breaks down fiber from plants and grains. This enzyme can be particularly beneficial for dogs that consume plant-based foods.

These enzymes are primarily produced in the pancreas and are released into the small intestine as food passes through. Here, they begin the process of breaking down the various components of the diet, allowing the body to absorb the nutrients effectively.

Benefits of Digestive Enzymes

Supplementing your dog’s diet with digestive enzymes can offer many benefits, including:

  • Improved Nutrient Absorption: Ensuring that your dog gets the most out of their food can help maintain their overall health, energy levels, and vitality.
  • Better Digestive Health: Enzymes can help alleviate common digestive issues such as gas, bloating, and irregular stools by aiding in the proper breakdown of food.
  • Enhanced Immune Function: A well-functioning digestive system supports a robust immune system, helping your dog fend off illnesses more effectively.
  • Support for Chronic Conditions: Dogs with chronic health issues, particularly those related to the digestive system, can benefit from the added support that digestive enzymes provide.

Why Your Dog Might Need Digestive Enzymes

The good news is that your dog naturally produces digestive enzymes. However, there are several reasons why your pup might still benefit from enzyme supplementation. These reasons include modern diets, aging, health conditions, and enzyme deficiencies. Let's take a look at each of them.

Modern Diets

Most commercial dog foods, including kibble and canned varieties, are processed at high temperatures, which destroy the natural enzymes present in raw ingredients. This results in food that is more difficult for your dog to digest and less nutritionally beneficial. Even home-cooked meals can lack necessary enzymes if cooked at high temperatures.

Veterinarian Dr PJ Broadfoot explains that supplemental enzymes are needed to replace those destroyed by cooking and processing food. The high temperatures used in preparing dog food can destroy virtually all enzymes, resulting in undigested food entering the small intestine. This puts the pancreas and other organs under tremendous stress, as they must draw reserves from the entire body to produce the necessary enzymes.


As dogs age, their bodies naturally produce fewer enzymes. This decline in enzyme production can lead to decreased nutrient absorption and digestive efficiency, making supplementation beneficial for senior dogs. The gradual reduction in enzyme production is a normal part of the aging process, but it can be mitigated by providing additional digestive enzymes.

Health Conditions

Certain health conditions can impair enzyme production or increase the need for enzymes.

For instance, dogs with digestive disorders, poor gut health, or a weakened pancreas may have enzyme deficiencies. These conditions can lead to various symptoms, such as digestive upset, nutrient deficiencies, and overall decreased health.

Symptoms Of Enzyme Deficiency

Given the reasons above, some dogs can benefit from enzyme supplements even if they aren't showing signs of deficiency.

But there are also several signs that your dog might need additional digestive enzyme support.

These symptoms can range from mild to severe and may indicate that your dog’s digestive system is not functioning optimally.

Here are the signs to keep an eye out for:

  • Gas and Bloating: Excessive gas and bloating can be signs that your dog’s digestive system is struggling to break down food properly.
  • Regurgitation: If your dog frequently regurgitates undigested food, it could be a sign of enzyme deficiency.
  • Diarrhea or Constipation: Both diarrhea and constipation can indicate issues with digestion and may be alleviated with enzyme supplementation.
  • Smelly Breath: Persistent bad breath can be a symptom of poor digestion and inadequate enzyme production.
  • Abdominal Pain or Cramping: If your dog shows signs of discomfort or pain in the abdominal area, it may be related to enzyme deficiency.
  • Foul-Smelling Stools: Stools that have a particularly foul odor can indicate undigested food passing through the digestive tract.
  • Undigested Food in Stool: Visible pieces of undigested food in your dog’s stool are a clear sign that they are not breaking down their food properly.

If you notice any of these symptoms in your dog, it may be time to consider adding digestive enzymes to his diet.

Choosing The Right Digestive Enzymes For Your Dog

When selecting a digestive enzyme supplement for your dog's immune system or digestive health, it’s important to choose a product specifically designed for canine needs.

Here are some key ingredients to look for:

  • Pancreas: Pancreatic enzymes, such as protease, amylase, and lipase, are essential for breaking down proteins, carbohydrates, and fats.
  • Papain: This enzyme from papaya helps with protein digestion and can support the immune system.
  • Bromelain: Derived from pineapple, bromelain assists in protein digestion and has anti-inflammatory properties.
  • Betaine HCL: This natural form of hydrochloric acid helps digest proteins and stimulates intestinal enzymes.
  • Cellulase: Since dogs do not naturally produce cellulase, this enzyme helps break down plant fibers.
  • Ox Bile: Ox bile supports fat digestion and can help control bacterial overgrowth in the small intestine.

How To Administer Digestive Enzymes To Your Dog

Digestive enzymes are best given with food. You can add a little water or broth if needed to help mix the enzymes into your dog’s meal.

For dogs with specific conditions like EPI (Exocrine Pancreatic Insufficiency), it’s best to moisten any pancreatic enzymes and let the mixture sit for 20-60 minutes before feeding.

Remember that heat kills enzymes, so never add them to hot food or heat up food after adding the enzymes.

Start with the recommended dose and monitor your dog’s response. If you notice any initial gas or loose stools, reduce the dose slightly until your dog’s digestive system adjusts.

Natural Sources Of Digestive Enzymes

In addition to the tips and sources above, digestive enzymes can also be naturally found in various foods that you can easily incorporate into your dog’s diet.

Adding these enzyme-rich foods is an easy way help support your dog's digestion and overall health.

Here are some of the top natural sources of enzymes for dogs:


Bananas: Bananas are a great source of digestive enzymes, particularly amylase and maltase, which help break down carbohydrates. They are also rich in potassium and fiber, making them a healthy treat for your dog. Simply slice a banana and add a few pieces to your dog’s regular meals.

Pineapples: Pineapples contain bromelain, an enzyme that aids in protein digestion. This tropical fruit also provides vitamins C and B6, manganese, and dietary fiber. Fresh pineapple chunks can be offered as a snack or mixed into your dog’s food, but be sure to remove the tough core and skin.

Fermented Veggies

Sauerkraut: Fermented cabbage, or sauerkraut, is rich in natural probiotics and digestive enzymes. It can help improve gut health and digestion in dogs. Start by adding a small spoonful of sauerkraut to your dog's meal and gradually increase the amount.

Kimchi: Similar to sauerkraut, kimchi is a fermented vegetable dish that contains beneficial enzymes and probiotics. However, traditional kimchi can be spicy and contain ingredients that may not be suitable for dogs. Consider making a dog-friendly version by fermenting vegetables like cabbage and carrots without the added spices.

Final Thoughts

Considering the modern diet of many dogs, which often includes processed foods that lack natural enzymes, adding digestive enzyme supplements or enzyme-rich foods to the diet can be highly beneficial.

Pet owners should explore options like bananas, pineapples, sauerkraut, and other fermented veggies to naturally boost their dog’s enzyme intake. Additionally, for dogs with specific health concerns or those eating primarily cooked or processed foods, enzyme supplements designed for dogs can provide digestive health support.

By incorporating digestive enzymes into your dog's daily routine, you can help ensure they lead a healthy, vibrant life with better digestion and nutrient absorption.


Do digestive enzymes work for dogs? Yes, added digestive enzymes can aid digestion and improve nutrient absorption in dogs, especially those on a cooked food diet. They support pancreas function and help maintain a healthy dog by enhancing digestive health.

What are the symptoms of enzyme deficiency in dogs? Symptoms of enzyme deficiency in dogs include digestive problems such as bloating, gas, diarrhea, and food intolerances. These signs indicate your dog may need support from added digestive enzymes for improved digestion.

What are the best homemade digestive enzymes for dogs? The best homemade digestive enzymes for dogs include foods like papayas and pineapples, which contain natural enzymes that aid digestion. Incorporating these enzyme-rich foods into your dog's raw diet can help maintain normal gut flora and support overall digestive health.

Is it better to take probiotics or digestive enzymes? Both soil-based probiotics and added digestive enzymes play crucial roles in a dog's health. While probiotics introduce beneficial bacteria that support immune health and normal gut flora, digestive enzymes may aid digestion and improve nutrient absorption, making both essential for a balanced diet.