If you’re like many people, you know fiber is important for a healthy digestive tract and overall wellness. It helps keep you regular, controls blood pressure, and can even regulate blood-sugar levels.
But what about your dog? Does your dog need fiber? Are there natural sources of fiber for dogs? To find out, we asked three veterinarians about their thoughts on fiber for dogs and some of the top sources of this plant-based nutrients for pups.
Do Dogs Need Fiber?
Fiber is a carbohydrate that plays a beneficial role in gut health. It comes in both soluble (digestible) and insoluble (not digestible) forms, and both have their place in the body’s ecosystem.
Basically, fiber helps your dog maintain a healthy balance in the gut, which regulates the bowels and keeps the colon healthy, too.
“The colon loves fiber,” adds Dr. Kathy Boehme of The Drake Center. “Fiber is kind of magical because it can aid in both diarrhea and constipation. There are a lot of puppies with chronic diarrhea, and they respond beautifully to fiber.”
How Much Fiber Do Dogs Need?
This is where it gets tricky because not every dog needs fiber added to their diets. “A dog doesn’t need a diet loaded with fiber unless they have a lot of gastrointestinal problems,” says Boehme.
According to Dr. Jeff Feinman of Holistic Actions, most dogs get their necessary fiber from their diets. But dogs with digestive problems like diarrhea may benefit from fiber supplementation. “My rescue pup has colitis, which causes diarrhea and even tinges of blood in the [stool]. He does quite well with a little fiber,” Feinman says. “Some dogs need it and some don’t.”
Adding fiber to a dog’s diet isn’t difficult if they do need additional sources. However, it’s good to know that overeating fiber can also upset the gastrointestinal tract. Before adding additional fiber to a dog’s diet, it’s best to consult your veterinarian.
Understanding Fiber in Dog Food
Visit any pet retailer, and you’ll find shelves of high-fiber dog food. Many of the commercial dog foods designed for weight loss are high in fiber, says Boehm, because fiber helps keep pets fuller longer—so they eat less.
She says there are also fiber-rich foods designed for dogs with colitis or chronic diarrhea, including specialty prescription foods. “These foods are specially formulated by veterinarian nutritionists.”
If you read the label on a high-fiber dog food, you might find beet pulp listed along with things like brown rice, sweet potatoes, and pumpkin. You can also feed some of those things as high-fiber treats in addition to your dog’s regular diet. Just make sure to discuss these additions with your veterinarians before giving them to your pup.
Fiber for Dogs: 10 Healthy Sources
Whether your pet has some mild digestive issues, your vet suggests a fiber boost, or you just want to provide some occasional fiber-focused snacks to keep your dog full and focused, there are lots of sources to consider.
Let’s look at some of the most popular sources of fiber for dogs that are easy to add to your dog’s diet.
Beet pulp has been characterized as a filler product in some pet nutrition circles. But it’s a great source of fiber for dogs. Beet pulp is a colorless and stringy byproduct of sugar beet processing and easily digested. “Beet pulp is common in many pet foods,” says Boehme. You’ll find it in many high-fiber dog foods.
Turns out, this fall favorite is a tasty source of healthy fiber for dogs. You can find it year-round in grocery stores—just be sure you buy plain pureed pumpkin and not pumpkin pie filling. You can feed fresh pumpkin, too.
When feeding pumpkin to dogs, it’s better to start small and see how they react. Feinman recommends “a teaspoon or less.”
Flaxseed is a rich source of omega 3 fatty acids, which means it’s good for your dog’s skin, coat, brain, and overall nervous system. Flaxseed is also a great source of dietary fiber and antioxidants and can help intestinal health, according to the Flax Council of Canada.
There are many ways you can add flaxseed meal or ground flaxseeds to your dog’s diet. You can sprinkle it on your dog’s food, mix it with peanut butter and roll into balls for treats, or mix with a bit of plain, organic yogurt. It’s best if the flaxseeds are ground right before using. As with any new food, start with a small amount—a teaspoon is plenty as a starting point.
If you’re a sushi-fan, you might think of kelp as the seaweed wrapped around your sushi rolls. Of course, the Japanese have long known of its health benefits. Kelp is high in iron, and as it turns out, it’s also a high-fiber food that’s safe for pups.
If your dog likes green lettuce, then it can be a good source of fiber—even if its high water content doesn’t provide a lot of additional nutrients. You’ll want to chop it up so it’s easier to eat and make sure it doesn’t have any dressing or other elements that could be harmful to your pup. Iceberg lettuce might taste good, but it has very little fiber.
Many dogs love chomping on apple slices as a high-fiber treat. As a bonus, apples are low in calories and help clean canine teeth too. Try offering your pup a slice of apple and see how they like it. As always, keep the pieces proportionate with your dog’s size and never give your dog the seeds or core.
Many pet parents buy bags of baby carrots to feed as treats. Like apples, they’re low in calories, which is perfect for pups who’d benefit from a bit of weight loss and are high in fiber to keep your pup fuller longer. A study also revealed that feeding dogs raw carrots can help improve a dog’s liver and kidney function.
Consider green beans as another addition to the veggie selection for your pet. They’re also low calorie and full of fiber for a healthy, high-fiber dog treat.
Recent grain-free trends aside, brown rice turns up in many high-fiber dog foods because it’s a great fiber source, according to a 2016 research study. It also mixes well with veggies like carrots and green beans.
Strawberries and Blueberries
Got fresh berries? Your pup can enjoy fresh strawberries and blueberries along with you. Just rinse them and eat. These natural sources of fiber for dogs can also give your pet an antioxidant boost. A study of sled dogs who were fed blueberries after exercise had elevated antioxidant levels in their blood compared to a control group that was not fed berries.
Just don’t overdo the berries, since fruits like strawberries and blueberries have natural sugar content. Too much won’t be good for your dog.
Fiber Supplements for Dogs
Adding fruits, veggies, or brown rice to your dog’s diet may not provide them with all the fiber they need—especially if they have digestive problems. If your pup has irregular bowels, is obese, or has diabetes, they may need more fiber than can be found in fresh food.
“I like the idea of feeding fiber in the form of fruits and veggies, but the amount should not comprise more than 10 percent of the diet so that you do not unbalance the diet,” says Boehme. “If it is not possible to do this, then they would need an additional supplement.”
If your dog’s digestive system needs a fiber boost, these products can help balance gut health, firm up loose stool, and keep your canine regular.