Fiber is an important part of your pet’s diet because it helps support healthy digestion. However, some ingredients (functional ingredients) that are high in fiber content can also provide bonus benefits when they are included as part of a complete and balanced diet.
Types of Fiber
There are two types of fiber — soluble and insoluble — in pet food ingredients. Soluble fiber, as the name suggests, is water soluble (absorbs water) and turns into a gel-like substance which slows down food digestion. Insoluble fiber does not absorb water, but it does help stimulate intestinal motility (food movement through the intestines).
Good, balanced sources of soluble and insoluble fibers include beet pulp, tomato pomace, psyllium seed husk and pea fiber, among others. Fermentable dietary fibers are also a type of prebiotic, as they promote the growth and activity of beneficial bacteria in the large intestine.
Energy Source for Intestinal Cells
The gastrointestinal tract is populated with trillions of bacteria, fungi, viruses and other single-celled microbes that are collectively known as the intestinal microbiota. The microbiota helps break down some components of food, such as fiber, which would otherwise not be used.
Bacteria in the large intestine ferment some dietary fibers, such as tomato pomace, dried beet pulp and dried chicory root, to produce short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs) that can be used by intestinal cells for energy. SCFAs can also modify intestinal movements and the passage of food through the digestive system. Dietary fiber also encourages the growth of beneficial bacteria in the colon and regulates the pH of the colon.
Fiber and Flatulence
OK, so this is probably not a bonus benefit of fiber but it’s still worth mentioning. While some products of fermentation are used as nutrients, the process can also be responsible for some stinky situations. When bacteria in the large intestine ferment fiber and complex carbohydrates from food, they produce gases. Some gas production is normal and nothing to worry about.
Food-related cases of excessive gas tend to be caused by high-fiber pet foods or diets that are poorly digested by dogs or cats. Food that is lower in digestibility allows more nutrients to enter the large intestine, where bacteria and other microorganisms use the nutrients for food, making large amounts of gas as a byproduct. Many pet foods are designed to be highly digestible and feeding a high-quality diet can help decrease pet flatulence.
This is another topic that is a little “on the nose,” but fiber does help regulate stool consistency. Fiber can also help avoid constipation by promoting the production of regular, firm stools. For older animals that are more prone to developing constipation, a food with increased fiber may be beneficial.
While not related to fiber, did you know that the ingredient Yucca schidigera extract is added to pet food to reduce the odor of pet stools?
Fiber Benefits for Diabetic Dogs
A food that’s high in complex carbohydrates and that contains adequate fiber may be recommended by veterinarians for diabetic dogs. Complex carbohydrates slow food movement through the digestive system, while fiber delays stomach emptying and carbohydrate absorption in the small intestine. As a result, glucose is released slowly and evenly into the bloodstream and the post-meal spike in blood glucose is reduced.
A diabetic dog that is well controlled on insulin and is a normal weight may be fine on complete and balanced over-the-counter foods that are appropriate for the dog’s age and health. It’s important to consult your veterinarian to make sure a diabetic dog is receiving the nutrition they need.
Other Fiber Bonus Benefits
For pets that need a little help in the weight management department, a diet with higher fiber content can help. Weight management diets tend to be formulated with more fiber as they improve satiety (the sense of feeling full).
Cats that are having hairball issues can also benefit from fiber. Cat food formulated specifically to control hairballs like Diamond Naturals Indoor Cat Hairball Control Dinner for Adult Cats and Diamond Naturals Indoor Cat Chicken & Rice Formula are high in insoluble fiber to help move swallowed hair through the digestive tract.
Pet Food Fiber Sources
Fiber can come from a number of different ingredients in your pet’s food, including ancient grains, fruits, vegetables and plants. Below are some examples of ingredients in Diamond pet food formulas that are a source of fiber to help support healthy digestion, as well as other bonus benefits.
Sources of Fiber in Diamond Pet Foods
If you ever wonder about an ingredient in a Diamond-brand dog or cat food and why it’s there, be sure to check out our ingredient glossary, send us an email or call our customer service team at 1-800-442-0402.