Digestive System Enzyme Supplements for Dogs

Can dogs eat it

The Can Dogs Eat It Team

Digestive System Enzyme Supplements for Dogs
Reading Time: 8 minutes

joana garridoReviewed By Joana Garrido DVM

Digestive system enzymes are created naturally in your dog’s body. They are essential for your dog’s digestive and metabolic processes. However, the production of these compounds gets stunted if your canine companion develops health issues.

This is when digestive enzyme supplements become handy. In this article, we will look into how they provide support to canines’ digestive systems and learn which dogs can benefit from it the most.

What Are Dog Digestive System Enzymes?

a dog is sniffing some tablets

Digestive system enzymes are proteins that help dogs digest food by breaking it down to ensure proper metabolization of the nutrients in the body.

Dog digestive system enzymes are naturally produced in the pancreas. They are secreted by the organ as food moves to the small intestine. Like stomach acids, these enzymes hasten the digestive process by helping dissolve various food components.

3 Natural Digestive Enzymes in Dogs

The canine pancreas creates 3 types of digestive enzymes, namely protease, amylase, and lipase. Let us take a look at how they function differently from each other.

Protease: It breaks down proteins into amino acids.

Amylase: It breaks down starches into tiny carbohydrate molecules.

Lipase: It breaks down dietary fats.

Insufficient production of any of these digestive enzymes inhibits the proper nutrient absorption of your furry pal. He may eventually develop a nutrient deficiency, which can cause several health issues.

Do Healthy Dogs Need Digestive Enzyme Supplementation?

a pers is giving a dog digestive enzyme supplement
No, digestive enzyme supplementation in healthy dogs is not necessary. Their pancreas produces enough amounts of enzymes to efficiently break down food.

This is backed up by a 2017 study, which states that neither plant- nor animal-sourced digestive enzyme supplements have significantly improved the digestibility of traditional commercial dry dog food of healthy canines.

Thus, they cannot benefit from digestive enzyme supplementation.

When to Give Dogs Digestive Enzyme Supplements?

dog Digestive Enzyme Supplements
Digestive enzyme supplements are primarily used for managing exocrine pancreatic insufficiency (EPI) in dogs. It is an incurable disease that causes damage to the pancreas, negatively affecting the organ’s enzyme production.

EPI can develop as a congenital ailment or a health complication brought on by a pancreatic injury or infection like pancreatitis or neoplasia. However, it manifests in some dog breeds as a hereditary illness. This condition is commonly found in:

  • Chow Chows
  • German Shepherds
  • Rough-Coated Collies
  • Spaniels

According to a topical review about canine EPI, managing this condition often involves using digestive enzyme supplements in conjunction with dietary changes and medications.

Dogs saddled with this ailment have trouble producing normal amounts of digestive enzymes. Thus, their digestive system isn’t able to break down ingested food.

Giving them digestive enzyme supplements improves their digestive health by aiding in dissolving the foodstuff in their stomach.

Symptoms of Exocrine Pancreatic Insufficiency in Dogs

tablets for dog digestive system
Clinical signs of this canine ailment to keep an eye out for are:

  • Eating excessive quantities of food
  • Malodorous loose stools
  • Flatulence
  • Chronic diarrhea
  • Greasy feces
  • Occasional vomiting
  • Abnormal weight loss
  • Dull coat

Get your dog diagnosed by the vet if he is exhibiting these symptoms.

A low-serum trypsin-like immunoreactivity (TLI) test is typically carried out to detect EPI. The vet may also perform vitamin B12 and folate level tests for better assessment and results.

If your dog has been diagnosed with EPI, your veterinarian will likely prescribe a suitable enzyme supplement to support their digestive tract function. Regular visits are recommended, especially to newly diagnosed dogs, to monitor weight gain. Once your dog’s condition stabilizes, twice-yearly visits are often advised.

Making dietary adjustments can also be beneficial in improving digestion. A commonly suggested diet for dogs with EPI is low in fiber and easily digestible. If you need guidance on determining the ideal diet for your dog with EPI, don’t hesitate to consult your veterinarian.

Digestive System Enzymes vs. Probiotics for Dogs

capsules for Digestive Enzyme Supplements
Both digestive enzymes and probiotics aim to promote a healthy digestive system and mitigate GI problems in dogs. However, they work in different ways.

Digestive enzymes are more focused on preparing the food for digestion by softening and breaking it down.

Once done, they are either absorbed as nutrients or removed as body waste. Thus, they do not provide a long-lasting effect on dogs’ digestive health.

Probiotics, on the other hand, mainly impact the digestive system itself. They provide stimulation to the muscle tissue and organs so they work smoothly during the digestive process.

Unlike digestive system enzymes, probiotics have a prolonged effect on canines’ gastric tract. They help good gut bacteria thrive, which prevents pooches from encountering digestive issues.

Different Enzymes in Dog Digestive Enzyme Supplements

Depending on the brand, various types of digestive enzymes are used in dog digestive supplements and they are categorized into 2 groups: plant-sourced or animal-sourced products.

Plant-Sourced Dog Digestive System Enzymes


  • Betaine HCL

Betaine HCL increases the production of hydrochloric acid in the canine digestive system. It stimulates intestinal enzymes and helps breaks down proteins, amino acids, and fats.

  • Bromelain

Bromelain is derived from pineapple fruit, juice, and stem. It aids in dissolving protein and also alleviates pain and inflammation caused by health issues like arthritis.

  • Papain

Papain is a naturally occurring enzyme in the papaya fruit. Commonly used to tenderize meat, this compound is effective in helping canines digest animal protein sources.

Papain is known to boost the immune system of dogs and get rid of intestinal parasites as well.

  • Cellulase

Cellulase is responsible for breaking down fiber. However, dogs rarely need it unless their meals are largely composed of plant-based ingredients.

Animal-Sourced Dog Digestive System Enzymes

  • Pancreatic Enzyme Supplement

Pancreatic enzyme supplement contains all of the digestive system enzymes dogs need. Moreover, it promotes the stimulation of enzyme production in the pancreas.

  • Ox Bile

Ox bile aids in the digestion of fats. It offers health benefits too, such as improving waste filtration in the body and supporting blood sugar metabolism.

What to Look for in Dog Digestive System Enzyme Supplement

capsules for dog digestive system
Here are a few pointers to remember when in search of a high-quality digestive enzyme supplement for your pooch:

  1. Consider opting for products that contain bacterial lipase extracted from the soil bacterium Burkholderia plantarii.

    In a study, it was found to survive gastric and intestinal transit, making this enzyme more effective in breaking down food compared to porcine pancreatic enzyme supplements.

    On the downside, bacterial-derived enzymes are hard to find, which makes them expensive. So you will need to set aside a hefty budget for it.

  2. Be sure to check the types of enzymes the product contains. Ideally, it should have all 3 dog digestive system enzymes: protease, lipase, and amylase.
    The presence of cellulase is a good addition since it promotes enhanced digestion of fibrous food.
  3. Inspect the product’s packaging for a National Animal Supplement Council (NASC) quality seal.
    It ensures that the manufacturer’s facilities have gone through rigorous third-party auditing and that the product lives up to the high-quality standards of the NASC.

How Are Dog Digestive System Enzyme Supplements Administered?

a happy looking dog
Digestive enzyme supplements come in the form of capsules, tablets, or powders. Powder varieties are best mixed into food 15 to 20 minutes before mealtime so the food is predigested.

Digestive system enzymes are heat-sensitive. Thus, we advise against adding supplements to hot food or before heating up meals. Otherwise, they will get deactivated and become useless.

Keep in mind that some digestive system enzyme supplements for dogs need to be taken on an empty stomach. Make sure to read the product instruction and double-check with the vet.

Potential Side Effects of Digestive Enzymes in Dogs

a dog next to a supplement bottleGastrointestinal upset is one of the adverse reactions canines might experience after ingesting digestive enzyme supplements. Look out for symptoms of nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea.

Moreover, taking them in large doses has reportedly caused mouth ulcers and oral bleeding in some dogs. This problem is resolved after the dosage was reduced.

Beware of allergic reactions too. Digesting enzyme supplements of porcine origin should not be given to dogs with pork allergies. Clinical symptoms of allergies include hives, facial swelling, itchiness, and ear infections.

If any of these side effects appear on your dog, temporarily stop administering digestive enzyme supplements to him until you have consulted the vet for advice.

FAQs About Dog Digestive System Enzyme Supplements

1. How Do I Know If My Dog Needs Digestive Enzymes?

You will know if your dog needs digestive enzymes once he is diagnosed with exocrine pancreatic insufficiency (EPI).

The vet may perform 2 tests namely low-serum trypsin-like immunoreactivity (TLI) and vitamin B12 and folate level tests to determine if your dog has this health condition.

2. Can I Give Human Digestive Enzymes to My Dog?

No, do not give human digestive enzymes to your dog since these are not specifically formulated for canines. They will likely fail to take effect in his digestive system.

Talk with the vet to find the most suitable dog digestive enzyme supplement for your canine companion.

3. Can I Give My Dog Probiotics and Digestive Enzymes at the Same Time?

Yes, you can give your dog probiotics and digestive enzymes at the same time. They can work together to boost his digestive and overall health.

There are digestive supplements on the market that contain a combination of the 2. Before giving them to your dog, make sure to seek the vet’s advice to ensure that the supplements are not too much for your dog’s stomach.

4. What Is a Natural Source of Digestive Enzymes for Dogs?

natural source of digestive enzymes for dogs infographic

Several human foods are natural sources of digestive enzymes for dogs such as:

While all of these foods are canine-friendly, only feed them to your dog after discussing your plans to make dietary changes with the vet. They will assess if adding them to your dog’s meals will not cause nutritional imbalances.


Digestive system enzyme supplements support the gut health of dogs by breaking down food, which is an integral part of the digestive process. It promotes the proper metabolization of nutrients from ingested meals.

However, digestive enzyme supplements do not work on healthy canines because their pancreas have already produced enough enzymes.

It is more suitable for dogs with exocrine pancreatic insufficiency (EPI). Digestive enzyme supplements assist in dissolving food, which their body is unable to do.

Scroll through our Diet & Recipes section to learn more about the functions of different dog supplements.

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