Fiber is one of nutrition's favorite buzz words, the secret sauce of good digestion. But how does fiber relate to your four-legged friend's diet? How much roughage should be in his ruff?
Just in case you were sleeping during health class when this was covered, here's a quick recap: there are two types of fiber, soluble and insoluble. Soluble fiber absorbs water and ferments in the stomach, releasing gases as it travels through the colon. Insoluble fiber also absorbs water, but doesn't ferment.
Fiber comes in the form of carbohydrates, and we've already established that mass market dry kibble is over-carbing our dogs with cheap fillers like corn. And even some "with fiber" labels on dog food are misleading, since the source of that fiber could literally be shredded paper. Not kidding. (Don't worry, it gets a fancier name on ingredient lists like cellulose, which is a broad term generally used to disguise subpar ingredients.)
Technically speaking, fiber isn't an essential nutrient for canines, but all fiber is not created equal. (Exhibit A: shredded paper) Dogs can benefit from quality fiber-friendly diets to help with certain conditions like:
- Constipation and diarrhea - the remedy the runs or the plugs is fiber. If your dog suffers from one or both, more fiber will keep the conveyer belt of digestion work at a more consistent pace.
- Obesity - overweight dogs benefit from a fiber-rich diet because fiber offers a lot of bang for the buck when it comes to feeling full.
- Diabetes - fiber can be useful in the regulation of blood glucose levels, helping dogs avoid dangerous spikes in blood sugar.
- Anal gland disease - 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. (A job that most pet parents are more than willing to give up!)
So the long and short of it is that fiber is helpful when it comes from a good source and is portioned appropriately as part of a balanced diet. It's like the fine print at the bottom of every hip-hop star's branded booze: please fiber responsibly.