Fiber for dogs is an important component of a balanced diet. This nutrition buzzword is often touted as promoting good digestion in humans, and it does the exact same thing for your pup. Dietary fiber helps to promote regular bowel movements and helps maintain a healthy colon.
That said, incorporating fiber into your dog's diet has quite a few health benefits both in both the short and long-term. But a quick scan for "fiber" on the dog food label isn't enough: It's important to understand the different types and how they could help or harm your pup's overall health.
The Good - Benefits of fiber-rich foods
Broadly defined, fiber is the part of grains and vegetables that doesn't become absorbed through digestion. Soluble fiber absorbs water and is fermented in the intestines, releasing fatty acids that promote the health of the lining of the gut. Insoluble fiber also absorbs water, but doesn't ferment. Most fiber-rich foods contain a mix of both soluble and insoluble fiber, both of which offer benefits.
For starters, fiber is the ideal remedy for dogs who suffer from both diarrhea and constipation because insoluble fiber acts like a sponge by absorbing excess water and acid (aka diarrhea) and soluble fiber acts like a broom, sweeping things along and preventing roadblocks (aka constipation).
Similarly, adding fiber is a go-to solution for dogs who need to drop a few pounds. Typically low in calories, fiber absorbs water and creates a sensation of being fuller, longer.
Smaller dogs, in particular, can suffer from anal gland problems in which the glands become plugged and irritated. Fiber can help "bulk up" stools, applying pressure to the glands from the inside and allowing them to excrete naturally.
The long-term perks? The same fiber that promotes a regular poop cycle will help keep the cells and bacteria in your pup's colon healthy. And the same fiber that helps your dog reach and maintain a healthy weight and can help dogs with blood sugar problems, including diabetes.
The Bad - Risks of a fiber-heavy diet
When it comes to fiber, your dog might be like Goldilocks. They'll need to find the balance between not enough fiber (as it can cause issues) and too much fiber (which cna also cause issues).
Aside from diarrhea and constipation, not enough fiber in a dog's diet can lead to troubles like blocked anal glands and long-term health issues regarding colon diseases and weight, which in turn lead to myriad chronic health problems that affect your pet's quality of life.
On the other hand, too much fiber causes food to move through the dog's digestive system too quickly, keeping the body from absorbing essential nutrients from their food. Something else to keep in mind if you're using fiber to regulate your dog's weight: dropping pounds too fast could lead to unintended problems. Just like it does in humans. These can range from nutritional deficiencies to metabolic disorders.
How much fiber does your dog need?
To figure this out, start by reading labels. Look for fiber-rich ingredients like vegetables and grains and avoid those listing "powdered cellulose," which is a blanket term for subpar ingredients that literally could include shredded paper, tree pulp and cotton. These are cheap, starchy fillers that offer virtually no nutritional benefit.
Next, evaluate your dog. If they are healthy, active, poop regularly and are at an ideal weight, they are likely getting an adequate amount of fiber.
However, if your dog is having trouble with digestion or weight, it could be that their fiber intake isn't ideal. Talk with your vet about either changing your dog's diet or supplementing it with fresh vegetables like kale, pumpkin, apples, peas, broccoli, celery, and beets.
At Ollie, we know how important the right amount and right kinds of fiber are to your pup. Our veterinary nutritionist helps us create Recipes that are balanced and rich in fiber to help keep your pup's digestive system running optimally. We include human-grade ingredients like kale and pumpkin so you don't have to supplement with additonal sources of fiber.
The Ollie blog is devoted to helping pet parents lead healthier lives with their pups. If you want to learn more about our fresh, human-grade food, check out MyOllie.com.