By Dr. Jeannie Thomason
Before you read further, take a moment to look at your dog. You are looking at a biological masterpiece whose body is a complex organism composed of many structures that break down into inter-related systems. We refer to these intricate functions simply as ‘life’. Within that amazing creature – your dog – there are systems such as the digestive system which is composed of several organs and functions working harmoniously toward one goal: supporting and maintaining life. Organs like the pancreas, liver, kidneys, heart and lungs are composed of tissue and tissue is the aggregation of millions of individual cells.
The smallest structures in the body are chemicals: these include atoms and molecules essential for life. For example, carbon, oxygen, hydrogen, nitrogen, potassium, sodium and calcium are some of the atoms which create and maintain life at a chemical level. Atoms combine to form molecules such as vitamins, fats and proteins. These molecules then combine to form structures at the cellular level. Each cell is bound by a cell membrane composed of lipids and proteins. The cell membrane controls the passage of substances into and out of the cell. Cells contain jelly like cytoplasm in which are suspended a nucleus and other structures specialized to carry out specific functions geared toward construction and operation of the cell. The cell nucleus contains the genetic material: DNA, chromosomes.
Cells are made up of many substances, especially carbohydrates, lipids, nucleic acids and protein. Carbohydrates include sugar and starch and are important as a source for energy; some form membranes and others are chemical messengers. Nucleic acids are present in the nucleus and in some cases in the cytoplasm of cells as either DNA or RNA. Their main functions are protein synthesis and transmission and interpretation of hereditary information. That brings us to ‘protein’, a complex structure made up of one or more chains of amino acids linked by peptide bonds. There are thousands of different kinds of protein, each performing a specific purpose and almost every function within a cell involves protein. Proteins are essential constituents of the body, the building blocks of muscles, tissues and organs, and proteins regulate functions of enzymes and hormones. Proteins are synthesized in the body from their constituent amino acids which are obtained from digestion of protein in the diet.
This mini biology lesson translates into an old cliché: quite literally your dogs are what they eat! That bowl of dog food will be converted by the digestive system into basic substances needed to support and maintain life – tissues, organs and the millions of cells that make up your dog. Although it is an oversimplification to say that bowl of food cannot be used by the body without the help of ‘enzymes’. It is a fact. Enzymes are proteins known as “reaction catalysts of biological systems.” These catalysts (enzymes) are important because the body’s temperature and internal environment do not allow chemical life reactions to occur at a rate rapid enough to sustain life. Enzymes speed up the reaction by increasing the frequency of colliding molecules. In other words, enzymes speed up a biological reaction by binding with the substance involved in the reaction.
Enzymes are relatively specific, meaning each enzyme reacts only with a specific molecule. There are over 1300 known enzymes and each requires certain conditions for optimum activity – correct temperature and PH, the presence of organic molecules known as “coenzymes” and the absence of enzyme inhibitors. Co-enzymes are often vitamin derivatives. This is all very complex and a good deal more academic than intended but it is important to explain the role of enzymes. Researchers are learning that certain enzymes are vital in maintaining health and preventing disease. Enzymes are effective in fighting inflammatory diseases, improving circulation, decreasing the rate of inflammation, aiding in tissue repair, complementing auto-immune therapy and of course the digestion of food.
Each of our pets (as well are ourselves) receives a supply of enzymes at birth. The supply is NOT limitless; it must supply the organism with life-sustaining enzymes for the duration of its existence. When the enzyme supply is exhausted, it signals the breakdown of the organism (the dog or cat or…). Enzymes are needed to run all body systems. Metabolic enzymes are used by the heart, lungs, kidneys, immune system, and for brain functions; digestive enzymes convert protein, carbohydrates and fat into fuel to maintain the organism. Over taxing the body to supply digestive enzymes can reduce the supply of metabolic enzymes. Eventually, the body becomes enzyme-deficient making it vulnerable to disease. Not surprisingly, glands and major organs suffer most from enzyme deficiency.
How can one prevent the pet’s body from depleting its own supply of enzymes? Nature solved the problem for us by providing those enzymes in RAW FOODS (meat, bones and organs for our carnivore companions). Food enzymes begin the process of digestion in the stomach for carnivores – not in the mouth. If there are no food enzymes, the body must produce additional digestive enzymes resulting in fewer metabolic enzymes. If you feed your dog a species specific diet (dogs are carnivores) of raw, meat bones and organs, you’re providing these vital enzymes. Congratulations!
Cooking food above 110 degrees Fahrenheit destroys ALL food enzymes. If your dog’s diet consists mainly of cooked or processed foods, its store of metabolic enzymes will be converted into digestive enzymes. The lack of food enzymes puts a heavier burden on the body to generate adequate enzymes to complete digestion.
In nature animals know to seek out those foods that satisfy their nutritional needs. For example; free roaming wolves hunt grazing animals whenever possible. Before eating muscle or bone, the wolves feast on stomach contents – the intestines (Tripe) the liver, pancreas, etc. – in other words, they are gorging on enzyme-laden tissues.
Wolf pups are weaned and maintained on regurgitated food, also heavily laced with Dam’s digestive enzymes. Unless we provide the same food a wolf enjoys in the wild to our carnivore companions, adding a digestive enzyme supplement to each meal may be essential for optimum digestion and overall good health. This enzyme supplement is best if it is derived from animal sources for our dogs and cats (not plants or grains).
If you want to use digestive enzymes to help your dog with food digestion and absorption then it is best given with meals.
On the other hand, if you want to utilize the power of digestive enzymes to help with your dog’s metabolism and systemic well-being, you can give the enzymes to your dog one or two hours after meals. Given this way, the enzymes will not be used for digestion purposes; instead they will be circulating in the dog’s bloodstream to help with the following processes:
Stimulating the growth of new cells.
Detoxifying the body.
Supporting blood circulation.
Strengthening the immune system and increasing T-cell production.
[box]For optimum vitality, proper digestion of nutrients is essential!
The Whole Dog Recommends FloraZyme LP .
FloraZyme LP contains concentrated fungal extracts (medicinal mushrooms) and pancreas enzymes along with dehydrated pancreas and liver to replace enzymes and essential vitamins and nutrients lacking in pet foods. FloraZyme LP glandular concentrates are from New Zealand range-grazed animals. No solvents, fertilizer, hormones, antibiotics or feed supplements are used.[/box]
A consultation is highly recommended before any preventative program is started. A consultation includes a personalized diet and holistic program suggestions that are custom-tailored to your own dog’s individual and personal needs. While I continue to provide educational articles and information for you here, most of these are general in nature. Therefore, I encourage you to do your homework and/or set up an appointment with me to tailor a program specifically for your pet’s needs. This is particularly imperative in pets that are aging or with complicated health issues, or if you’ve done a lot of outside reading and have conflicting information.
The information contained on this web site is intended as education/information only. It is not intended to replace your veterinarian. Please use your good judgement.
The purpose and general goal of the veterinary naturopathic consultation offered by Jeannie Thomason, VND is to educate the client about their animals body systems in relation to function and ability pertaining to maintenance of overall homeostasis (balance) through the removal of various, and typically specific, obstacles to their health, this thereby encouraging their body’s own natural healing processes. Jeannie Thomason, VND does not function as a traditional allopathic veterinarian by diagnosing disease, treating disease, or performing invasive procedures, nor do her services replace that of a traditional licensed veterinarian.
The information offered on The Whole Dog website and/or Dr Jeannie Thomason is intended to provide general guidance. Nothing on the web site or during a regular consultation constitutes traditional allopathic veterinary advice. A consultation will hopefully suggest additional options to think about, and other areas to explore, based on your dog’s condition.