Increase Your Dog’s Fiber Intake!
Why Does My Dog Need Fiber?
You have probably heard about the health benefits of adding fiber to your diet, have you ever considered whether you should add it to your dog’s diet too? Like us fiber can help dogs with a variety of problems and although not an essential nutrient, should be considered as important. Over the past few years more and more commercial dog food brands have started to add fiber to their food, so maybe you don’t need to add more!
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There are however still brands which contain very low to non-existent levels of fiber – make sure you know what you a feeding your dog! If you know that the food you are using contains only low levels of fiber there are plenty of other foods that your dog will love that can increase the amount to the correct level. Maybe your dog eats a dog food that contains a reasonable amount of fiber, but simply needs more than most dogs. As a non-essential part of the diet it is often something that is overlooked by dog owners.
However there are a huge amount of health benefits that you could be giving your dog by increasing the amount of fiber in their diet – maybe you will decide to increase your own fiber intake after reading this article.
What is fiber?
Fiber, otherwise known as bulk or sometimes roughage is simply a carbohydrate. The only difference with fiber is that it is a carbohydrate your body can not break down. This means your body cannot produce energy from fiber like it can from other carbohydrates – dogs are exactly the same! The Institute of Medicine as issued recommended daily amounts of fiber that it considers should be part of everyone’s diet.
They also note that most Americans do not get enough fiber in their diet and should increase their level of dietary fiber by adding more high fiber food to their diets. If most Americans are not getting enough fiber then imagine the chances that your dog is getting enough – the health benefits are numerous and still being researched – however it is important you recognise the importance of fiber in your dog’s diet as soon as possible.
There are two types of fiber, soluble fiber and insoluble fiber – when we talk about fiber we are normally referring to insoluble fiber, but not in every case. Soluble fiber is also an important part of our diet and we need to remember that – not just for us, but for our dogs! Insoluble is made up from the solid parts of plants such as hemicellulose, cellulose and lignin. What are these and why do I need them in my dog’s diet you might ask.
Well fiber passes through our bodies almost unchanged, our digestive tract cannot break it down and therefore it remains the same – adding no nutrition to our body. Again this is the same with dogs. You may have now decided that fiber is a waste of time as a dietary supplement for your dog and for yourself, but read on and you will discover why this indigestible, nutrient and vitamin-less part of your dogs and your own diet is actually very important. The second type of fiber we have is soluble fiber. Soluble fiber is fiber that dissolves in our bodies, normally into a gel like substance – although it has its own health benefits the focus remains on insoluble fiber.
There is one health benefit that is soluble fiber is absolutely vital for and huge amounts of research is being done on this currently, we will discuss that later in the article, but don’t disregard soluble fiber yet!
One of the simplest yet most astounding pieces of medical information and research regarding fiber is that it may not only have a vast array of health benefits – it could also simply let you live longer. A recent study that was published in the American Journal of Epidemiology links high fiber diets to increased longevity.
Although the research is regarding people, there is no reason to assume your dog is not getting the same health benefits and therefore also could have an increased lifespan if it has a high-fiber diet. The study concluded that over a fourteen year period – those who had a high fiber diet were nineteen times less likely to die that those who had the lowest levels of dietary fiber in their diet. By simply increasing our fiber intake we might be able to reduce our chance of total mortality.
Why would we not at least consider adding fiber to our dog’s diet if this is the case? Healthier dogs that live for longer? This fiber stuff is beginning to sound better now right. This is only the beginning! There are a huge number of health benefits that fiber can have for your dog (and also for you!) We will got through the health benefits now and it will not come as surprise if the first thing you do after reading this article is to work out the best way to increase your dog’s fiber intake – and probably your own so that you can reap the rewards fiber offers.
The many health benefits of Fiber!
This article has mentioned the huge number of health benefits that fiber can offer multiple times, but has yet to give you any example! Let’s have a look at what increasing your dog’s fiber intake could do – and remember this is relevant to you too!
Food allergies and asthma – It is an unfortunate fact that due to the methods used to create certain breeds of dog that the genetics have suffered. Nearly all breeds of domestic dog are prone to one issue or another. Food allergies are extremely common among dogs. It turns out that increasing your dog’s fiber intake may reduce the allergies it has to food, and if your dog has reactions to what seems to be all food – it might reduce the severity of the reactions. Fiber does this by increasing the gut bacteria Clostrida.
Clostrida is a bacterium that works to keep the stomach and the gut secure and to stop any particles perforating the lining or crossing through into the blood stream. Particles entering the bloodstream are the normal cause of serious reactions (anaphylactic shock) to food allergies. If your dog is one of the many that suffers from food allergies, or is on a hypo-allergenic diet because of how extreme the allergies are – adding fiber could drastically increase the quality of life for your dog.
Sometimes food particles passing from the gut to the blood stream is nothing to with allergies. However when this occurs it can cause an auto-immune response in dogs, and recently it has been discovered the same can happen in people. This auto-immune response can trigger asthmatic inflammation in those dogs who suffer from asthma.
Keeping the level of Clostrida bacterium high keeps the risk of particles passing into the blood relatively low and therefore could in turn actually decrease the risk of serious asthmatic inflammation in your dog! In 2013 a scientific study carried out on mice concluded that a high fiber diet led to a significant decrease in asthmatic inflammation.
There is ongoing research into the health benefits regarding asthma and high fiber diets, it is likely we will see more reasons to increase our dogs’ fiber intake in the near future!
Digestion – Probably the most widely known fact about fiber is that it can benefit your dog’s digestive system. High fiber diets can reduce both diarrhoea and constipation – it can also increase the regularity of your dog’s stools.
Many dogs’ digestive systems are also the unfortunate victim of genetic malfunction due to the breeding process. Although in most cases the dog is not suffering in an obvious way, if we can increase their quality of life even in the smallest way should we not? Adding fiber might help your dog regulate its digestion.
By regulating digestion you are also instantly reducing other health risks such as stomach ulcers, haemorrhoids and diverticulitis (small inflamed growths that form on the colon of your dog.) By increasing your dog’s colorectal health you are increasing its happiness. Another benefit of adding fiber to your dog’s diet!
Heart Health – Something that you probably were not aware of is the ability fiber has to increase how healthy your dog’s heart is. Making sure that your dog has a high fiber diet is sounding more and more vital now right? Cholesterol or ‘bad’ cholesterol has been proven to cause damage to the heart over time, and can high levels of bad cholesterol can even increase the risk of heart attack in your dog! ‘Bad’ cholesterol is scientifically name LDLs or Low Density Lipoproteins.
You are probably thinking to yourself that this is all very good, but what does fiber have to do with Low Density Lipoproteins? The answer amazingly is in the fact that it increases our dog’s digestive health. Fibers dramatic improvement on the digestive system means your dog will require much more bile acid. Low Density Lipoprotein (Bad cholesterol) is one of the constituents of bile acid. As your dog’s stomach demands more bile, the liver will start to provide more and more ‘bad’ cholesterol that it removes from the blood.
By producing more bile needed your dog is essentially cleaning the bad cholesterol out of its body. This in turn leads to less risk of heart problems as less ‘bad’ cholesterol mean less heart problems. If having a high fiber diet can help with your dog’s heart what are you waiting for? Have you ordered that fiber for your dog yet? Before you go out and by expensive supplements for your dog – finish reading this article as it will discuss easily obtainable sources of fiber that are much cheaper than the high fiber dog food supplements.
Blood sugar level regulation (Diabetes) – Another issue that many dogs suffer from is the inability to correctly regulate their own blood sugar – this again is down to the poor genetics of many breeds. We call this inability to regulate blood sugar diabetes and it is caused by either an over or under production of insulin in the body.
The journal of the American Board of Family Medicine published that by increasing fiber intake, blood sugar levels were drastically reduced in a Standard Fasting Blood Glucose test (This tests blood sugar levels after a night with normal sleep and no food intake.)
Research has also shown that an increased fiber intake does something else to the sugar in your blood. HbA1c is also known as Glycated Hemoglobin. Glycated Hemoglobin is formed when blood sugar levels are too high. Blood sugar mixes with red blood cells to form Glycated hemoglobin. You are probably again wondering what is this Glycated Hemoglobin and what does it affect my dog, how is this relevant to me and my dog?
Well high Glycated Hemoglobin levels drastically increase the risk of developing diabetes. By keeping your dog on a high fiber diet you might be not only preventing heart problems, but also diabetes among all the other health benefits!
Reduced risk of Cancer – Perhaps the most recent research is into the possible cancer ‘destroying’ properties of fiber. In 2001 The British Medical Journal published data from research which proved a direct correlation between increasing fiber intake and reduced risk of developing colon cancer. Can you imagine that by giving your dog more fiber, you could actually be reducing its risk of cancer? And that’s just the start!
Dogs have a gut bacteria that naturally produce a chemical called butyrate. The bacteria only produces butyrate when it actually comes in contact with fiber. Every dog has a different amount of the bacteria, which means that some dogs will get less butyrate from increasing the level of fiber. Some dogs have loads of butyrate producing bacteria and by increasing their fiber the levels of butyrate increase massively in their blood.
What good does this do? Butyrate’s mode of action is still being researched by scientists across the globe. The general consensus is that although the question of ‘how?’ is still being asking, butyrate causes many cancerous cells to simply self-destruct – cancerous cells that come in contact with high levels of butyrate seem to stop multiplying and then die!
Reducing risks of cancer, keeping the heart healthy, reducing the chances of developing diabetes, aiding digestion and improving digestion. Fiber might be more important than what you first imagined!
Where can I get fiber for my dog?
Although many commercial dog food brands have added fiber into their food and some even produce high-fiber diet lines of dog food, this can be an expensive way to increase the amount of fiber your dog is getting.
High fiber dog treats have also began to appear for sale, and high fiber supplements to be added to your dog’s food are available in most stores selling dog food. Are they worth it? The answer is that they probably have all the benefits that they claim, and are almost certainly high in fiber, but the cost is normally high compared to these great sources of fiber for your dog:
Bran – The outside husks of grains normally ground into a powder, bran is full of fiber and also nutrient rich! Soak the bran in room temperature water for ten minutes before adding one to two table spoons per meal to your dog!
Apples – An excellent source of fiber and a healthy treat at the same time! Most dogs love apples, one or two apples a day depending on the size of your dog can be a great way to treat your dog whilst getting that extra fiber in!
Brown rice – Brown rice has more than three times the fiber content of regular white rice, add a couple of spoons of cooked brown rice on top of your dog’s regular food every day and the its fiber intake will have increased dramatically!
Tinned pumpkin – Dogs love tinned pumpkin – it is also very high in fiber. Cut it into pieces and use it as dog treats to reward good behaviour and increase fiber intake or mix it into his regular food – your dog won’t leave any these days that’s for sure!
Realising the benefits of fiber and how easy it is to acquire at a more than reasonable cost there is no excuse for not making sure your dog is receiving a good amount of fiber in their diet. Our pets cannot choose what they eat so it is our responsibility to give them everything that they need, including the correct amount of fiber.
Whether you buy a branded fiber supplement or you add brown rice to your dog’s food you can feel good knowing that you are potentially helping your dog in so many ways by doing something so simple. You may see health benefits in your dog right away and wish you had been doing this earlier, do not feel bad about this! The research into most of these health benefits is new and the importance of fiber is only just being understood.
Make the change now make sure your dog gets the fiber they need!