Gastrointestinal health is extremely important to your dog’s overall fitness. The gastrointestinal system is responsible for processing, digesting, and absorbing food, nutrients and water. It is also responsible for maintaining a protective barrier to keep toxins and bacteria from entering the body via the stomach or intestines. All of these functions are dependent on maintaining good gastrointestinal health. One of the indicators of a healthy gastrointestinal system is stool quality.
Effects of Fiber on Gastrointestinal Health in Dogs
Fiber is very important to improving the overall health of the small and large intestine, and will consequently improve the quality of the stool. Among fiber’s benefits are its positive effects on gut motility and a healthy balance in the intestinal bacterial flora. If the intestine is hyperactive, stool will likely be too loose, if motility is subdued, stool will be too dry and lead to constipation.
Dogs have large numbers of bacteria in their intestines. Preserving this complex bacterial population is very important. Prebiotic fiber has been proven to have a positive modulating effect on colonic bacterial population in dogs.
Dog Food Ingredients to Add Dietary Fiber
The only source of dietary fiber is from plants; therefore you need to look for a diet formulated with some plant ingredients. There is a great deal of discussion in the veterinary community about the best sources of fiber for canine diets. My opinion, as a veterinarian, is that much of this discussion is based on speculation and conclusions not well-founded in scientific research.
Healthy sources of fiber for canine dog foods include cereal grains such as wheat or brown rice; fruit such as apples and cranberries; and vegetables such as peas and carrots. The most important consideration in choosing dog food with properly formulated, high quality ingredients is choosing a reputable pet food company. Always include your veterinarian in your decision-making process when choosing a pet food.
When Abnormal Stool Requires Veterinary Attention
Normal canine stool should be well formed, and pets should be able to produce the stool with typical effort. Unformed, watery, or bloody stool is considered abnormal. If you dog shows any of these signs, if his defecation seems painful, or if he strains excessively when producing a bowel movement, seek the advice of your family veterinarian.
I do believe that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Although there is no way to ensure that your dog will never have abnormal stool, making sure that your pet’s food is formulated with high quality fiber will help to maintain healthy stool quality.