It is often assumed that if an animal has diarrhea, it’s caused by a pathogen. E. coli, Salmonella, Rotavirus and other bacteria can and do cause many intestinal infections. However, sometimes nutrition can be indirectly to blame.
“In some cases, it is actually osmotic diarrhea, caused by an indigestible protein.” said Dr. Brad Lawrence, Swine Technical Manager for Novus International. Excess dietary protein reaches the hindgut and affects its pH, making it more conducive to the growth of pathogenic bacteria. The body responds by re-secreting water back into the gastrointestinal (GI) tract to help dilute the concentration of protein fermentation. Excess water in the stool, or osmatic diarrhea, is the result.
One of the health and feeding challenges for weaned pigs is that they have an extremely high potential for growth, so they need a protein-dense diet to support that growth. However, they have an immature GI tract and enzyme system that has a tough time digesting the high level of protein.
“A protease enzyme works to make the indigestible portion of feed ingredients more available to the animal by degrading components such as anti-nutritional and allergenic proteins so they are more easily absorbed into the digestive system,” Lawrence said. “Through improved protein degradation the flow of undigested protein to the hindgut is reduced. This reduces the need for that increase in water secretion back into the GI tract.”
The bonus, he added, is by increasing absorption of the protein and decreasing the amount of protein that reaches the hindgut, it also deprives the potentially pathogenic bacteria of a food source.
“Including a protease enzyme in growing animal diets improves diet digestibility, reduces excess nitrogen and reduces potentially harmful bacteria in the gut,” Lawrence concluded. “And these factors can lead to improved economic return for producers.”