As dog owners, we try to give the best possible care to our pets, especially so with their nutrition. While most of the commercial dog food available in the market provide a lot, if not all, of what a domesticated canine needs for their daily nutrition, one particular ingredient that has been overlooked for years has recently enjoyed renewed interest. That ingredient is dietary fiber.
Dietary fiber for dogs has been a divisive topic for a while now amongst many dog owners. A huge chunk of pet owners and breeders say that dogs need it to live longer, healthier lives. While another group is saying that it’s unnecessary altogether, and can even be detrimental for your pet’s overall health.
In most cases, your dog should have a moderate level of fiber. From 2 to 4 percent of their total food consumption should be fiber. But, if your dog is suffering from constipation or other digestive issues, he should consume up to 10 percent fiber.
We will be taking an in-depth look at dietary fiber. We will look at what its effects are on dogs, and how much should you give them.
Do Dogs Need Fiber?
Let’s look into whether dogs would need dietary fiber in the first place. Wild canines don’t actually consume a lot of fiber. They have a primarily carnivorous diet. However, domesticated dogs do benefit from fiber that they get from commercially processed food. Unlike their wild relatives, dogs aren’t pure carnivores. They have adapted to live an omnivorous lifestyle, allowing them to consume some plant matter, and consequently, fiber.
Dietary fiber itself has no nutritional value, and dogs don’t really have a physiological need for it. Fiber is mostly there to help with the dog’s digestive process. It helps clear up any obstructions by helping the intestines absorb nutrients better.
Fiber itself has two seemingly contradicting attributes. It has both moisture-absorbing properties and lubricating properties. This gives fiber a normalizing effect in the intestinal tract. It slows down the digestive process if the dog is suffering from diarrhea, or speed it up a bit if they’re having constipation. Fiber also has the ability to absorb certain forms of toxin that can be harmful to your pet.
How Much Fiber Should a Dog Have in Their Diet?
Now that we know that fiber itself has something good to offer our pets, how much of it can we give our furry companions?
Most dog foods available on the market contain anywhere between 1% – 10% fiber. Certain foods that have fiber content higher than 10% becomes unnecessary. These foods can actually have a detrimental effect on a dog’s poop if they already have healthy bowel movements.
Dog food that has anywhere between 2% – 5% fiber is considered to be the norm. 2% to 5% should be enough for a healthy animal. High fiber dog food, on the other hand, has anywhere between 6% – 10% fiber content. Your dogs should also consume fiber from natural sources, such as fruits and vegetables. If your dogs are sensitive to certain grains, their foods should also be grain-free.
Best High Fiber Dog Food
While it doesn’t take much for a dog food manufacturer to stick as much fiber in dog food as possible and label it “high fiber”, it takes more than that to make a well-balanced diet for your dog.
As pet parents, we naturally want the best for our pets. That also means looking for dog food that offers a lot more than just fiber.
Here’s a list of the best available high fiber dog foods currently on the market:
Wellness Core Natural Reduced Fat Dry Food
Wellness Core’s dog food formula focuses a lot on a well-rounded diet that’s also all-natural, with most of its protein deriving from actual meat, not fillers such as soy, wheat, meat by-products or corn. It’s characterized by a recipe that is low in fat, high in protein, grain-free and, of course, has high fiber content. It’s a good food for maintaining a healthy weight in dogs while still providing them with an all-balanced diet.
Because it lacks wheat and other grains, it’s perfect for dogs that have problems with gluten. This particular dog food has an excellent turkey flavor most breeds will enjoy.
Dr. Tim’s Weight Management Formula
If your dog is slightly chunky for their breed, then this dog food can help you manage their weight effectively. It has enough nutrients to fuel your pet’s daily needs, while still providing enough carbohydrates, fats and fiber to support active weight loss. The recipe also contains L-carnitine, which helps a lot in the healthy metabolism of fat.
This formula was designed to optimize your dog’s ability to burn calories while still making their stomach feel full, lessening their need to feed without making it too uncomfortable. It is also grain-free, making this a good choice for dogs that have a sensitivity towards corn, wheat or soy products. It contains 8% fiber.
Blue Buffalo Wilderness Healthy Weight Recipe
Blue Buffalo Wilderness has their own weight management recipe that can also provide for a dog’s daily needs and helps with weight loss. This brand, however, is geared more towards active breeds that generally make a living in the outdoors. It’s designed to help dogs develop and maintain lean muscle mass, allowing for clean weight loss. Its protein is derived from natural sources, such as lean chicken and turkey, and is also low in carbohydrates.
Its high fiber content comes from fresh fruits and vegetables that can help support your pet’s digestive process while still allowing them to maintain a healthy weight. Much like Dr. Tim’s, Blue Buffalo also has L-carnitine in their weight loss recipe to help with metabolizing fats.
The Missing Link Ultimate Canine Skin & Coat Formula
This particular brand focuses more on complimenting your dog’s existing diet rather than the sole source of nutrients. It’s an excellent way to provide a complete source of dietary fiber and vitamins to pets that are finicky, and are difficult to transition to other food items. It can also be used to as a healthy booster for dogs that have been recently ill or one that has suffered through poor nutrition in the past, like rescued dogs.
Aside from providing an excellent source of nutrients, Missing Link’s Ultimate Formula also encourages healthy skin and coat, as well as bolstering your dog’s immune system. It’s made from top human-grade foods as well, so your dog is definitely getting the best out of it.
Royal Canin Veterinary Diet Gastrointestinal Fiber Response
If your dog is known to suffer from bouts of intestinal issues, such as diarrhea, vomiting and anorexia, or are currently suffering from it, then Royal Canin’s Gastrointestinal Fiber formula should be able to help you out with that. It’s formulated with a blend of multiple types of fiber that can help with your dog’s intestinal movements as well as maintain a healthy population of beneficial microfauna in their gut.
It is made from highly digestible proteins as well as other natural ingredients that can help soothe your pet’s intestinal sensitivities. This brand does have a very high fiber content, so it’s not advisable to give on a daily basis if your dog is not actually having any gastrointestinal issues.
Is Too Much Fiber Bad for Dogs?
We’ve learned quite a bit about fiber already, and all the benefits it can give your pet dogs, but are there any adverse side-effects for giving your dog too much fiber? Is too much of a good thing really that bad?
Overall, dietary fiber is good for your dog. It can help with the equilibrium of your pet’s digestion. If your dog is suffering from diarrhea, giving them fiber will help give their stool mass and helps absorb water to minimize the movement dogs have in their intestines. On the other hand, if they have constipation, it helps speed up the processes by lubricating their stool with the very water they’ve absorbed as they travel through your dog’s intestinal tract.
Despite this, however, fiber can have the ability to take things too far. It’s not at all impossible to give a dog that has constipation too much fiber to help them out, only for them to suffer from diarrhea not long after.
If you don’t regulate your dog’s fiber intake properly, they can suffer from a myriad of digestive problems such as:
Flatulence or gas
This generally happens when your pet consumes too much insoluble fiber too quickly. This means that the fiber they consume won’t be broken down properly as they move through the gastro-intestinal tract. This results in the bacteria living in your dog’s colons ending up with the job of breaking down these fibers, creating gas as a byproduct.
When your dog consumes too much insoluble fiber, the fiber will encourage the food to pass through much more quickly, leading to loose stools or even diarrhea. Because the fiber pushes food too quickly forward, the body won’t have enough time to process anything, hence causing loose bowel movements.
Too much insoluble fiber also increases the volume of poop your dog passes, since they are unable to digest them. This inevitably causes your dog to simply push them through without being able to absorb any meaningful amount of nutrition. This manifests either as an increased frequency in your dog passing stools, or an actual increase in the volume they pass at any given time.
Unlike insoluble fiber that maintains most of its form as it passes through your pet’s GI tract, soluble fiber can be broken down and absorbed, allowing it to be incorporated into your pet’s stool. Soluble fiber has water-absorbing properties, which causes your dog’s stool to harden, and eventually can cause constipation.
Because dietary fiber is a natural binding agent for minerals, taking too much of it will cause nutrients to be bound to the fiber itself, which can cause your dog to eliminate them even before their bodies could have a chance to absorb them. Too much fiber can then cause mineral deficiencies on you pet, something that can be difficult to deal with in the long run.
The trick to making sure your dog doesn’t go through any of these issues is to keep an eye on your chosen dog food’s portion size relative to your dog’s overall size and weight, as well as the type of fiber present in their diets.
What is a Good Source of Fiber for Dogs?
If you’re still on the fence about giving your dog a fiber-rich dog food diet, then there are alternative sources of dietary fiber out there that you can give your pets. While most of these sources are plant-based, you can incorporate them easily with what your dog is currently eating in case they’re not the type to eat their veggies.
Here are just a few fiber-rich foods that your dog can eat.
Although kale has been known as a superfood for humans for a while now, you can actually offer them to your fur babies as well. They can get the same benefits as humans do, not just because of its high fiber content. Kale is also a great source of trace minerals, such as iron, riboflavin, thiamine and folate, which are great to supplement your dog’s current diet.
When milled to have their hard outer shells removed, flaxseed can be a good source of soluble fiber for your pet. This makes it a great binding agent for fat, bile and cholesterol, allowing your dog’s digestive system to work at peak efficiency. It’s also a good remedy if your dog is suffering from loose stool or diarrhea.
Because of its sweet taste, sweet potatoes can be a good source of dietary protein for many pets. A single sweet potato that’s of moderate size has about 3 – 4 grams of dietary fiber on it, which can have a significant beneficial effect on your dog’s entire digestive health. They’re also relatively easy to prepare. Simply cut into cubes and boil.
Though not many kids enjoy broccoli, your fur babies might love them. It’s a great source of soluble dietary fiber, and has plenty of nutrients to go around. It’s a great supplement to your dog’s diet if you’re trying to help them lose or maintain their weight.
What Natural Remedy Can I Give My Dog for Constipation?
Though fiber does indeed help with your pet’s digestive health, it’s not a cure-all for every digestive problem out there. Sometimes, despite giving them the best diet and care you can, your dogs can still have digestive issues, especially constipation. It can be because of the environment, or can also be down to the individual themselves.
Whatever the case, there are plenty of things you can do to help your do move their bowels along, and while fiber can be very helpful in this case, there are alternatives you can look into as well.
Here are just a few of them:
Keep them Hydrated
One of the biggest factors that cause constipation amongst dogs is the lack of hydration. Having a dry digestive tract means your dog’s stool won’t be lubricated well enough to be able to pass through easily. In order to prevent this, always keep a bowl of clean water handy for your pet dog, and make sure you have more than one, scattered around your house, where they can drink whenever they need to.
Give them Proper Exercise
A healthy bowel needs to keep things moving along in order to function properly, and physical activity helps greatly in that regard. Not only does regular exercise keep your dog’s temperament in check, it also keeps them healthy and maintain their weight. Depending on your dog’s breed, make sure you give them the amount of exercise they need daily.
Giving your dog some olive oil or mineral oil can help them pass stool easily. The oil itself acts as a natural laxative for your pet and works by lubricating your dog’s digestive tract. Try not to overdo it, though, as too much oil can have the reverse effect, and cause runny bowels instead. You may add olive oil to your dog’s water so they can ingest it when they’re thirsty, or mineral oil into their food for when they’re hungry.
Chicken or Beef Fat and Ginger
Another alternative treatment for dogs with constipation is by giving them chicken or beef broth with ginger. The fat from the chicken or beef provides a good source of oil that can help lubricate your dog’s bowels, whilst the ginger itself has properties that are beneficial to your dog’s overall digestive health. This particular remedy is very effective to younger pups.