Cleaning up after our fur babies is the downside of dog ownership, especially if they are having digestive issues. If you’ve noticed your dog’s stools are difficult to clean up because they are soft and runny or that your dog is constipated frequently, it could be down to your dog not getting enough fibre or getting too much. Of course, any dramatic change in your dog’s bowel habits should be discussed with your vet, but it is also worth considering how much fibre your dog needs. It isn’t one of the first questions people ask when choosing their dog’s feed, but it is important to understand how much fibre should be in dog food.
So what is fibre? Basically, it is the indigestible carbohydrates in plants such as grains, vegetables and fruit. Because it isn’t completely broken down by digestive enzymes, it passes through the intestines pretty much intact. Fibre serves to regulate digestion and elimination. Not all fibre is the same. Soluble fibre absorbs water in the gut as it moves through the digestive tract. This helps produce stool that is the right consistency to avoid diarrhoea and constipation. Insoluble fibre travels through the digestive system without significantly changing. It keeps waste moving along at a healthy speed. Both types of fibre are important for good gut health.
Why Dogs Need a Little Fibre in Their Diet
The right amount of fibre in your dog’s diet does more than make it easier to clean up after them. Fibre is not digested, and it does not provide any nutrients to your dog. So what does it do? What benefits does fibre provide your dog?
- Because it keeps waste moving through the digestive tract, it keeps your dog’s colon healthy and reduces the risk of bowel cancer. Any carcinogens your dog has consumed spend less time in the gut if your dog is eating the right amount of fibre.
- Some fibres, mostly soluble fibres, ferment in the digestive system. This promotes healthy gut bacteria and keeps the bad bacteria in check.
- By regulating the speed of digestion, fibre helps stabilize blood sugar levels. It plays an important role in preventing blood sugar spikes and lows.
- If you are trying to help your dog lose weight, a high-fibre diet can help your feel full with fewer calories.
- If your dog has a prolonged period of loose stools, it increases their chances of developing impacted anal glands – which is painful and requires treatment.
Wild canines don’t get carefully balanced dog nuts, but they do get fibre. Their prey is herbivores, animals that eat only plants. And when they eat their prey, they eat the contents of the stomach, which is grass and other plant matter that provides fibre. It isn’t pretty, but in the wild, nature provides just the right amount of fibre. We dog parents need to make sure we do too for our dogs to enjoy optimum health.
How Much Fibre Should Be in Dog Food?
Too much fibre is as bad as too little, and even creates some of the same problems such as loose stools. It can also cause flatulence and bloating, especially in dogs that eat too fast. If a dog food contains too much fibre, it often comes at the expense of other essential nutrients. Some dog nuts contain as much as 10 percent fibre, which is fairly high. Fibre can be a cheap filler ingredient, and if a food has too much fibre dogs have to eat more of it to get enough of their essential nutrients. (And what goes in must come out, so dogs on foods with a high level of low value fibre produce a lot more waste than dogs on a food made with premium ingredients and no filler.)
Our team of veterinary nutritionists feel that two to three percent is better for most dogs. This optimum level ensures that the digestive system is healthy and waste moves along at an appropriate speed, while also protecting the dog from blood sugar highs and lows. Calculating how much fibre should be in dog food is a very precise thing. It’s a bit like the three bears and their porridge – getting it just right is very important!