When gut health becomes a problem (often referred to as dysbiosis or leaky gut), there can be obvious and visible effects such as diarrhea and constipation, excess gas and weight gain. When the digestive tract isn’t working properly, essential vitamins and nutrients are passed through without absorption and that can lead to numerous other ailments such as allergies, dry scaly skin, joint pain and immunity problems, to name just a few.
As with humans, an unhealthy digestive tract in pets will manifest itself in any number of negative ways, whereas a well-functioning gut truly acts as the power plant of dogs and cats and can be the deciding factor between a healthy pet and one with numerous health problems.
With this in mind, here are three key points that every pet owner needs to know about maintaining their animal companions’ gut health:
Why Fiber is Important
Over the past few years, scientific research has illuminated the role fiber plays in pet diets, and the healthful benefits it provides. Doctors and vets alike have known for many years that fiber was an essential nutrient, but not much reliable information was available on the exact reasons why. As more studies have been performed, we’ve learned how fiber interacts with the stomach, small intestine and colon. As the results are better understood and fiber’s function is identified, we see that fiber:
- Is critical to promoting and maintaining a healthy digestive system and gut microbiome;
- Is key in the timely transport of food in the digestive tract;
- Increases available nutrient & vitamin absorption through optimized digestion;
- Keeps the beneficial bacteria in the colon thriving, while minimizing the harmful effects of pathogenic microbes;
- Helps with digestive issues like constipation and diarrhea as well as numerous other related issues;
- Helps with weight management, bad breath and reduces need to express anal glands; and
- Is key for keeping dogs & cats (and humans) active, healthy and happy.
Not All Fibers are Equal
Not all fiber is created equal, and choosing the right fiber makes a big difference in how it works within a pet’s digestive tract. For many years, pet food manufacturers added low-quality crude fiber as a filler to bulk up volume cheaply. These fillers were (and still are) mainly sourced from agricultural byproducts such as tomato pomace, rice bran, sugar beet pulp and pea fiber. Although these byproducts are a source of inexpensive fiber, they often contain other unwelcome compounds (e.g., sugars, amino acids and polypeptides) that can have detrimental effects.
Since these byproducts are usually made from the skins and outer hulls, they also have a greater potential to contain pesticides and other harmful toxins that can find their way into the food we feed our dogs and cats. Other fibers, such as cellulose powder, are produced from wood chips and pulp that are processed using harsh chemicals.
As pet parents learn more about their own digestive health, start to eat more fiber and take other digestive supplements such as probiotics, they are also starting to ask questions about their pets’ digestive health. A recent American Pet Products Association (APPA) study showed that the use of digestive support supplements for pets grew 300 percent over the last three years. As pet owners become increasingly informed about the ingredients that go into their dog’s food and insist on the highest quality, they are also focusing on the type of fiber that is being added. Owners are in-tune with their pet’s digestive health on a daily basis and are spending more time and money on remedies to make sure it’s functioning properly.
The Solution is Miscanthus Fiber
Miscanthus grass is a bright spot in the pet fiber market, as it is much healthier than alternatives and free of the downsides that come with other fiber sources. Although it has been grown for thousands of years in Asia, miscanthus grass is relatively new to the USA. However, the benefits it provides are quickly becoming widely known within the pet ingredient community. Here are some key facts:
- Miscanthus is purposely grown as a nutritional fiber crop in the Midwestern U.S.
- It contains over 80 percent dietary fiber.
- It is all natural, non-GMO, grain-free, gluten-free.
- It is not a byproduct of another industry, so strict environmental conditions during all steps can be monitored from field to factory.
- It is grown without the use of herbicides and pesticides and can even be purchased with organic certification.
- It is ecologically beneficial. Because is its grown on marginal farmland and has a perennial root system, miscanthus crops are net carbon negative, improve soil quality and reduce soil erosion and run-off.
As more and more pet parents increase their focus on digestive health for themselves and their pets, retailers should be on the forefront of the latest trends in fiber ingredients and the products that carry them. Stocking products that contain miscanthus fiber is a great way to introduce pet owners to the dietary benefits it provides. Leading pet manufacturers have already recognized the health benefits and have released over 50 products containing it.
Miscanthus fiber can be found in leading high-quality pet foods, digestive supplements and treats, including:
Miscanthus is a wise choice for keeping your customers cats and dogs active, healthy and happy. To learn more about this important ingredient, visit mfiber.net.
Vincent Lackowski is a chemist with experience in the fiber industry and has consulted with many large manufacturing companies to small startups companies developing fiber based supplements. He is an avid dog person currently looking for his next four legged friend to rescue.