Functions of Fiber
Perhaps the awareness of the benefits of fiber in human diets has prompted pet owners to ask about its benefits in pet foods. Once described as “filler” or “bulk,” fiber has gained recognition for the beneficial effect it has on the gastrointestinal system.
Fiber is difficult for the digestive system to break down and use. Despite its limited digestibility, fiber does have benefits for dogs.
Fiber is important in special diets designed for weight reduction or weight management. Fiber helps reduce caloric density of the diet and provides dogs a satisfied feeling of fullness.
However, high-fiber diets alone will not ensure weight loss. Strict portion control is also necessary for a successful weight loss program. Work with your veterinarian to plan a weight reduction program for your pudgy dog.
The value of fiber to help minimize constipation is well known. Fiber absorbs water and lends bulk to the intestinal contents. This stimulates the movement of the intestinal tract and normalizes passage time through the bowel. Fiber sources also contribute to fecal consistency.
When fermented by the microorganisms that normally reside in the intestinal tract, fiber provides an important source of energy for the cells lining the intestinal tract and promotes healthy cell function.
Sources of dietary fiber in dog food include beet pulp, rice bran, soybean hulls, apple and tomato pomace, peanut hulls, citrus pulp, the bran of oats, rice, wheat and cellulose. Pulp is the solid residue that remains after juices are extracted from fruits or vegetables; pomace refers to the pulp of the fruit.
Studies suggest that fiber is digested slowly in the intestine which may help regulate absorption of sugar from the intestine and can aid in blood sugar control.
In assessing the role of fiber in a dog’s diet, the old adage "more is not better" holds true. Excessive dietary fiber is associated with adverse effects such as loose stools, flatulence (or gas), and increased stool volume or density. Reputable dog food manufacturers formulate diets to provide balanced nutrition with proper levels of fiber in the diet.