Should I Add More Fiber to My Dog’s Diet?
Doctors recommend that the average person consume between 25 to 35 grams of fiber each day. Some folks get all the fiber they need from whole-grain bread, fruits, and vegetables, while others rely on fiber supplements to reach their daily quota. There is no recommended daily amount of fiber for dogs, but many pet owners opt for high-fiber pet foods or supplement their pets’ diets to address constipation and promote a healthy weight.
Does Your Dog Need More Fiber?
Probably not. Most dogs get all the fiber they need from commercially-produced dog foods. A veterinarian may recommend supplemental fiber for the following types of dogs:
- Dogs suffering from diarrhea or constipation or who regularly deal with these conditions
- Diabetic dogs
- Dogs with high levels of fat in their blood
- Overweight or obese dogs
There are two primary types of fiber: soluble and insoluble. Insoluble fiber helps move food through the digestive tract at the appropriate pace, not too slowly or too quickly. Soluble fiber can help to regulate blood sugar and, working in tandem with gut bacteria, help promote healthy digestion in the long term.
Monitoring your own fiber consumption is about as straightforward as it gets. Look for the term “dietary fiber” on any food package and you’ll find how many grams are included in each serving.
Technically speaking, those labels don’t always tell the whole story. Most don’t specify which type (or types) of fiber a product includes. Dog food labels provide even less information, listing only “crude fiber” (mostly insoluble fiber). What’s more, the “Guaranteed Analysis” printed on pet food bags and cans doesn’t tell you exactly how much fiber a product contains. Rather, it tells pet owners the maximum amount of fiber that it could contain.
Veterinary nutritionist Dr. Lisa Freeman notes that this can make it look like dry kibble contains much more fiber than wet dog food. This is merely the result of how much water is included in canned wet food. “Serving for serving,” Dr. Freeman says, “the fiber content of dry kibble and canned food are not necessarily so different.”
Health Benefits of Fiber for Dogs
Fiber is important, but not because it’s rich in nutrients. Most of the fiber that people and pets consume passes through the body undigested. Its impact mostly comes down to how it combines with other substances and parts of the body. While it’s not considered essential for dogs, fiber’s potential benefits are fairly consistent across species.
Promoting Healthy Digestion
For dogs struggling with constipation, a little extra fiber can go a long way in alleviating their symptoms. As it passes through the digestive tract, some fiber ferments into fatty acids that can discourage the growth of harmful gut bacteria. Fiber may even reduce your dog’s colon cancer risk.
Maintaining a Healthy Weight
Overweight and obese dogs are more likely to suffer from a variety of health conditions, including orthopedic and respiratory diseases. Eating high-fiber foods generally promotes a feeling of fullness that can discourage overeating in both people and dogs. That’s why many weight control foods include so much.
Regulating Blood Sugar
By slowing down digestion, certain types of fiber can prevent blood sugar spikes. Veterinarians have also observed that fiber can reduce a dog’s insulin sensitivity and make living with diabetes more manageable.
Sources of Fiber for Dogs
In addition to high-fiber dog foods and supplements, plenty of fridge and pantry staples are safe for canine consumption. Small amounts of these fruits, vegetables, and grains can help address temporary constipation while promoting your dog’s overall well-being. Make sure to avoid added salt, sugar, fats, and seasonings.
In addition to fiber, this fall favorite is rich in various vitamins and minerals including iron, magnesium, and vitamin E. Adding small amounts of pumpkin to new foods is also a great way to soothe the upset stomach that may come with routine dietary changes. Steer clear of pumpkin pie filling to avoid serving up excess calories and potentially dangerous additives.
Sweet potatoes provide a healthy dose of fiber, as well as nutrients like vitamins A and B6. Make sure not to serve raw spuds, which can cause an upset stomach or even an intestinal blockage. Also, peel the potatoes for easier digestion.
With three times as much fiber as white rice, brown rice is often useful in helping dogs with diarrhea and upset stomachs.
Talk to Your Veterinarian
Nobody knows your pet better than you do, but nobody knows what they need to thrive better than their veterinarian. Never make a major change to your dog’s diet without first seeking out their expert guidance or attempt to diagnose any health issue on your own. Sudden updates to their daily meals could leave your dog dealing with digestive issues and potentially result in more serious health consequences.
Your vet or a Board Certified Veterinary Nutritionist® will first help you determine whether supplementary fiber will help your dog and then work alongside you to safely introduce it into their diet.