Most of us know by now how important fiber is to our own diets. The makers of high fiber cereal, as well as our doctors, have made clear the many health benefits of a diet high in fiber. But is fiber in dog food important as well?
The answer is yes. In many of the same ways that fiber promotes our own health, fiber in a dog’s diet will help to improve stool quality, colon health, promote weight loss or maintenance, and even help to regulate blood sugar levels.
Benefits of Fiber
Fiber is a form of carbohydrate and in most diets is composed largely of the cell walls of plants. These cell walls are indigestible, meaning that they move through the digestive tract intact, and are not dissolved by the enzymes and acids that break down other food components like protein and fat.
Because fiber is indigestible it helps to regulate the movement of food and waste through the small and large intestines. Fiber tends to prolong the digestive process by slowing things down a bit, allowing the digestive tract to do its job of extracting nutrients from the food and efficiently eliminating what the body doesn’t need through the dog’s stool.
A dog that receives enough fiber in their diet in the right form, but not too much, will have better digestive health. At the same time, you’ll notice an improvement in your dog’s stool, which will be firm and well formed, not loose or pasty. This is not only good for your dog but good for you come clean-up time!
At the same time, fiber can help your dog maintain a proper weight. By adding bulk to food without the addition of calories, a high fiber meal will make your dog feel full and satisfied with less caloric intake. That's why many dry dog food brands like the Purina Pro Plan Puppy Lamb And Rice add brewer's rice and grains to ensure there is enough fiber.
Those dogs that have or are prone to diabetes will also benefit from a diet that is well balanced with fiber. Fiber allows the body to absorb sugar from the diet more slowly, which helps to maintain stable blood sugar levels, a key component of proper diabetes management.
Is your dog getting enough fiber?
There are a number of signs you can look for that will tell you your dog might not be getting enough fiber.
If your dog has a tendency to strain during defecation, this might be a sign that more fiber is warranted. Dogs that scoot along the floor, rubbing their rear ends along the carpeting, could be having trouble expelling their anal glands. Fiber in your dog’s stool may help stimulate these glands and relieve the uncomfortable pressure.
As a final note, dog owners should be aware that although fiber in its proper proportion is good for your dog’s health, too much fiber can cause problems itself. Dogs with an overabundance of dietary fiber can develop soft stools. This is often due to too much of a specific kind of fiber called “soluble” fiber. A high quality dog food will typically contain the right proportion and type of fiber for your pet, although consultation with your vet will help ensure your dog is getting just what he or she needs.
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This information is for informational purposes only and is not meant as a substitute for the professional advice of, or diagnosis or treatment by, your veterinarian. It has however been reviewed for accuracy by Dr. Joe, a board certified veterinary nutritionist and graduate of Cornell University's program for Veterinary Medicine.