Enzymes work throughout the body, focusing on breakdown of proteins, fats and carbohydrates. Some enzymes are destroyed through cooking, chemicals and UV rays. A cat's body also may be enzyme depleted from illness or environmental toxins. Raw food keeps its natural enzymes, but supplementation is still warranted in some cases.
What Are Enzymes?
Enzymes are proteins that break down carbohydrates, fats and proteins within the body. Every enzyme has its own purpose and is assigned to its own task. For example, proteolytic enzymes break down proteins, amylase breaks down carbohydrates, cellulase addresses fiber, and lipase works on fats. The body makes thousands of enzymes each day. However, enzyme supplementation can be warranted in cases where a cat has trouble digesting nutrients, is deficient in a particular enzyme, or in cases of enzyme destruction of food.
Where Enzymes Come in Handy
Enzyme deficiency can occur in cases of cystic fibrosis, chronic inflammatory bowel disease and pancreatic disease. Generally, raw foods contain naturally occurring enzymes, which are destroyed with cooking, pesticides and preservatives in food. Pollution, excess UV rays and medications can deplete a cat's enzyme levels. Feeding raw food increases the level of natural enzymes a cat ingests, however in most raw diets, some enzymes remain missing -- those naturally found in prey's stomach, intestines and organs.
Benefits and Administration
Mercola's Healthy Pets website suggests even in raw diets, enzyme supplementation can help ensure a cat is able to fully digest his food, without tapping into her body's metabolic enzyme stash. They note enzyme supplementation can help support healthy circulation, immune functions, cell growth, detoxification and cleansing of the blood and lymph. They recommend feeding high quality animal-based enzymes with meals to maximize absorption and allow the enzymes to work with food to accomplish their specific tasks.
Safety of Raw Diets
Raw foods may contain intact enzymes, but controversy surrounds the safety of raw meats due to contamination. Therefore, all meats should be the highest quality, preferably organic to reduce the risk of contamination. A study published in the journal Foodborne Pathogens and Diseases, for example, showed 28.8 percent of nonorganic chickens carried salmonella, while only 4.3 percent of organic chickens had it. Cat parents should consider whether their cats' current health is strong enough to handle potential contamination.
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