Carbohydrates and Fiber

Carbohydrates and Fiber for Pets

The term “fiber” refers to the tough plant cell walls that are resistant to digestion by GI tracts. Although there is not a physiologic requirement for additional carbohydrates and fiber in our pet food, almost all commercial foods include it as filler. High quality pet food manufacturers rely on whole grains (like whole barley or whole millet) and vegetables to provide roughage.  Most lower priced pet foods contain less desirable fiber sources such as beet pulp, peanut shells and grain hulls.

Fiber artificially firms the stool, and can help prevent constipation. Despite these apparent advantages, too much fiber can be detrimental. High fiber diets reduce nutrient absorption and cause significant water retention, which, in turn, can cause constipation and gas.

Carbohydrates and fiberHigh fiber diets, (light foods) are sometimes encouraged as weight management tools, but these foods can contain up to 10 times the amount of fiber needed by dogs and cats. There has been concern regarding the long-term effects of these diets, because of the reduced nutrient absorption and health problems caused by the resulting nutritional deficiencies. Recent studies have also documented that high fiber diets have no effect on a dog’s appetite. Some researchers believe that weight loss occurs on these diets because the food is unappealing and pets eat less.

What can I do if my pet is overweight?

If your pet is overweight, first make sure they are getting plenty of exercise. This is especially important for our canine friends, who absolutely require a nice long walk every day. Next, cut down on treats, or try breaking them in half, and be sure they have plenty of fresh water at all times. Lastly, reduce the amount of food you offer at mealtime, making sure it is healthy and nutritious. In addition, you can supplement with natural low calorie treats (see dog and cat options) or use other snacks such as carrots, green beans or other vegetables or fruits that are healthy for your pet.