If you are feeding your dog a commercially prepared food, perhaps one of the most critical ways to supplement his or her daily diet is with fiber. “Why,” you ask? Commonly, the most obvious answer is – firmer poop. No doubt a good doggie bowel movement is a happy moment for your pet (have you noticed his peppy gait upon completion?). Additionally, it’s much easier for you when retrieving the offering to the doggie bag! However, in the long run, the most critical reasons are internal – healthy digestion for your dog is the cornerstone of a long and vital life!
There are two main properties of fiber that vary in ratio to each other known as “soluble” and “insoluble.” The soluble part, in particular, offers many benefits for daily intestinal health.
So what’s the difference between “soluble” and “insoluble” fiber?
These days you’ll often see fiber referred to as a prebiotic. A prebiotic will be primarily soluble fiber and naturally fermentable in the colon. Prebiotics are non-digestible food ingredients that beneficially affect your dog by promoting or stimulating the growth of the good bacteria known as probiotics.
The soluble portion of fiber:
- Promotes the growth of probiotics by acting as food for the good bacteria
- Slows the rate of carbohydrate absorption
- Supports healthy blood sugar and insulin metabolism
- Helps normalize appetite
- Decreases LDL (bad cholesterol) levels
- Helps eliminate toxins from the body
- Promotes healthy kidney function
“Soluble” fiber refers to the fact that it dissolves in water (though it is not digested). By dissolving in water, the soluble fiber can absorb excess liquid in the colon, preventing the onset of diarrhea by adding necessary bulk to the stool. It also forms a thick gel to lubricate the bowel. This gel (as opposed to a watery liquid) serves to keep the GI muscles stretched gently around a full colon. The fiber offers those muscles something to easily “grip” during the peristaltic contractions, thus preventing the rapid transit time and explosive bowel movements associated with diarrhea. Diarrhea can be an early warning sign of a serious health condition. If your dog is suffering from watery stool diarrhea, it’s time for a visit to your vet.
Our favorite vet, Dr. Joel Murphy, tells us that “Often dogs with chronic colitis or sensitive colons that are prone to diarrhea benefit from increasing soluble fiber in the diet.”
The insoluble portion of fiber:
- Sweeps clean the digestive tract
- Helps eliminate toxins
- Tones the bowel by creating more volume of stool, giving the muscles exercise
- Increases peristalsis, the muscle movements necessary for healthy elimination
Insoluble fibers are not digested at all and they pass through the gut essentially unchanged. Insoluble fiber can help dogs lose or maintain healthy body weight by increasing the volume of food they can eat without adding much in the way of calories. Since insoluble fiber also adds bulk to the stool which stimulates movement within the intestinal tract, it can be helpful in some cases of canine constipation, as well as with diarrhea (discussed above).
Since many dogs exhibit some level of diarrhea or constipation on a chronic basis, relief for both you and your pet may be experienced simply by adding fiber to her diet.
Another very positive side effect of fiber is that the added bulk in the stool helps your pet empty the glands located in the anal sphincter. A healthy dog with regular, well-formed bowel movements will rarely have issues with their anal glands. However, those glands can easily become impacted or even infected in a dog with digestive problems. Be aware that a very common symptom of a full anal gland is the ”floor-scooting” motion our dogs sometimes demonstrate. Making sure fiber is present in your pet’s diet is very helpful in avoiding this issue altogether.
Higher fiber becomes essential if your dog’s diet has a relatively high carbohydrate or fat content that potentially could result in diabetes, obesity or high cholesterol.
Specifically, there are two ways fiber can be beneficial for both overweight dogs and ones diagnosed with diabetes.
- Fiber helps your dog feel full and may help him to eat less
- Fiber slows the entrance of glucose into the bloodstream
It’s also important to note that certain breeds have a genetic disposition to these medical conditions, so overall, once again, prevention is central to ensuring your dog’s well-being long term.
What about the POOP?
Brenda Watson, author of Natural Pet Care for Dogs and founder of Vital Planet, shares some vital poop tips!
So how can you increase fiber in your dog’s daily diet?
Many foods that may be in your refrigerator or pantry right now can be added to doggie meals like:
- Apples – be sure to remove the core and seeds which are toxic for your pet. To change things up, consider unsweetened applesauce
- Brown rice – great as a topping on kibble
- Canned pumpkin – make sure it’s unseasoned. Add around ½ teaspoon for smaller dogs and up to a tablespoon for larger breeds.
- Raw veggies like carrot sticks, green beans, broccoli or peas are also yummy treats.
Note: It’s crucial to slowly introduce fiber into your companion’s diet so you can monitor his stool, noticing changes and improvements. Adding too much too soon can result in an opposite result from that hoped for. Should Rover experience increased gas or a bit of bloating, exercise should help to alleviate symptoms.
Perhaps the convenient and cost-effective option for adding fiber into your dog’s diet may be in supplement form. Look for a product like Firm Stool that contains both soluble and insoluble fibers, preferably in an easy to scoop powder. Firm Stool includes excellent sources of fiber for your dog like:
- Acacia fiber – one of the best sources of primarily soluble fiber making it an excellent prebiotic.
Additionally, Firm Stool includes 1 billion probiotics in each scoop – a valuable bonus for your dog’s immune system as well as support for healthy digestion.
As a caring pet parent, relating your dog’s poop habits to his daily diet will be extremely helpful in supporting overall wellness. Also, let’s face it, picking up a well-formed stool is a much more pleasant task for you, and is a great indicator of good intestinal health in your best friend.