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This blog post was updated November, 2018.
I believe that all dogs need digestive enzymes in their diet. Rodrigo and Scout taught me this; they both have varying levels of gastrointestinal sensitivities, and Rodrigo’s sensitivity is more severe than Scout.
Symptoms of Digestive Issues
Rodrigo has always had digestive issues and they included the following symptoms…
- Noxious gas
- Diarrhea and/or loose stool
- White or grey stool (with many dogs, this is a sign of too much bone, but for Rodrigo, it’s related to a protein intolerance)
- You can hear his tummy gurgling from across the room
- His anal glands don’t express
- He’s dragging his bottom on the floor and constantly licking his itchy butt
- And, less often, he vomits up all of his food
Over the years, Rodrigo has been to multiple vets and I worked with a local nutritionist, Gut Instinct Nutrition and Intuitive Healing, on food sensitivity testing and she confirmed that Rodrigo has strong sensitivities to chicken and beef and a mild sensitivity to turkey, lamb, and salmon.
Easing My Dog's Digestive Issues
When this blog post was originally written, I recommended three supplements. A friend who stumbled upon this post in November 2018 brought this post to my attention and when I was rereading it, I realized that the recommendations were very out of date, so I returned to share what I'm doing that has turned my dog's gut health around; for the good.
There are a lot of supplements out there, including natural foods, but nothing has worked long term until now.
My other dogs get FullBucket Daily Canine Powder, which is a prebiotic, probiotic, and digestive supplement. FullBucket does work for Rodrigo, but I have to use twice the dosage, making it very expensive. I still have a monthly order of FullBucket and I split it between Sydney, Scout, and Zoey.
Prebiotic vs. Probiotic
Prebiotics stimulate the growth of “good” bacteria in a dog’s digestive system. Probiotics are the “good” bacteria that we want growing in our dog’s digestive system. Some believe that prebiotics also feed the “bad” bacteria in a dog's gut and, therefore, shouldn't be added to their meals. Rebecca Rose, President and Product Developer at In Clover, conducted a study and found that prebiotics aren't able to penetrate the cell wall of “bad” bacteria, so it does only feed the “good” bacteria. CLICK HERE to read more.
I have tried In Clover Optagest, a prebiotic, with my dogs and three out of four of my dogs did well on this supplement. Rodrigo did well at first, but then he had a relapse so I stopped adding it to his diet.
Choosing a Prebiotic or a Probiotic
While In Clover Optagest didn't work for Rodrigo, it did work for my other dogs and I keep it on hand to alternate in their diet. Especially when I notice a need for support. And, surprisingly, prebiotics support weight loss and I have two dogs that tend to pack on the pounds so cycling on and off of Optagest has supported their weight loss journey successfully. Another reason I prefer In Clover OptaGest to other probiotics is that the prebiotics in this supplement are derived from plants and not animals. While it may not seem like we should be feeding prebiotics from animals to our dogs, I've learned that the prebiotics may not be compatible.
Why Doesn't Optagest Contain Probiotics?
Ideally, I prefer a supplement that covers all the bases. It reduces the number of products I have to buy for my dogs, which saves money. However, there is a reason Optagest doesn't contain probiotics.
“Probiotics are inherently unstable, and the types of probiotics available commercially are not from a dog or cat and will, therefore, introduce a foreign substance. We formulated what we believe is a more elegant and complete solution by using an organic prebiotic to selectively feed the good native bacteria that are naturally in all animals.” ~ Rebecca Rose, President and Product Developer at In Clover
Digestive Enzymes for Dogs
When I first started feeding raw, I thought probiotics were digestive enzymes, but they are different. I add probiotics to my dogs' diet to increase the beneficial bacteria in their gut. I add digestive enzymes to help them digest food.
Are there Probiotics in Optagest?
While In Clover Optagest doesn't contain probiotics, it does contain digestive enzymes. The digestive enzymes are important because they “they break down the food so it can be absorbed. Although they are not alive, they are active and work throughout the body.” Rebecca Rose, In Clover
That being the case, it's nice to have a list of supplements that contain digestive enzymes that I can alternate with my dogs:
Digestive Enzymes in Dry Dog Food
Occasionally, someone will tell me that the kibble they buy supports gut health. I don't really understand how that can be the case because although digestive enzymes can withstand the harsh conditions of a dog’s digestive system, they cannot survive the high temperatures used in processing kibble. If you find a kibble brand that claims to have digestive enzymes, disregard – this will not help a dog with digestive issues.
Feeding Green Tripe to Dogs isn't Enough
For a while, I thought that all I needed to do for our dogs was add green beef or lamb to our dogs' diet, and this would cover the digestive enzymes. A fellow raw feeder shared that although green beef tripe does have nutritional benefits, it doesn't offer enough digestive support for our dogs; they do need a supplement and after more than five years of feeding raw, I agree based on what I've seen with my dogs. Plus, I reached out to Dr. Cathy Alinovi, DVM, of HealthyPawsibilities.com to find out “is this true?” The answer is, yes. Green tripe still contains the microorganisms that help a cow digest its hay, which allows our dogs to get small concentrations of microflora to assist with their digestion. However, it doesn't provide substantial amounts of digestive enzymes.
What I Add to Our Dogs Meals
Over the years, I've learned a lot about feeding my dogs a raw diet and I've made many changes. One big change I've made is to add more fermented foods to their diet. Fermented foods provide a natural source of probiotics and this is great for Sydney, Scout, and Zoey. Rodrigo also enjoys the fermented foods, but he still needs additional supplements for support.
Fermented Foods for My Dogs
- Fermented Vegetables
- Fermented Seeds
- Fermented Fish Stock from Answers Pet Food
- Raw Goat's Milk or Kefir (I alternate)