Just like humans, dogs can suffer from digestive issues, especially as they age, which is why maintaining a healthy digestive system is an essential component of your dog’s long-term health plan.
While there is no substitute for a nutritious diet that consists of high-quality, breed-appropriate food, there are some beneficial and healthy supplements you can add to your dog’s diet to help them live a happy and healthy life.
However, with so many different pet-specific supplements on the market, it can be somewhat difficult to know which ones will help your dog, even if you are only looking at supplements specifically aimed towards digestive health.
How Can We Help?
To help you make an informed decision and choose the correct supplements for your dog’s digestive health, we have decided to take a close look at the two main types of digestive supplements you should know about. Essentially, digestive supplements fall into two main categories – probiotics and digestive enzymes.
To start, we will go over each category, which will give you a better understanding of how both digestive enzymes and probiotics can improve your dog’s health. From there, we will explain the differences between them, which will help you determine if either can help your dog.
What Are Probiotics?
In simple terms, probiotics refer to the various types of healthy bacteria that live inside the digestive tract. These beneficial types of bacteria help keep the bad bacteria that are harmful to our health in check.
Just like our digestive tracts, your dog’s digestive tract relies on these healthy types of bacteria to help with everything from immune system health to digestion. Two common types of healthy bacteria in the digestive system are lactobacilli and bifidobacteria. Along with others, these two bacteria produce antimicrobial metabolites that increase the immune system’s effectiveness and help absorb nutrients.
Think of probiotics as a sort of maintenance crew that lives inside a healthy dog’s intestinal tract. These microscopic organisms help maintain a healthy digestive system and make sure the immune system is functioning correctly.
How Do Probiotic Supplements Help Dogs?
Supplementing with probiotics helps keep the friendly bacteria inside your dog’s digestive system balanced and healthy. More specifically, probiotics stimulate cell growth, immune system response time, and the healthy absorption of vital nutrients. As you would suspect, this means they can help your dog fight off illness, and it can be an effective way to reduce digestion-related health issues, like diarrhea.
While you should always reach out to one of our virtual vets if you suspect your dog is suffering from digestive issues, probiotics can be an effective way to help improve the ability to digest food.
Since probiotics help with digestion, they help keep stool firm, which is why they are recommended for dogs that suffer from bowel issues, like irritable bowel syndrome.
What Are Digestive Enzymes?
Digestive enzymes are essential proteins that play an important role in the digestive system. These proteins help speed up chemical reactions that occur within the digestive tract when food flows through it.
Just like in humans, digestive enzymes help a dog’s digestive system break food down properly so that it can absorb nutrients into the body. Different types of digestive enzymes help with the digestion of specific nutrients. For example, amylase enzymes help break down carbohydrates and starches, while protease and lipase enzymes help digest proteins and fats.
While these enzymes occur naturally within a dog’s saliva and intestinal tract, you can supplement them to ensure the entire digestive system has enough of the necessary enzymes to digest properly.
How Do Digestive Enzyme Supplements Help Dogs?
The purpose of digestive enzyme supplements is to make sure your dog has enough of each type of essential enzyme to absorb the nutrients from its food. If your dog’s digestive system is not producing enough enzymes on its own to effectively digest food, supplements can give it a helping hand.
While most animals do not require enzymes to be supplemented it can be life-changing to those that do. If your pet has been dealing with chronic loose stool or difficulty maintaining weight, you should absolutely consult a veterinarian to understand when this is needed.
What Are The Main Differences Between Probiotic and Digestive Enzyme Supplements?
While both types of supplements aid your dog’s digestive health, there are some differences between them.
The main difference is the way they help. While the digestive enzymes soften and break the food down, so the nutrients within can be absorbed easier, probiotics work by improving the health of the digestive system itself.
There are also differences in how the two supplements exit the system after they have helped with digestion. Digestive enzymes play less of a role in the lasting health of your dog, as they are either passed through the system and eliminated as waste after they have performed their job, or they are absorbed as nutrients your dog can use.
On the other hand, probiotic supplements have more of a lasting effect on your dog’s health, as they multiply and continue to live within your dog’s digestive system, even after they have initially helped with digestion.
Should You Give These Supplements to Your Dog?
While both digestive enzymes and probiotics are naturally occurring with your dog’s digestive system, supplementation can help if your dog is aging and needs help with digestion. If your dog suffers from digestive issues, or you suspect it could be, the best thing you can do is speak with a veterinarian about your options.
Before you add any supplement to your dog’s diet, you should always speak with a veterinarian to make sure it is necessary, healthy, and appropriate. Book an appointment with an online vet today, and one of our Hello Ralphie virtual vets will be able to go over your options and help explain how each type of supplement could specifically help your dog.