The Benefits of Dog Food Fiber (Part 2)

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OK. In Part 1 we talked about what fiber really is… and why it’s only found in vegetables and grains.  And never in meat.

We also talked about…
The Benefits of Fiber in Dog Food

  • A simple way to reduce the risk of canine colon cancer
  • How to use fiber to prevent both constipation and diarrhea
  • A clever way to “dilute” a dog food’s caloric content… and achieve sure-fire weight loss

And then there’s that important difference between the two kinds of fiber… soluble and insoluble.

Now, here are still more amazing benefits of dog food fiber…

Helping Your Dog Avoid the Debilitating
Consequences of Uncontrolled Diabetes

In the intestine, water-holding fiber creates a barrier that can slow the absorption of nutrients1.  And it can also delay the time it takes for the stomach to empty2.

That’s why fiber is so effective at managing the wild swings in blood sugar often associated with canine diabetes.  This seems especially true for dog food recipes containing higher amounts of insoluble fiber3.

It’s easy to see why high fiber diets are a standard recommendation for dogs diagnosed with this debilitating disease.

Preventing the Agony of Inflamed Anal Glands

Many have watched in utter bewilderment as their dogs dragged their backsides curiously against the floor… in obvious distress.

This not-so-unusual practice is known to veterinarians as “scooting”.  And it’s caused by a blocked glands found on either side of a dog’s anus.

Dog food fiber can provide a solution to this familiar problem.

As you know, fiber can absorb water and produce added bulk.  These enlarged stools place pressure on the anal sacs during defecation… and can induce natural drainage of these swollen glands.

And welcome relief for your pet.

How to Take Advantage of
the Amazing Benefits of Dog Food Fiber

Sp, when choosing dog food it’s important to become keenly aware of the one thing most shoppers innocently overlook… dietary fiber.

Here’s what to look for…

The Guaranteed Analysis part of a dog food label lists crude fiber on its standard info panel.  The word “crude” (as it’s used here) refers only to the method of measuring the fiber… not to its quality.

Today, the average dry dog food shows crude fiber at 2.5 to 4.5 percent.  But its concentration in many reduced-calorie products may be as high as 9 or 10 percent 4.

And yes… it’s possible to have too much of a good thing.  That’s because excess fiber can decrease the digestibility of other important nutrients.

Not to mention the fact that different fiber ingredients produce different results.  Beet pulp, for example, has been shown to provide good stool characteristics… without compromising the digestibility of a dog food’s other nutrients5.

So, What’s the Bottom Line?

Even though fiber is not considered an essential nutrient, its remarkable benefits make dog foods containing a reasonable amount of it worthy of your consideration.

Likewise, products with fiber content anywhere near or below the lower end of this range… may not be as desirable.

And it’s probably a good idea to stay away from dog foods where crude fiber exceeds 10 percent.

Of course, be sure to check with your vet if there’s any question about specific health issues before trying to treat them yourself.

If you missed Part1 of this article… be sure to read The Amazing Benefits of Dog Food Fiber (Part 1).

  1. Eastwood MA, The physiological effect of dietary fiber: An update, Annual Review of Nutrition 1992 12:19-35
  2. Annison et al, Nutritional role of resistant starch: Chemical structure vs physiological function, Annual Review of Nutrition 1994 14:297-320
  3. Kimmel et al, Effects of insoluble and soluble dietary fiber on glycemic control in dogs with naturally occurring insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus, J Am Vet Med Assoc 2000 Apr 1;216(7):1076-81
  4. National Research Council of the National Academy of Sciences, “Nutrient Requirements of Dogs and Cats”, 2006 Edition, National Academies Press, Washington, DC, p. 72
  5. Fahey GC, Practical considerations in feeding dietary fibers to companion animals, Petfood Forum Proceedings, 1995, Watt Publishing, Mount Morris, IL, pp 44-54
  • jill

    Hounddog mom< Thank you very much for the reply. Kiya is 6 and has pooped 3-4 times a day her whole life. I have tried grain, grain free, mix, etc… to see if it makes a difference on the amount of poop she does make. It doesn't. Her vet says she has a short colon and as long as they are well formed and do not contain undigested food not to be worried. I have googled excessive amount of pooping in dogs but can't find much on the subject. Thanks again.

  • Hound Dog Mom

    Hi Jill –

    I’ve used the Birkdale pre-mix, among others. The reason the fiber content is so high is because once you add meat that fiber content is diluted (there’s no fiber in meat), so the finished product is actually quite a bit lower than 15% fiber. Pooping 3-4 times a day is quite excessive for a dog eating such a high quality food as homemade with a pre-mix like Birkdale or Acana – in my opinion. My dogs (eat homemade raw most of the time) go once a day, once in a while I do use a pre-mix and on these days my dogs generally go twice. Myself (among others) have noticed that dehydrated vegetables and fruits (such as those found in Birkdale pre-mix and other pre-mixes and dehydrated foods) tend to result in larger more frequent stools. If you check out The Honest Kitchen’s thread (a dehydrated food) you can read more about this. I know I personally have tried several pre-mixes (THK’s Preference, Sojos, Birkdale, Dr. Harvey’s, Urban Wolf, etc.) and have noticed that all result in larger more frequent stools with my dogs however, from my experience, Urban Wolf seems to be digested the most efficiently (it’s a very fine powder). Dogs, being that they’re carnivores, don’t digest plant matter very well and they digest it best when it’s cooked so I think maybe it’s just the large volume of vegetable matter and the fact that most companies dehydrate vegetables in the raw state that causes the increase in stools – anything that’s not digested has to come out the other end. Also, as far as an analysis – Dr. Mike doesn’t evaluate pre-mixes due to their customizable nature, he just evaluates foods.

  • jill

    I was wondering if you have any experience with Birkdale Pet Mix, or what is now Healthy Dogma Petmix . I was feeding the reconstituted pet mix with ground turkey to my aussie, she loves it but it is minimum 15% fiber. I am wondering why the mix is so high in fiber, and wondering also if you have ever done an analysis on it? My dog would give it 5 stars and funny thing is she poops 3-4 times a day whether she eats the 15% fiber or the Acana 4 % fiber.

  • Naiterbaiter

    Blue Buffalo Wilderness has a fairly high fiber level at 7%

  • http://www.facebook.com/aimee.mccurdy Amy McCurdy

    I have been feeding my two dogs beets & carrots with every meal and they have very regular bowel movements. No more diarrhea & no more constipation. I am amazed at how much they love it too! Carrots are great for liver & thyroid health, skin & coat, immune support, prevention from worms and so much more. The beets maintain weight levels, act as a powerful liver cleanse, manage and combat allergies and much, much more. If you are interested in more check out http://www.olewousa.com

  • jw2449

    My vet recommended a food with psyllium husk seed for my dog’s digestive problems.  I was a little surprised dogs can have this, as it’s the main ingredient in Metamucil.  The food is by Natural Balance and called Synergy.  After we put him on this, his diarreah stopped, he was more regular, and he didn’t scoot his bum on the carpet anymore.  After almost a year he’s still on it and doing great and has twice-a-day, solid stool.

  • http://DogFoodAdvisor.com Mike Sagman

    Hi Patricia… As I mention in this article, higher dog food fiber content can create larger stool sizes. And many believe this can help pets naturally express their own anal glands during defecation. Unfortunately, due to the biological uniqueness of each pet, it would be impossible for me to assure you a high fiber product would specifically help your dog. Wish I could be more help.

  • Patricia Merz

    Hi, my 2 year old goldendoodle has suffered from anal gland problems since she was a baby. The vet showed my husband how to express them but I was wondering if I should change her food to a high fiber one. She is currently eating Blue Buffalo Wilderness. Please let us know what you think. Thank you!

  • ShamelessRawFoodie

    For a little extra fiber that is nutrient packed, you can feed your dog kale. I recently discovered that my dog loves fresh kale stalks as a treat!
    Having more spare time lately, I went to a Raw Food seminar a few weeks ago. The chef made delicious organic raw fresh fruit/vege smoothies. Kale was one of the ingredients. He stripped the leafy parts of the kale off of the stalk and put the leafy parts in the blender. He then held up the kale stalk and said ‘this is a perfect treat for your dog – most dogs love them.’
    My dog has always gotten kale chopped up and mixed in with other ingredients for his meals. But he has always refused to eat whole leaf kale.
    My dog devours the kale stalks and looks for more! I’ve also started giving him stalks of romaine lettuce. Loves them both!

    Research KALE –
    Kale is considered by nutritionists including Dr Joel Fuhrman to be the most nutritious vegetable in the world with extremely powerful antioxidant properties.

  • ShamelessRawFoodie

    Judy – Re “there’s always fresh clean water available, which she doesn’t drink much of, even after our walks.” –
    Try giving your dog spring water. Chlorinated tap water can often cause problems. Also, some municipal water supplies are fluoridated which I do not want to ingest, nor do I want my dog to ingest.
    To ensure your dog is getting enough fluid, you can also provide some organic low-sodium chicken broth.

    For worm prevention, I give my dog feed grade Diatomaceous Earth daily.

    For “a long-lasting chew”, try a raw meaty bone, preferably organic. Beef marrow bones are nutrient-rich and keep a dog occupied for a long time.

  • Ron

    Judy,
    Have they checked over the anal-glands.
    They could be a cause of the licking also.Also allergies can
    often be a cause.

  • http://DogFoodAdvisor.com Mike Sagman

    Hi Judy… Unfortunately, since I’m not a veterinarian and due to the biological uniqueness of each pet, it would be inappropriate for me to provide specific health advice or product recommendations. Please check back for a possible response from one of our other readers.

  • http://DogFoodAdvisor.com Mike Sagman

    Hi Judy… Unfortunately, since I don’t rate dog treats or chews on my website, it would be inappropriate for me to recommend a safe and healthy one for your pet. You may wish to check back for a response from one of our other readers. Wish I could be more help.

  • Judy

    I have looked everywhere for a long-lasting chew for my little chi-mix: rubber toys don’t interest her, jerkies she immedialtely eats, and I’ve been told never to give her rawhide bones because of the splinters. Can you suggest something that’s tasty enough for her to like and chew on but takes a long time to finish?

    Thanks,
    Judith

  • Judy

    My little chi-mix is being treated for tape worms, but she still licks her anus often. I put vaseline on her anus in case it’s sore or dry, stopped giving her any human food, there’s always fresh clean water available, which she doesn’t drink much of, even after our walks. Can you suggest anything else I can try?

    Thanks,
    Judith

  • http://DogFoodAdvisor.com Mike Sagman

    Hi Catherine… Based upon published label information, Blue Wilderness appears to be a very good dog food. However, my ratings have nothing to do with expected results. Due to the biological uniqueness of each pet, it is impossible for me to provide customized and reliable product comparisons for each reader. For more help, you may wish to check back for a possible response from one of our other readers. Wish I could be more help.

  • Catherine

    Hi Mike,

    We were feeding our 11 month old lab Merrick Wilderness blend which we topped with Blue canned. He began having very loose stools and vomitted a few times. The vet put him on Hills W/D and his stools have been perfect, though very frequent, and there has been no vomitting. The vet feels that he may need a high fiber diet. I’ve heard he might also do better with lower protein. I want to get him off of the W/D as soon as possible. I am thinking about switching him to the Blue Wilderness blend as it has a higher fiber content than most of the other foods out there, but the protein level is also higher. Do you think that will make a difference?

    Thanks for your help!

  • http://DogFoodAdvisor.com Mike Sagman

    Hi Matt… Since manufacturers never disclose the actual amount of each ingredient in a product, we use an ingredients position on the list to make a reasonable estimate of the relative amount of each ingredient (including beet pulp) in any given recipe.

    By the way, Best Breed is on our To Do list for future review. But due to our current backlog, it could be a while longer before we get to this brand. Thanks for the reminder.

  • Matt H

    I am looking at several different foods for my working dog. One of them is called Best Breed. I noticed that you have not reviewed this food before. After reading some of your reviews as well as other’s I noticed that beet pulp seems to be some what controversial. This particular food has it as well as other foods I am looking at. You say in your reviews that in moderation beet pulp is ok. How do you know how much is the product and how much is too much?

  • http://DogFoodAdvisor.com Mike Sagman

    Hi Shaida… Loose stools aren’t always a simply and isolated function of fiber content. Just like with humans, your dogs may be intolerant to one or more of the ingredients in the new food. Since each dog responds to a particular food in its own way, it would be impossible and misleading for me to assure you feeding any specific product would deliver the stool quality you’re looking for.

    You may need to switch to a different recipe or brand. Unfortunately, finding the right food for your dog still involves some trial and error. Wish I could be more help.

  • Shaida

    Hello Mike,

    Thank you for the website. It is the most informative I have found by far. I have a question regarding fiber content. I recently (4 weeks on the food with a slow transition) switched my 2 German Shorthaired Pointers from Iams to Blue Buffalo large breed “chicken and brown rice.” Since the transition they have had very loose stools, which was never an issue previously. I have talked to multiple veterinarians about this and have received conflicting information regarding whether they’re getting too much fiber or too little. The fiber content in BB is higher than Iams, so the more fiber recommendation doesn’t make sense. I am wondering if it is a difference between the soluble versus insoluble fiber in the dog foods. Can you please elaborate on the type of ingredients to look for when loose stool is an issue. Also, could the increase in protein and higher quality ingredients be an issue in the GI tract as well? I’m really trying to find a higher quality food that they can do well on, so I do not want to switch them back to Iams.

    Thank you for your assistance in trying to better understand ingredients in dog food.

  • http://DogFoodAdvisor.com Mike Sagman

    Hi Donna… The hot dogs are probably a bad idea (even for humans). They couldn’t possibly be healthy for your dog. What’s more, I wouldn’t worry too much about your dog’s stool schedule as long as they appear to be well-formed. However, since I’m not a veterinarian, it would be inappropriate for me to provide specific health advice or product recommendations. Please see our FAQ page and our reviews for more information. Or check back for a possible response from one of our other readers.

  • Donna Ford

    My year old Papillon (rescued four months ago) has always had GI issues. Currently he has bowel movement either two or three times a day, While they’re well formed, there’s no consistent pattern to them–sometimes three times in the morning none in the afternoon/evening, sometimes am/pm, sometimes once in the morning and twice through the evening, My vet says he should have less fiber (because three times a day is too often) and less protein but that conflicts with other advice I’ve read, He’s currently on Canine Caviar, lamb or chicken formula. He’s fed twice a day with a mini milkbone at noon, Cheerios as treats, and tiny pieces (limited) of fatfree hotdogs when he’s learning something new. He’s really good about going outside to void and I’d like to help him with regulating his stools, Twice a day would be so much easier. Any suggestions? Thanks so much.

  • http://DogFoodAdvisor.com Mike Sagman

    Hi Franco… Bacteria are considered normal inhabitants of every canine (and human) gut. These germs aid in proper digestion. But they also produce a number of sulfur-containing compounds (including the rotten-egg smell of hydrogen sulfide). These by-products are directly responsible for the infamous odor of feces.

  • FRANCO REFAEL

    HELLO DR SAGMAN
    FIRST OF ALL I WANT TO TELL THAT YOURE WEBSITE IS MOST FAVORITE AND HE IS VERY USFULL FOR ME.

    I WANT TO ASK YOU ABOUT MAIN ISSUE IN MY/OTHERS FOOD

    What could be the MAIN reasons feces stinks ?? (IS THE FIBER ? OR OTHER RASON)

    Other results like – Fur, energetic, delicious,metobolizm are excellent

    THNK YOU
    FRANCO (MPH)

  • http://DogFoodAdvisor.com Mike Sagman

    Hi Jason… On every review on this website, you’ll find dry matter fiber content just below the list of ingredients in the yellow dashboard (the box with the gauges).

  • Jason

    Nevermind buddy, i found where you guys list the fiber content. If it was a snake, i’d be in the hospital by now.

  • Jason

    I hear ya Mike, I guess my question is do you know the fiber content of the Kirkland dog food vs. Rachel Ray. Not sure where to find that info. Thanks again.

  • http://DogFoodAdvisor.com Mike Sagman

    Hi Jason… Since I’m not a veterinarian it would be misleading for me to give you advice on anal gland problems. But some experts claim that fiber-rich dog foods tend to generate larger diameter stools. And this feature has the ability to help drain the anal glands during defecation.

    As far as cost, it’s hard to do much better for the price than Kirkland. However, we’re currently planning to poll our fans on Facebook to find out which dog foods they feel make the best value foods for the price. If you check our Facebook page soon you’ll be able to get some very good (and sensible, real life) suggestions. Thanks for your kind comments.

  • Jason

    Mike,
    I’ve been reviewing your website for about a week now and let me say first off that I appreciate what your doing. This is definitely the most comprehensive site I’ve come across with non-bias information. Thank you for all that you do.

    Now on to my question. I’ve been looking for an affordable dry food for my Blue Heeler with a high fiber content. My dog is having loose stool from time to time and has had anal gland issues for over a year now. Before we rescued him from the shelter there was no record of this anal gland issue so I have a feeling it’s the food we’ve given him.

    Here’s a little background: We are currently feeding him Rachel Ray, lamb. Funny thing was, when we first decided to go with RR I thought I was making an informed decision. Now with your help I understand that even though the ingredient list looks good, the quality of the protein and other ingredients are not up to par.

    So I’ve been looking at the Kirkland brand but would like to hear your thoughts. Is there another brand you would recommend that is affordable?

    Thank you Sir and keep up the good work.

    Jason Long
    Greenville, SC

  • Jonathan

    That all makes sense, but I did get off on a tangent with my mom’s dog (which what you mentioned probably is his issue). My main point was that doggies with diarrhea from lower fiber grain free foods may do better on Wellness Core Ocean. that way they could benefit from higher fiber AND grain free high protein rather than having to go back to a lower protein food to get the stool firming fiber they may need.

  • http://DogFoodAdvisor.com Mike Sagman

    Hi Jonathan… The main mechanism behind fecal quality and dietary fiber is water consumption. That’s because fiber works by drawing moisture into the colon during digestion. So, when humans supplement their diets with a medicinal fiber product (like Metamucil), critical statements on the product label warn consumers to drink plenty of water with it. That’s because without sufficient moisture, fiber can have the opposite (and mostly undesirable) effect of causing constipation.

    Unfortunately, dogs imbibe water when their bodily moisture sensors induce a sense of thirst. To me, that’s a frequently overlooked requirement to allow fiber to perform its “natural” function. In a nutshell, it’s very difficult to encourage a dog to increase his normal daily intake of water. I know many believe in forcing a dog to drink more water by intentionally adding water to a kibble. But I’m not sure if this is a safe practice (or not).

    So, although Wellness Core Ocean is high in fiber, proper stool condition may be less predictable due to the innate difficulty in getting a dog to consume the proper amount of water.

  • Jonathan

    Hey Mike, occasionally some one will complain about their dog getting loose stool when switched to a grain free food and you will mention that most grain free foods are lower in fiber. While that’s true, there is a big exception… Wellness Core Ocean formula has 7% fiber… and that’s not even corrected for dry matter, that’s what’s on the bag! My mother has been feeding it to her doxie/shih tzu mix that has allergies and digestive problems… and it’s made his poop almost too hard! She had to start giving him stool softeners because one day his poop was so hard and big he yelped when it came out! Not that that was the desired reaction, but I’m just saying. I know you don’t like to suggest a specific food, but in the case of dogs getting the runs on grain-free, Wellness Core Ocean formula could fix the problem without sacrificing meat content.

  • http://DogFoodAdvisor.com Mike Sagman

    Hi Bette… Many of the 5-star dog foods are high in protein. See if any of those come close to what you’re looking for. Hope this helps.

  • Bette Laughy

    Thanks for your comments, Mike. My dog has done quite well on the hepatic/homemade stew except that she has continued to lose muscle mass and now occasionally sits down abruptly and can’t get her back legs under her again to get up. The vet’s advised another kibble with high quality protein to mix in 1/3 new with 2/3 RC hepatic. What I’d like to do, though, is to inject some high quality easy-to-digest protein hoping to sneak it past her liver – which is still mild/moderate re enzymes. Kind of a “Boost” for dogs. Do you know of anything like that?

  • http://DogFoodAdvisor.com Mike Sagman

    Hi Bette… In my opinion, you are certainly feeding (or considering feeding) your dog some very good foods. Wellness makes an excellent product line. But since I’m not a veterinarian, I cannot (in good faith) provide you with sound professional advice… especially regarding your pet’s unique condition and liver enzymes.

    I have to admit, it always concerns me to cut back on meat protein except in the rarest of conditions. Why not ask your vet about Wellness?

  • Bette Laughy

    Thanks for some good advice on liver problems. I’ve always fed my dog Wellness 5 star chicken & occasionally weight loss products & a little Rollover sausage. My 14-year-old collie/retriever mix is doing well other than increasing liver enzymes & my vet wants her on Royal Canin Hepatic diet, saying she needs no meat protein and higher fat. With Milk Thistle & Sam-E, one enzyme’s dropped & the other (bile duct) climbed. However, she’s losing muscle mass in her legs. I’ve now added raw bones once a week and turnips & cabbage in home-made beef or chicken broth daily. I’d like to go back to a Wellness/equivalent food. What do you think?

  • http://DogFoodAdvisor.com Mike Sagman

    Hi Libby… with dogs suffering from liver dysfunction we have a tendency to focus on the “total protein content”… by itself. But in these situations, it’s also a good idea to favor foods with better quality protein, too. These foods have a high biological value and can be easier to digest.

    For example, eggs have one of the highest biological values available. Stay away from plant-based protein enhancers (like glutens, soy protein, etc.). Unlike eggs and compared to quality meats, these non-meat protein boosters can have the some of lowest biological values available.

    To help you decide if 38% protein is too high… the average protein in our database (so far) is 29% for kibbles and 39% for canned products.

    Average fiber content is about 5% to 6% (on a dry matter basis). So, a 6.5% fiber reading is certainly acceptable. I’d pay more attention when fiber content begins to exceed 10%, or so.

  • Abby Myers

    Two questions:
    1. Do you think a protein level of 38% is too high for a Dobie that has a high ALT liver value?
    2. What do you think of a fiber content of 6.5% in dog food?