Manufacturer’s dog supplement description: “Prebiotics (FOS) help to support your pet’s naturally occurring beneficial bacteria. Probiotics contain a blend of live/viable naturally occurring microorganisms recommended to help support a healthy digestive tract and maintain a healthy immune system.”[tabs][tab title =”Overview”]NaturVet Digestive Enzymes for pets is a powder containing prebiotics and probiotics, and several enzymes that are involved in digestion of food products. It is claimed to support naturally occurring bacteria beneficial for a healthy digestive tract, as well as boost your pet’s immune system.[/tab] [tab title =”How It Works”]Prebiotics are a class of sugars that bacteria can feed on. They are primarily a food source for “good” gut bacteria, and so make it easier for the good bacteria to multiply by providing an extra source of energy from them. Probiotics are the “good” bacteria themselves, so dosing with them provides a head start in the creation of good bacterial populations.
This particular supplement requires regular administration to retain the effect, as the probiotic bacteria it contains do not stick to the gut wall and so can’t establish populations. Digestive enzymes in the supplement are copies of the enzymes which break down starch, protein and fat that are found naturally in the body.[/tab] [tab title=”Uses”]Prebiotics and some types of probiotics are known from research studies on farm and domestic animals to be useful in helping to restore and maintain a “healthy” bacterial population in animals that are being treated for disease (e.g. with antibiotics) where the treatment disrupts the gut’s natural bacteria.
Prebiotics and probiotics have also been shown to have an impact on the makeup of gut flora in the healthy animal, increasing the number of good bacteria (that assist in the digestive process), so the animal is better able to digest food and absorb nutrients and minerals, and remain more resistant to illness.
Digestive enzymes can be useful in some diseases, to pre-breakdown the food for maximum absorption in the gut. There is no evidence to suggest that adding digestive enzymes to food is beneficial to the healthy animal, and as discussed in more detail in the section below, without more information on the nature of the enzymes in this supplement it’s hard to say whether they have any effects at all.[/tab] [tab title =”Side Effects”]There are few risks associated with feeding prebiotics and probiotics. The most common side effects seen are gastrointestinal signs such as bloating, flatulence or diarrhea. These will go away when feeding of the supplement is stopped, and if necessary the required dose can be built up slowly over time to minimize the impact of side effects.
Very occasionally, a seriously ill animal may suffer significant illness such as sepsis, and so it is recommended not to give probiotics to young or immunocompromised animals.[/tab] [tab title =”Dosage”]The Product comes as a powder which is added to food; ¼ teaspoon per cup of food.[/tab][/tabs]
NaturVet Digestive Enzymes for Dogs
Digestive Enzymes help to break down food and transport nutrients in the body. Probiotics contain a blend of live/viable naturally occurring microorganisms recommended to help support a healthy digestive tract and maintain a healthy immune system. Probiotics contain a blend of live/viable naturally occurring microorganisms recommended to help support a healthy digestive tract and maintain a healthy immune system.
NaturVet Digestive Enzymes that includes probiotics and prebiotics (explained below) is a concentrated enzyme blend for dogs derived from vegetable sources and not from animal sources. It contains a source of live/viable naturally occurring in nature microorganisms recommended to help support a healthy digestive tract of pets. Alpha Amylase will technically hydrolyze starch, Protease will hydrolyze proteins, Cellulase will break down cellulose, Lipase can hydrolyze triglycerides, and probiotics enhance normal digestion.
What are prebiotics
Prebiotics are defined as “selectively fermented ingredients that result in specific changes in the composition and/or activity of the gastrointestinal microbiota, thus conferring benefit(s) upon host health.” This means that when fed to a canine, a prebiotic changes numbers and levels of activity of bacteria in the dog’s gut so that in the end, there’s an increased number of good/necessary bacteria.
Prebiotics are non-digestible carbohydrates* – in this particular powder supplement, they are a class of molecule called Fructooligosaccharides (FOS). FOS are relatively hard for the body to digest, thus they make it to the large intestine before being significantly broken down and absorbed by the dog’s body. There is some evidence that breakdown of FOS in the large intestine has beneficial effects on pet’s general health, primarily due the products that result from the actions of two different types of necessary  bacteria – bifidobacteria and lactobacilli – found there .
What are probiotics
Probiotics are “live micro-organisms that confer a health benefit on the host when administered in adequate amounts.”
Unlike prebiotics, probiotics are given as live bacteria and are sensitive to breakdown in the dog’s upper digestive tract (and as a consequence are sometimes manufactured with a protective coating, e.g. Fortiflora); however, when given in sufficient quantities, probiotics in dogs can demonstrate a positive effect on growth and bacterial composition in the intestine even without coating. This has been observed in some trials with farm animals, even improving growth rate and decreasing illnesses [3, 4].
The probiotic in this supplement is a bacterial strain called bacillus coagulans. This is a lactic acid producing bacteria that is not naturally found in an animal’s digestive tract, and is unable to adhere to the gut wall once introduced. As a result of that -unlike other probiotics which are able to treat the pet’s intestine as a host and multiple (and competitively exclude more pathogenic bacteria via outperforming for food and space resources) – the effectiveness of b. coagulans depends upon regular administration of this supplement .
What are digestive enzymes
The third part of the product is a series of digestive enzymes: amylase (for the breakdown of starches), protease (for the breakdown of proteins), cellulase (breaks down cellulose) and lipase (breaks down fats).
No mention is made of whether the above enzymes are treated in any way before being added to the NaturVet powder. This could be significant, as it is well known that unprotected enzymes given orally are unlikely to reach far enough into the digestive system to be especially effective. For example, insulin needs to be given by injection because its structure is broken down to such an extent by stomach acids and proteases that it does not retain a functional form if given orally.
With that said, these enzymes in this formulation are presumably intended to assist with the breakdown of food that is being consumed at the same time as the supplement. As such, they all pass into the mouth and stomach together, potentially providing an opportunity for the various enzymes to target their specific substrate. Whether this is valuable or not does not seem to have been tested in any type of clinical setting.
Digestive enzyme supplementation can be useful in cases of pancreatitis, but in this case, the enzymes receive a protective enteric coating to protect them on their passage through the small intestine.
It seems likely that the prebiotic, and possibly the probiotic, elements of this product could have positive health effects, but the enzymes are only useful in specific cases.
Reviews from users of this product are quite mixed (source: Amazon.com), with many claiming it has helped with their dog’s gas, diarrhea and loose stools, while others have not seen any effects. Rather worryingly, many of the negative reviews are regarding the lack of safety seal on the pack and variable quality of product. It also looks like some dogs also have palatability issues with the powder itself.
NaturVet Digestive Enzymes ingredients
According to the company’s website, per 1g of powder, the product contains:
- Crude fibre, which consists chiefly of cellulose and other vegetable cell wall substances, and is a mixture of largely indigestible substances (0.2%)
- FOS prebiotic (30mg)
- Alpha-amylase. This is similar to the amylase found in saliva which is also produced by the pancreas, but this specific variety is created by an Aspergillus species. There are 2320 SKBU** of amylase per gram of product, providing 38g of broken down starch per gram of enzyme.
- Lipase, which is also derived from the fermentation activities of an Aspergillus species. There are 210 Lipase Units (LU) per gram of powder.
- Cellulase, obtained from the activity of a different fungus Trichoderma.
- Protease, derived from papaya
- 100 million CFU*** of B. coagulans (measured at the time of manufacture.)
* In this context non-digestible means that they are not broken down or absorbed in the stomach or small intestine and reach the large intestine untouched.
** SKBU = the unit of measurement of the effectiveness of an amylase named after Sanstedt, Kneen and Blish, the scientists that derived the test.
*** A CFU is a colony forming unit, or a rough measure of viability of the bacteria. If the bacteria are not protected in any way, this number could drop significantly if the powder is exposed to extremes of temperature or allowed to get wet.
- Borriello SP, Hammes WP, Holzapfel W, Marteau P, Schrezenmeir J, Vaara M, Valtonen V. Safety of probiotics that contain lactobacilli or bifidobacteria. Clin Infect Dis. 2003 Mar 15;36(6):775-80. [study]
- Hartemink, R. Prebiotic effects of non-digestible oligo- and polysaccharides. 1999. [pdf]
- Adami A, Cavazzoni V. Occurrence of selected bacterial groups in the faeces of piglets fed with Bacillus coagulans as probiotic. J Basic Microbiol. 1999;39(1):3-9. [pdf]
- Cavazzoni V, Adami A, Castrovilli C. Performance of broiler chickens supplemented with Bacillus coagulans as probiotic. Br Poult Sci. 1998 Sep;39(4):526-9. doi: 10.1080/00071669888719
- Endres JR, Clewell A, Jade KA, Farber T, Hauswirth J, Schauss AG. Safety assessment of a proprietary preparation of a novel Probiotic, Bacillus coagulans, as a food ingredient. Food Chem Toxicol. 2009 Jun;47(6):1231-8. doi: 10.1016/j.fct.2009.02.018
Disclaimer: The purported effects of the supplements or ingredients discussed in this article may, or may not, have been subject to rigorous scientific investigation. This article is an introductory document which is not intended to be a scientific review either endorsing or refuting the claimed effects of the supplements or ingredients. The information is NOT to be used for diagnosis or treatment of your pet. You should always consult your own veterinarian for specific advice concerning the treatment of your pet. The supplement has not been tested or tried by the author of this content.