Fiber is the edible part of plant material that is resistant to digestion or absorption in the small intestine, with some degree of fermentation in the large intestine, according to the American Association of Cereal Chemists. Dietary fiber in canine diets is important for many reasons including preventing constipation, diarrhea, and maintaining gastrointestinal health. Per the Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine, increased fiber can also improve dental health. As the tooth penetrates the kibble, supplemented fiber acts to scrub teeth, thereby removing plaque and harmful bacteria.
Dietary Fiber for Canine Obesity
Obesity is the most common nutritional disorder in dogs, with an estimated 25-44% of the canine population overweight. As a veterinarian, I counsel clients on managing the weight of their canine family members. Inevitably, one of the challenges is the patient’s appetite. According to the journal of Applied Animal Behavior Science, dogs feel less hungry after eating a meal containing dietary fiber. As a partial remedy for canine obesity, I suggest that my clients transition their dogs to a high fiber diet in an effort to increase fullness, thereby decreasing appetite. Higher fiber diets vary in fiber content, and my specific diet recommendations depend on the degree of obesity.
Dietary Fiber for Diabetes in Dogs
Diabetes is another condition for which higher dietary fiber can have a beneficial effect. Dietary fiber lowers insulin requirements and blood glucose levels. Fiber also makes the body more responsive to insulin. As with obese patients, the level of fiber in diets for diabetic patients must be tailored to the individual health of the patient. In my experience, diabetic patients are either overweight or underweight. For overweight patients I use a high fiber diet, and for underweight I prescribe a diet that is of more moderate fiber content.
The potential health benefits of higher dietary fiber in canine diets are numerous. The ideal level of fiber will, however, depend on the life stage and health concerns of each patient. Taking all factors under consideration is important to making proper decisions concerning the dietary fiber content of your dog’s food. Your veterinarian can advise you on the ideal fiber content for your individual dog’s diet.
Nutrition for the Adult Dog VMRCVM Veterinary Teaching Hospital Client Information Handout
Effect of dietary fibre type on physical activity and behaviour in kennelled dogs, G. Bosch et al. Applied Animal Behaviour Science 121 (2009) 32-41