Although supplemental digestive enzymes seem to do little to help younger animals with a robust gastrointestinal tract, older dogs can often benefit. As with people, the aging process can affect a number of body functions. For example, the dosage of some medications are sometimes modified because absorption can differ, body fat increases and muscle mass decreases. Even when the dog weighs the same and seems to be built well, these changes are inevitable. If the ability to digest foods properly becomes a big issue, you're likely to notice it. Sloppy stool or constipation, more gas, perhaps some weight loss (always see a veterinarian to ensure weight loss is not due to more serious issues) would be evident. However, an older dog that shows no symptoms may nevertheless have a bit of an absorption problem simply due to the aging process.
We've seen some mysteries resolve when supplemental digestive enzymes were fed. For example, gassy dogs can become less so, a thinner coat can become more profuse, energy levels can increase, and some of these older dogs simply seem to look brighter. The fact is that we are what we eat is only partially true. More accurately, we are what we absorb. So, the older dog that experiences lessened absorption may very well slow down for this reason alone. In fact, some of the supplements people give older dogs in an effort to help mobility, skin condition and more can be helped along when absorption is improved.
Here's one example: Blazer is an eleven year old Border Collie who began to slow down. At the same time, one eye started to produce a discharge. The veterinarian could find no health problems. Blazer was being fed a balanced commercial diet supplemented with plenty of fresh foods, a joint supportive supplement, wild salmon oil and vitamin E daily. It wasn't until digestive enzymes were added to his diet that things turned around. In about one month, his eye was clear and energy level improved. I would go so far as to say it's a coincidence if not for the fact that we've seen this reaction too many times over the years to be able to shrug it off that easily. There is little doubt in my mind that some (not all) older dogs make good use of digestive enzymes.
The digestive enzymes we use for these dogs are plant based. That is, the protease (the enzyme needed to break down protein) is derived from a plant source, as are the other enzymes in the product. Regular digestive enzymes are stronger, but we haven't found any benefit to them if the dog doesn't truly have a gastrointestinal disorder. The protease in regular digestive enzymes is derived from an animal source, and highly sensitive dogs can experience negative reactions if they happen to be allergic to that source. You can find both types of Digestive Enzymes on the site. Other brands may be fine, of course, but read labels carefully and ask hard questions before making your purchase. For example, how long does it take for the capsule to disintegrate? Has the product been tested for mold and yeast counts? How did it fare? Can you see the certificate of analysis from an independent lab? Be sure the product is free of artificial preservatives, color, milk, soy, corn, wheat and yeast. Sometimes, the very thing that is meant to help digestion can cause a problem if purity isn't considered. Supplements should be the highest quality possible if we hope to see good results.
For best results open a capsule of digestive enzymes and add some of the content to your dog's wet food (kibble can be moistened). Mix well and allow the food to sit for 15 minutes. The goal is to allow the enzymes to start 'predigesting' food. The amount of supplement needed should be based on the dog's size/weight and issues being addressed. The vendor or your vet should guide you.
Monica and Jody