The health benefits of a diet high in soluble fiber and other forms of dietary fiber are well-known – when it comes to humans, at least. But what about high fiber dog food?
Is it as important to feed your dog high-fiber food as it is to ensure that you consume a diet made from only the best ingredients?
High Fiber Dog Food: Why Add It to Your Dog’s Diet?
Just like humans, dogs are renowned for suffering from constipation and other problems with their digestive tract if they do not regularly consume a diet that is a good source of both insoluble fiber and soluble fiber.
A dog fed solely on a diet comprised of poor quality ingredients is far more likely to have a weakened immune system, constipation, diarrhea, problems with their blood sugar levels potentially leading to canine diabetes, and difficulties with weight loss.
In addition, anal gland problems can occur in dogs who were not given access to a high-fiber diet.
In a similar way that a low-fat diet high in fiber can help humans avoid hemorrhoids, a high-quality dog food full of protein and vitamin-rich ingredients and other essential nutrients will ward off anal gland problems by promoting the natural and regular emptying of the dog’s anal glands.
Types of Fiber
Fiber is actually a type of carbohydrate, and typically describes insoluble carbohydrates, defined as those that resist enzymatic digestion in the small intestine.
Dietary fiber is usually found in the cell walls of grains and plants, however, almost all sources of carbohydrates will contain some type of fiber.
When it comes to high fiber dog food, the most common sources of fiber include brown rice, beet pulp, corn, soybean hulls, and bran.
Luckily, dry dog food that offers a high fiber diet for your pet will also be a good source of protein and is likely to be made up of vitamin-rich ingredients that make up a solid, healthy diet for your dog.
Benefits of a High Fiber Dog Food Diet
Down with Diabetes
In addition to the most common benefits of feeding your pet a diet comprised of high-fiber ingredients, a high fiber dog food brand will greatly reduce your dog’s risk of developing diabetes.
Diabetes in dogs occurs when the pancreas fails to produce sufficient amounts of insulin, resulting in a poorly regulated blood sugar level.
Homemade dog food that is full of vegetables (here is where beet pulp comes in) and other vitamin-rich ingredients can play a positive role in regulating the blood sugar levels of a diabetic dog.
Ward off Obesity
While a low-carb diet or a low-fat diet can leave anyone feeling hungry for more, a diet rich in insoluble fiber and soluble fiber will keep your dog feeling full for longer.
Feeding your dog a diet made up of brown rice and other high-fiber food/high-quality dog food will give them a feeling of fullness after eating much less than they normally would, greatly assisting with weight loss and warding off obesity.
A diet made up of high-fiber food doesn’t actually provide a direct source of energy, but it will drastically improve your dog’s colon health.
The two opposite ends of the spectrum when it comes to an unhealthy colon – diarrhea and constipation – can both significantly improve when feeding your dog a diet consisting of fiber and protein-rich ingredients.
Ask your vet, as many believe that high fiber dog food can even help to reduce the risk of colon cancer in dogs.
Ingredients, Meals, and Food Found in a High-Fiber Diet
Some pet food brands, like Royal Canin, specifically produce a range of dry dog food that will assist your pet in getting all the soluble fiber they need in their diet.
However, other brands of Nutro dog food (not just Royal Canin) and dry dog food can still be an excellent source of protein, vegetables, and other vitamin-rich nutrients – you just need to know how to read the nutritional information on the packet of dry food before you incorporate it into your dog’s diet.
Keep in mind that a quality dog food diet will firstly be made up of protein, then fat, and then fiber.
As a guide, a standard dog food will contain between 2% and 4% fiber, while a high fiber diet will typically contain between 6% and 10% fiber in its ingredients, as well as being an excellent source of vitamin and protein-rich ingredients.
DIY Homemade Dog Food High in Fiber
Purchasing pre-packaged dog food is not the only way of introducing a high-fiber diet for your dog.
If you are used to feeding your dog a high-quality or low-carb diet made up of largely home-made ingredients, there are plenty of DIY home-made dog food recipes available online that are sure to provide your dog with all the fiber, protein, and other nutrients that they need.
You may even like to look into adding some home-made fiber-rich dog treats into your pet’s diet, in addition to a commercially prepared, protein-rich high fiber dog food.
Top 5 High Fiber Dog Food Brands
Anyone who has looked into adopting a high fiber food diet for their dog will know that there are plenty of dog food brands claiming to offer protein and fiber-rich foods.
With so many options on the market, it can be difficult to decide which commercially prepared pet food is right for your dog.
Rather than focusing on the offering of different dog food brands, let’s instead look at which brands provide fiber-rich dog food while also catering to other specific needs.
When You Want to Supplement, Rather Than Substitute
If you’re looking to introduce more fiber into your pet’s diet without completely substituting their original diet, Missing Link Ultimate Skin and Coat Dog Supplement will allow you to do just that.
A supplement that can be mixed into any food, Missing Link contains quality ingredients including sunflower seeds, yeast, and flaxseed, and is an easy way of adding more fiber into your dog’s existing diet.
When Your Dog Has Skin Problems or Allergies
Earthborn Holistic Dog Food is the perfect choice for dogs with skin problems or severe allergies, as it contains all-natural ingredients without including any of the most common allergens for dogs.
The fiber content found in Earthborn Holistic Dog Food derives from fruits and vegetables, with whitefish, salmon, and herring making up the majority of the protein content.
When Your Dog Is Overweight or Obese
Nature’s Variety Instinct is a high-fiber, high-protein, low-calorie dog food formulation specifically designed to assist with weight loss or weight management, while also providing an excellent source of fiber rich nutrients.
Unlike many other high-fiber dog food brands, Nature’s Variety Instinct is a mix of dry food and small pieces of raw meat, which dogs love.
When You Want to Avoid Soy, Corn, and Grain
Taste of the Wild offers fibre in the form of vegetables and fruits and specifically avoids using grain as a source of fiber, believing that a wild dog would never encounter grains in its natural environment.
In addition, Taste of the Wild is corn free and soy free, made with roasted meats and plenty of nutrient-rich vegetables and fruit.
When You Want to Introduce More Fiber and Your Dog Is Otherwise Healthy
Wilderness Blue Buffalo High Protein Dry Adult Dog Food may not specifically provide for dogs with skin problems, allergies, or weight issues, but it can be an excellent dog food product to introduce more fiber into your otherwise healthy dog’s diet.
With a variety of flavors and five different kibble piece sizes, Wilderness Blue Buffalo High Protein Dry Adult Dog Food claims to promote digestive health and a properly working immune system.
Best High Fiber Dog Food: Anal Gland Problems
Dealing with your dog’s anal glands is one of the less attractive elements of dog ownership.
Anal glands, also known as anal sacs, are located below and on either side of a dog’s anal opening (we know it’s gross but somebody’s got to talk about it).
A healthy dog with regular, healthy bowel movements is unlikely to have problems with their anal glands, however, they can easily become impacted or even infected in a dog with digestive problems.
Typically affecting smaller dog breeds, anal gland problems usually first become noticeable to a dog owner when a dog “scoots” or drags their anal area across the floor, or licks their anal area excessively.
If you notice your dog partaking in these unusual activities, it is best to go to the vet and get it checked out.
A high-fiber diet is an excellent way of dealing with ongoing or recurrent anal gland problems. Ultimately, the aim is to bulk up your dog’s stools, which will put pressure on the anal glands, allowing them to be fully expressed when your dog defecates.
Side Effects of a High Fiber Dog Food Diet
A reasonably proportioned high-fiber dog food diet is unlikely to cause any significant side effects to your dog.
However, there is such a thing as too much fiber in a dog’s diet (just as there is for humans) and a sudden change from a low fiber diet to an extremely high fiber diet may cause a dog to suffer from colitis, characterized by an inflammation of the colon.
This can cause excessive defecation and diarrhea in dogs, leading to the poor absorption of essential nutrients.
In turn, this can cause a dog to have an increased appetite, which can lead to obesity or other weight problems – a precursor to heart problems, arthritis, and diabetes in later life.
In moderation, however, a high-fiber dog food diet is not likely to cause health problems to your dog.
4 Rules for High Fiber Dog Food Diet
1) Human Fiber is Not Equal to Dog Fiber
Humans can easily supplement the fiber in their diet by consuming grains and corn, for example, however, these foods are not appropriate for dogs.
With a shorter intestinal tract than their human counterparts, corn and grains can cause gas and bloat in dogs.
2) Start Small
Always test a small amount of a new dog food brand on your dog before purchasing in bulk. Your dog could easily react poorly to a new dog food, or may simply reject the taste.
Take the pressure off yourself and your dog by starting with a sample pack or a small bag first.
3) Go Slow
Your dog’s system needs time to adjust to a change in food, so work any new dog food in gradually.
As a guide, maintain your dog’s current diet to a large extent while substituting one-third of their typical amount with the new dog food. Maintain this system for a week, and in the second week move up to two-thirds of the new high-fiber food and one-third of your dog’s original diet.
If everything seems to be going okay and your dog is enjoying the new food and there have been no adverse health reactions after two weeks, move on to your new dog food completely in the third week and beyond.
4) Expensive Is Not Always Best
It can be tempting to purchase the most expensive dog food available, desiring to do the very best by your dog. As with everything, however, the most expensive option is not always the best.
Instead, compare the nutritional information of each dog food brand available, and ensure that any additional health issues your dog may have will be catered to by the new dog food.
Vitamins & Proteins: How to Add Fiber into Your Pet’s Diet
If you are interested in adding fiber into your pet’s current diet but not looking to switch to a new dog food solution right away, consider introducing sweet potato or pumpkin to your dog’s existing diet.
Both are an excellent source of fiber and can regulate both diarrhea and constipation.
If your dog is suffering from temporary constipation, your vet may recommend using fiber tablets to help them get back on track.
However, always consult with your vet before using fiber tablets or a fiber powder on your dog, and remember that these must always be used sparingly and on a short-term basis.
High Fiber Dog Food Dosage
The amount of fiber that your dog needs in their diet will largely depend on any current health issues, along with the size and activity level of your dog.
Small dogs, typically weighing between 1 and 10 kg, can actually have higher energy requirements than their larger counterparts, in addition to commonly suffering from sensitive digestive systems.
Giant dogs, at the other extreme, have a colon that can be up to 40 times larger than a small dog, meaning that food stays in their digestive tract for a much longer period of time than smaller dogs.
For this reason, small dogs and giant dogs alike can both suffer from digestive problems and can both benefit from a high-fiber diet, but for largely different reasons.
Consult with your vet to work out the right amount of fiber for your dog, based on its size, age, activity levels, and health conditions.
What to Ask Your Vet if You Want Your Dog on A High-Fiber Diet
It is always a good idea to consult your vet before changing your dog’s diet.
Do your research before you see your vet, and pick a high-fiber dog food that you think would be a good fit for your dog.
As mentioned, ensure that the dog food you’ve chosen is highest in protein first, then fat, and then fiber. With this information, meet with your vet and ask their opinion about whether this could be a good dog food solution for your dog.
You may like to ask your vet to perform a rectal exam on your dog before commencing a new high-fiber diet, as the symptoms associated with constipation can also overlap with the symptoms of a urinary obstruction.
Your vet will be able to determine the exact health conditions that your dog is dealing with.
Finally, check with your vet that your dog does not have any kidney problems, such as kidney disease.
While pumpkin and sweet potato can be excellent natural sources of fiber, dogs with kidney disease or other health problems may not be well-placed to consume these carbohydrate-rich foods.