Dietary Fiber for Dogs

Dietary fiber for dogs is essential for maintaining their health. The diet of adult dogs should contain at least 2.5 to 4.5 percent of fiber. Fiber helps to maintain the gastrointestinal health of dogs, and helps in the prevention of diseases like diabetes, colon carcinoma, weight gain, irritable bowel syndrome and colitis. In addition, fiber facilitates smooth bowel movement and hence prevents constipation. However, dogs with chronic diarrhea shouldn’t be given fiber as this could worsen the condition.

Importance of Fiber in the Diet

Dogs have evolved from being primarily carnivores to omnivores and can now digest nutrients from animals and plants. From being a primarily protein diet, a dog’s diet now contains significant amounts of carbohydrates. Fiber in the food has several effects. Moderate to high amounts of fiber make the dog feel satiated without consuming large amounts of food and thus helps him lose weight. Fibers also slow down gastric emptying. However, too much fiber in the food makes the food less tasty and decreases the digestion of important nutrients resulting in loose stools and frequent passing of feces.

How Does Fiber Works in the Dog’s Body?

Although dogs cannot digest fiber, bacteria in the intestine break apart the fiber into short-chain fatty acids. These acids provide energy to the cells lining the intestine. Intestinal cells require a high amount of energy to function properly and the fermentation of fiber helps in the digestion of nutrients in the intestine.

Forms of Fiber:

  • Soluble fiber dissolves easily in water. Some foods rich in soluble fiber are fruits, oats, some beans, barley, and vegetables. Such foods result in slow digestion, an easily satiated appetite, and an increased absorption of nutrients.
  • Insoluble fiber doesn’t dissolve in water. However, such fiber retains water. Some foods rich in insoluble fiber are vegetables, whole grains, and wheat bran. Such foods ease constipation by easing passage through the body.
  • Highly fermentable fiber results in poor stool quality. Foods rich in highly fermentable fiber are cabbage, pectin and guar gum.
  • Moderately fermentable fiber results in adequate production of short-chain fatty acids and maintains excellent stool quality. Examples of foods rich in moderately fermentable fiber are beet pulp and rice bran.
  • Slow fermentable fiber doesn’t result in adequate production of short-chain fatty acids and is found in plant hull cellulose. This type of fiber is helpful in weight management as it increases bulk and thus the dog feels full even though he has consumed lesser amounts of food.

Tips to Add Fiber to the Dogs Diet

Pet owners may incorporate fiber to the pet’s diet by sprinkling small amounts of rice bran, wheat bran or oat bran on the food. A spoonful of canned unseasoned pumpkin is another good way to increase the fiber intake in the pet’s diet. Brown rice has three times more fiber than white rice and a spoonful of brown rice mixed with pet kibble or, small portions of vegetables like carrots, peas or green beans can satisfy the daily fiber requirements of your pet.

It’s advisable to use only a little fiber with regular food to ensure good health. Too much fiber can be harmful as it can cause diarrhea or flatulence. If the dog develops diarrhea, it’s best to cut down on the fiber. An increase in daily exercise also helps control flatulence.