Digestive enzymes for cats are available over the counter, but it's not a good idea to give them to Kitty unless your vet recommends them. Most cats don't need them, but if your cat is experiencing digestive upset, let your vet check him out. Enzymes aid certain conditions.
Your cat's pancreas produces digestive enzymes to help him digest proteins, starches and fats. Commercial digestive enzymes, in powder form, are meant to be mixed with your cat's food as a supplement. Don't use digestive enzymes marketed for people or other species for your cat. Typical enzymes available in a commercial preparation include amylase, which converts starch into monosaccharides or simple sugars; protease, which aids in protein digestion; and lipase, which breaks down fats. While generally safe, digestive enzymes shouldn't be given to cats with liver or kidney disease or those that are pregnant or nursing.
If the pancreas doesn't produce enough enzymes, your cat can suffer from exocrine pancreatic insufficiency. Symptoms of EPI include weight loss even though your cat is always hungry, along with chronic diarrhea. Not only will your cat's stools be loose and profuse, but they'll really stink, too. You might also notice a high incidence of feline flatulence. Some cats develop an oily hair coat. The condition generally strikes cats of middle age or older.
EPI might be the result of pancreatitis, or a chronic inflammation of your cat's pancreas. Cats with this disease often also suffer from diabetes mellitus, so you're dealing with daily insulin injections as well as digestive enzyme supplementation. Symptoms of pancreatitis include appetite loss, vomiting and abdominal pain. Among the tests run to diagnose pancreatitis is the panreatic lipase immunoreactivity, measuring the amount of lipase in Kitty's blood. Your vet might give your cat intravenous fluids to replace those lost from vomiting, along with pain medication. As your cat recovers, your vet might recommend digestive enzyme supplementation.
If your cat is diagnosed with EPI or pancreatitis, he might require digestive enzyme supplementation for the rest of his life. That doesn't mean he'll require the same dosage -- your vet will monitor your pet and the amounts can change according to your cat's condition changes. In addition to digestive enzyme supplementation, your vet might prescribe a change of diet for Kitty. That usually means switching him over to a lowfat, low-fiber specialty food that's easier for your cat to digest.
Jane Meggitt has been a writer for more than 20 years. In addition to reporting for a major newspaper chain, she has been published in "Horse News," "Suburban Classic," "Hoof Beats," "Equine Journal" and other publications. She has a Bachelor of Arts in English from New York University and an Associate of Arts from the American Academy of Dramatics Arts, New York City.