Just by browsing the aisles of your local supermarket you can see that fiber is all the rage right now. In the grocery section there are high fiber granola bars and cereals. Over in the vitamin area you can buy cans of powdered fiber or even fiber gummies. Our doctors are telling us to eat more beans, fruits, and whole grains. We are told that fiber can help our digestive regularity, help us lose weight, and can even help to fend off certain diseases. For human beings, fiber is one of the keys to a healthy life. But what about for dogs? Is high fiber as good for our canine companions as it is for us? Well, that depends who you talk to.
Does My Dog Need Fiber?
Two problems usually lead pet owners to start asking questions about possibly adding fiber to their dog’s diet—excessive flatulence and soft or runny stools. Anyone who’s been in the car with a gassy dog or had the unfortunate experience of trying to pick up a soft pile with a plastic bag on a walk through the neighborhood probably wants to know if fiber can do for their dog what it can often do for us. The difficulty with answering this question is that there doesn’t seem to be a consensus on the role that high fiber diets should play in the lives of our dogs.
Supplementing Your Dog's Diet with Fiber
When a dog has these problems, some veterinarians suggest mixing powdered fiber (the kind you can buy in the nutritional section at the grocery or drug store) into your dog’s food, working up to about one teaspoon per ten pounds of the dog’s weight per day. Another option that is given is to add some canned pumpkin or low-sodium green beans to the dog’s food. These vets say these different options can help to add bulk to a dog’s stool and cause the waste to move out of the system faster so there is less time to cause gas. Be aware, however, if you try either one of these options, that it is best to make the transition slowly and to pay close attention to how it affects your particular dog. Too much fiber, too fast can cause your dog’s digestive problems to get worse or can even cause new issues.
High Fiber Prepared Dog Foods
Other veterinarians disagree with adding supplements to a dog’s food and suggest that the best option to try for a dog with some digestive issues is switching to a high fiber dog food. There are numerous options on the market now, with most of them coming from high-end dog food companies. The reason given for this suggestion is that higher fiber foods, unlike the supplements mentioned above, will be formulated for the right balance of nutrients for your dog. These vets say that adding enough of a fiber supplement, whether powder, pumpkin, or green beans, to truly make a difference can throw off the entire nutrient balance in your dog’s diet.
Avoiding Extra Fiber
Still others suggest that a high fiber diet is not a good idea for dogs at all, regardless of whether it comes from supplements or a high fiber dog food. Those who make this case do so based on the fact that dogs are natural carnivores. They say that dogs’ bodies have evolved over many millennia to gain their required nutrients from meat rather than from plants. According to the opponents of high fiber diets, adding a great deal of plant matter to a dog’s diet in order to raise the fiber level will actually worsen digestive issues because dog’s bodies aren’t designed to digest high amounts of plant-based fiber. After all, they say, just because high fiber diets can work for human beings, who are omnivores, doesn’t mean they will work for dogs, who are carnivores. The claim is made that by raising the amount of fiber in your dog’s diet, you can actually keep your dog from being able to absorb the nutrients they need from their food.
What Should You do?
Fiber powder? Pumpkin or green beans? High fiber food? Avoid fiber altogether? What is a pet owner to do? Whatever you decide to do, keep in mind that drastic and sudden changes in your dog’s diet can cause a great deal of discomfort for your dog (and for anyone within smelling distance), so it is important to be very cautious. After all, you love your dog and you don’t want to make things worse. That’s why it’s so important for you to have a conversation with your vet about your dog’s diet, especially if your dog has excessive gas and/or soft or runny stools. He or she likely has both knowledge and experience with different options for helping your dog, and has seen what works and what doesn’t. With your vet’s help, your dog may be able to live a better life.
Benefits of fiber are:
- Weight maintenance may be improved because the fiber-rich food makes your dog feel fuller and satisfied on less calories
- Illnesses like diabetes may be easier to control as sugar spikes are avoided with slower digestion
- Digestive issues, such as constipation or diarrhea, can be relieved
- Colon health is improved when the elimination process moves quickly