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Do dogs need fibre in their food?

Fibre for dogs
Learn about dogs

Finding the perfect food for your dog that is balanced, healthy and of course tasty can sometimes feel impossible. There are so many complexities involved in making sure that your pooch is getting the right nutrition, and when it comes to fibre, you might be a little unsure. 

When shopping for yourself, you might see that a product is high in fibre so you go ahead and put it straight in your basket, but do we do the same for our dogs? If your pooch isn’t getting any fibre in their daily dinners, now might be the time to switch things up. Fibre has multiple health benefits, and it can really be an incredible ingredient that’ll help your dog thrive.

So, what does fibre do, do our dogs need it in their meals and if so, how can I find a high-fibre dog food? Well, we’re here to give you the answers to all those questions, so keep reading for our full guide to fibre.

What is fibre?

Let’s start by explaining what fibre actually is.

Fibre can be found in plant-based things such as wholegrains (brown rice, oats, quinoa and more), fruit and loads of veggies too. Neither humans or dogs are able to digest fibre fully, which might sound strange, but it’s actually a good thing.

It helps to keep stools firm and move everything along in the digestive system, and it might be why you sometimes see bits of veg passed in your dog’s stool, as it won’t have been digested properly. This is totally normal to see if your pooch has been tucking into some veggies!

Fibre is classed as a complex carbohydrate rather than a simple carbohydrate, and complex carbs are exactly what you should be looking for in your dog’s dinners. Complex carbs are nutritious, they release a stable source of energy over a long period of time, preventing peaks and troughs in blood sugar, and they also help to keep your dog full up.

High-fibre for dogs

Simple carbs on the other hand are digested and processed almost instantly, triggering unhealthy spikes in blood sugar and a quick boost of energy that’ll dip quite quickly. They don’t provide the satisfaction and nourishment that a complex carb would, so it’s best to stay well away. Simple carbs are typically seen in super sugary or processed food, like chocolate, white bread and white pasta.

All in all, fibre is there to maintain and enhance the health of the digestive system, so it’s a great addition to your dog’s diet. When searching for the right types of fibre for your dog, it’s important to note that fibre can either be soluble or insoluble. Both types need to be balanced perfectly within your dog’s food, as they have integral roles that work the best alongside one another.

Soluble fibre

Soluble fibre absorbs water and ferments, creating gases in the colon and a gel-like, binding substance which helps the body absorb nutrients at a stable rate. It can act as a food source for the healthy bacteria in the gut, and good gut health is necessary for steady digestion and all-round health.

Insoluble fibre

Insoluble fibre does still absorb water, but it doesn’t ferment and produce gas like soluble fibre, passing through the digestive system essentially unchanged. The water is absorbed from outside of the colon and into your dog’s stools, which helps with constipation and stimulating movement through the bowels. Essentially, it’s there to keep your dog ‘regular’.

Do dogs need fibre in their diets?

Many people think that dogs are carnivores, needing meat and meat only to survive. As after all, this is what their ancestors ate in the wild. But that belief isn’t entirely true. In the wild, dogs would get their nutrients from both meat and plants, which puts dogs as omnivores. To this day, dogs thrive on a mixture of meat and plant-based ingredients.

Fibre for dogs

This means that fibrous ingredients such as veggies are actually essential in your dog’s dinners, helping to provide a balanced diet that’ll keep the digestive system moving and maximise what your dog gets from their food.

What are the benefits of fibre for dogs?

If we were to explain all the benefits of fibre for dogs, we’d be here for ages – there are tonnes. But we’ll try our best to cover the main ones.

Chances are, you’re a dog owner yourself. And chances are, if you own a dog, you’ve had the unfortunate task of picking up a lot of dog poo. You should always make sure you’re checking out what your dog’s poop looks like (as disgusting as that may be), because if the poo looks healthy on the outside, it’s usually a sign that things are ticking over and healthy on the inside. Healthy poo is a big sign of a healthy pooch!

Fibre is hugely beneficial when it comes to your dog’s stool health, helping your dog form healthy, pickupable poos and keep bowel movements ‘regular’, preventing both constipation and diarrhoea at the same time. It’s so important to get the balance right, as too much or too little can actually be the trigger for both of these problems.

For cases of diarrhoea, the soluble fibre in your dog’s food can help to bind and gel the stools together, and it also helps to leave a lot less water in the gastrointestinal tract, contributing to firmer stools.

On the other hand, for constipation, the insoluble fibre helps to absorb water like a sponge and keep everything moving through the bowels, aiding constipation. It’s said to ease anal gland issues too, creating bulkier stools that help to empty the anal glands naturally.

Also, fibre-filled foods can help prevent and treat diabetes, as complex carbs release their energy much slower and at a more stable rate, reducing the characteristic spikes and dips of blood sugar that cause diabetic dogs so many problems.

If your pooch needs to shed a few stones, high fibre food can come in really handy for weight loss. As we know, both dogs and humans don’t digest fibre properly, so it stays within the gastrointestinal tract for much longer and bulks up the food your dog eats, encouraging your dog to feel fuller for longer without the implication of a load of extra calories.

This means your dog gets meals that are super tasty and are always satisfying and nourishing on the tum.

Overall, fibre is basically a superfood when it comes to your dog’s diet, it can help in the prevention and management of various health concerns, makes poo-picking up time more pleasant for you, eases sensitive digestion (especially in puppies) and some sources of fibre can provide food for the healthy bacteria in the gut. And good gut health is essential for keeping your dog in tip top shape all round. What’s not to love?!

What ingredients are good sources of fibre for dogs?

As with all things, you can get good quality ingredients and poor-quality ingredients, and it works exactly the same way with fibre. Your dog needs to be eating meals that contain high-quality sources of fibre, not rubbish, cheap fillers that’ll give your dog next to no nutritional value.

As an example, many cheap, commercial dog foods list an ingredient called ‘cellulose’ and although it is still a source of dietary fibre, it’s actually just a powder that can actually contain all sorts of weird, random stuff, like straw, cotton and shredded paper.

When it comes to making sure your dog’s fibre intake is high-quality and balanced, natural ingredients are always the way to go. A dog food that contains natural ingredients that you recognise and would eat yourself is how you want to be feeding your dog. Some of the best ingredients to look for when assessing your dog’s fibre intake are:

  • Brown rice, which is rich in nutrients, great for gut health, provides energy and is easy on the digestive system. It’s definitely an all-rounder ingredient!
  • Fruit and vegetables such as apples, carrots and sweet potatoes are full of natural fibre and are a super low-calorie ingredient in dog food. They work as a tasty snack too.
  • Oats are a great ingredient for getting more fibre into your dog’s diet, and when they’re mixed with water your dog can enjoy some porridge for breakfast with you!
  • Ground flaxseed is a superfood ingredient, providing fibre and omega-3 for a multitude of health benefits.

What’s the best dog food for fibre intake?

So, your dog needs a perfect balance of fibre in their food. Both too much fibre and too little can cause problems in your dog’s tummy, so getting the balance right is key.

At Pure, our recipes are all complete and balanced, containing the perfect amount of meat to fibre ratio. We include various fibre-rich ingredients, such as brown rice and fruit and veggies like apple, peas and carrots. Everything is natural, nutritious and something you’d recognise and buy for yourself. We never use anything cheap, nasty or artificial in our food, we make sure we’re giving your dog proper ingredients for maximum enjoyment.

Best dog food for fibre

Before ordering your dog’s food, we’ll ask you for a few details about your dog so that we can tailor the recipes to be perfect for your pooch. Tell us your dog’s age, weight, breed, ailments and allergies, and we’ll make sure our recipes are curated with all that information in mind.

With tailored recipes, it means that we can ensure your dog is getting the right balance of fibre in every meal for their breed, weight and age, so that your dog can feel satisfied and thrive. It’ll keep their digestion stable, their tummy happy and stools healthy.

Also, we know that some dogs can be a little sensitive to grains, and if so, just let us know when you’re filling in your dog’s details. We’ll omit the brown rice and whip up grain-free recipes that your pooch will love. These recipes will still contain loads of high-quality, natural fibre from a perfectly balanced blend of fruit and veggies. Tasty and healthy, we’ve got something perfect for everyone.

Recap

Now you know all about fibre, what it is, what it’s good for and how to get it into your dog’s food, now’s the time to check your dog’s food, and their poos, to make sure they’re getting enough fibre in their diet to keep them happy and healthy.

Dr Andrew Miller BVSc MRCVS

Written by: Dr Andrew Miller MRCVS

Andy graduated from Bristol University in 2010 and sees nutrition as a foundation for our pet's wellbeing and takes a common-sense approach. We are what we eat, and it shouldn't be any different for our pets.

Sources
  1. Compositional Analysis of Whole Grains, Processed Grains, Grain Co-Products, and Other Carbohydrate Sources with Applicability to Pet Animal Nutrition Foods, 5, (2), March 2016, doi: 10.3390/foods5020023.
  2. Carbohydrates and Fiber Recommended Dietary Allowances, 10, 1989
  3. A high protein high fibre diet improves weight loss in obese dogs Veterinary Journal, 3, March 2010, 294-297, doi: 10.1016/j.tvjl.2008.12.004

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