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Inulin For Dogs: Everything You Need to Know

 

Hey there, pet parents!

 

Just like us, our furry friends face challenges with their gastrointestinal systems. We know how important prebiotics and a well-balanced diet are for our health, and the same goes for our dogs.

 

Prebiotics, such as inulin, can significantly enhance digestion and overall gut health in dogs. But why is this important? Because a dog's gut is often referred to as their "second brain." This isn't just a catchy phrase—it’s rooted in the incredible connection between gut health and overall well-being.

 

Inulin, a soluble fiber source, is becoming increasingly popular in both human and animal nutrition. It plays a crucial role in maintaining gut health, which in turn supports various bodily functions and contributes to your dog’s happiness and vitality. Given its rising popularity, we've conducted extensive research on the benefits of inulin for dogs. So, let’s dig deeper into how this powerful prebiotic can make a difference for your beloved pets!

 

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What is Inulin?

Inulin is a prebiotic or soluble dietary fiber that has many positive effects on the gut microbiome and naturally occurring in many plants. This prebiotic is a fructan that contains chains of fructose molecules that do not break down in the small intestine and in this way, they feed and increase the number of beneficial gut bacteria.  

 

When inulin reaches the large intestines, the gut bacteria convert inulin into short-chain fatty acids (SCFA) that lead to various health benefits. This means that inulin becomes a food for the beneficial gut bacteria. 

 

You might be confused by now, so let's make it simple. Fructose is a type of sugar that is found naturally in fruits and vegetables. In the animal's body, it is a small molecule that is used for quick energy. On the other side, fructan is a carbohydrate that contains a chain of fructose molecules.

 

Now let's make a distinction between fructose and saccharose. Saccharose (sucrose) is a table sugar that is different from fructose. It contains two sugar molecules - glucose and fructose. You might be wondering why we are mentioning these things when animals's diets should be protein-based. Well, although animals should follow a diet that is mainly focused on proteins, they also need to consume carbohydrates as well for optimal health.

  • Fructooligosaccharides (FOS) is a similar prebiotic to inulin. FOS contains shorter chains of fructose molecules and is a subset of inulin.
  • Both inulin and FOS are made up of fructose units. You can think of FOS as a smaller version of Inulin, or Inulin broken into smaller pieces.
  • And their function is similar, they stimulate the growth and activity of beneficial organisms in the gut.

 

Inulin has been used for various purposes by food manufacturers, including: 

  • Enhancing the prebiotic content 
  • Fat replacement 
  • Sugar replacement 
  • Altering the food texture

 

The main role of this prebiotic is to promote the growth of beneficial bacteria and improve bowel function, but it can even help in cases of inflammatory bowel disease. 

The Role of Inulin in Canine Health

Inulin is a beneficial dietary component that can improve the dog’s health and the main benefit is promoting gut health. This component also aids in supporting the immune system and weight management. 

 

Inulin is most often extracted from chicory root, however, it is contained in more than 36,000 species of plants like agave, bananas, asparagus, onion, wheat, and Jerusalem artichokes. Since dogs are forbidden to consume plants from the genus Allium and this includes garlic and onion, other ways of consuming inulin are recommended. 

 

There are many commercially available supplements that contain inulin, but also this dietary fiber is contained in many commercial dog foods and treats! Veterinarians recommend this prebiotic especially when dogs suffer from some gastrointestinal issues, but daily consumption can also benefit the dogs. Let’s discuss the specific health benefits of inulin for dogs! 

 

Inulin Benefits Specific to Dogs

The most common benefit of all prebiotics and dietary supplements is to improve host health. This ingredient can be found in many brands of dog food, however, some dogs need additional dietary manipulation with probiotic supplements.

 

Allergy alleviation 

  • Inulin is not a magic ingredient, but it can lead to great results by simple changes in the diet. Dogs with food allergies are treated with diets containing hydrolyzed protein sources, but prebiotics can also help in the prevention and treatment of allergic diseases. Prebiotics change the colonic microflora and also inulin supplements can lead to increased feces production due to the increased moisture content. 
  • Since I have personnaly been struggling with allergies since I was a kid, I have visited multiple doctors and specialists. Not to mention the number of allergens that are on my list: from dust to my favorite foods.
  • Allergic rhinitis and terrible headaches were part of my symptoms until one doctor recommended me to start taking probiotic supplements daily. Yes, it is not a magic ingredient, but it helped me relieve my symptoms and get rid of nasal sprays and painkillers.
  • Such supplements can also lead to normal intestinal permeability and improvement of the intestine's immunological barrier function. It can also lead to alleviated intestinal inflammatory response and reduced generation of proinflammatory cytokines in the process of local or systemic allergic inflammation.
  • Prebiotics also enhance the gut-specific IgA response. Inulin gets fermented by the gut bacteria in the large intestine to produce SCFA (Short chain fatty acids). This produces acetate, propionate, and butyrate (good things). SCFAs enhance the activity and proliferation of B cells and these cells lead to increased production of antibodies which are involved in the humoral immune response.
  • These short-chain fatty acids also improve the process of phagocytosis by immune cells like macrophages and neutrophils which increase the phagocytic index. In simple words, inulin helps the immune system in decreasing the risk of allergic reactions and thus, skin problems.

 

Beneficial Bacteria Growth 

  • This supplement can improve the activity of the beneficial gut bacteria and improve the function of the gastrointestinal tract. This is the main function of prebiotics: suppressing the growth of bad pathogenic bacteria like Escherichia coli, Clostridia and Salmonella and increasing the growth of beneficial organisms. It can also improve nutrient absorption and it can decrease gastrointestinal upset. 
  • According to the Merck Veterinary Manual, SCFA can supply the large intestinal epithelial cells for around 70% of the energy which can stimulate intestinal sodium and water absorption. At the same time, the pH in the large intestine is lowered and provides an environment for the beneficial bacteria in the gastrointestinal tract. 
  • Inulin fends off unwanted bacteria and prevents infection, which also stimulates the immune response of the animal which can be beneficial in cases of inflammatory bowel disease. 

 

Weight Management 

  • Obesity in canines leads to altered blood glucose levels and hormone responses. Inulin when added to dogs creates a feeling of fullness which can prevent overeating. This supplement also adds bulk to the diet without extra calories.
  • Obesity is also associated with comorbidities like diabetes mellitus. In one study, the effect of inulin was researched, and the effect of the prebiotic on fecal microbiota, metabolites, and bile acids in overweight dogs.
  • The results showed that inulin helped in increasing the short-chain fatty acid production as well as the excreted fecal acids. This research shows that high doses of inulin prebiotics can modulate the gut microbiota, metabolites, and bile acid excretion in obese dogs. 
  • When ingested, inulin dissolves in water and forms a gelatinous substance that slows digestion, increases fullness, and reduces cholesterol absorption. 

 

Cardiovascular Health

  • Animal studies on rats have shown that oligofructose can lead to a significant decrease in serum triglycerides, blood cholesterol, and total lipids.
  • These are all risk factors that might lead to cardiovascular issues later in life, so inulin and other prebiotic oligosaccharides might reduce the risks of cardiovascular diseases.
  • Inulin promotes the growth of bacteria like Bifidobacteria and Lactobacilli which later ferment inulin and produce SCFAs like propionate which inhibits the cholesterol synthesis in the liver.
  • This ingredient also might increase the levels of high-density lipoprotein (HDL) which is protective against heart diseases.

 

Diabetic Control

  • Studies show that when inulin and sugar beet fiber are mixed 4:1 in a dog diet, the inulin diet (80 g/kg) tends to reduce postprandial plasma glucose concentrations as compared to the control (–10% at 1 h; –9% at 2 h).
  • This shows that higher levels of inulin may modulate the blood metabolites and can be useful in diets for dogs that are diabetic. This needs to be verified by more studies but it's promising as a support measure for these dogs.
  • This also shows that the same concentrations were mixed in dog diets, it was found that this diet decreased (P < 0.05) plasma urea levels when compared with the control (13.6 vs. 15.0 mg/dl). This shows that inulin modulates the blood metabolites in uremic canines.

 

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  • UC-II® reduces dog pain and inflammation.
  • According to scientific studies, UC-II® works better than the combination of chondroitin and glucosamine to relieve your dog's pain and help them regain mobility.
  • UC-II® and Omega 3s are the only supplements that demonstrated benefits in plate-force studies. Chondroitin and glucosamine failed to do so.
  • UC-II® is an undenatured type II collagen derived from chicken sternum cartilage with a patented extraction process.
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Chicory Root: A Powerful Source of Inulin

Chicory root contains a lot of moisture. In its dry form, it is made up of up to 68% inulin, according to sources. It can improve the function of the intestinal tract in animals by promoting a healthy balance of the dog's gut flora.

 

Studies show that phenolic acids from chicory roots directly help in the therapeutic effect of inflammatory bowel disease. This plant can also lead to a healthy gastrointestinal tract by improving the intestinal microflora and overall intestinal health and function.

 

Chicory root is often given to dogs in the form of a powder, but it should be given moderately and as a part of a healthy diet. Supplements should never be used as a substitute for some food and always be checked with your vet.

 

Ensuring optimal health for dogs involves incorporating beneficial supplements like Omega 3, Curcumin, Glucosamine, and Chondroitin. Omega 3 fatty acids support heart health and reduce inflammation, while Curcumin, an active compound in turmeric, offers anti-inflammatory and antioxidant benefits. Glucosamine and Chondroitin are crucial for maintaining joint health and mobility, especially in aging dogs. These supplements collectively contribute to a comprehensive health regimen, enhancing overall well-being and longevity.

 

Incorporating Inulin into Your Dog's Diet

Some commercial foods already contain inulin in their formulas, and adding inulin supplements needs to be done very carefully. The dose needs to be carefully considered and the best advice that we can give you is to consult a professional in the veterinary medicine field. 

 

Inulin can be found in various forms including inulin powder or chicory root powder which can be sprinkled over the dog’s food or added in some dog recipes. Jerusalem artichoke are a very good source too.

 

Consult with a professional to decide what is the best inulin supplement for your pet. Sometimes pet food that contains inulin can be sufficient for some dogs.

 

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Potential Side Effects and Precautions

In general, inulin is a safe dietary fiber that can be safely consumed by dogs; however, it might lead to some minimal side effects. So, let’s keep you warned! 

 

First and foremost, be mindful of the dosing. If you opt for a supplement containing inulin, start by giving your dog smaller amounts. Our best advice is to consult a veterinarian for individualized advice. Also, be aware that pet food might contain inulin, so adding inulin to prebiotic supplements might lead to more harm than good. Double-check your dog food's composition.

 

As a soluble fiber, inulin is fermentable, and you need to control its intake carefully. Overdoing it can lead to gastrointestinal side effects like bloating (gas) and diarrhea, which is something we all want to avoid for our furry friends. That is why it is important to keep your furry buddy hydrated and start with lower doses.

 

Conclusion

Inulin is a beneficial dietary fiber and supplement for dogs. It improves the gastrointestinal and overall health of canines with the main goal of improving the number of good bacterial species. Our advice for you is to consult a veterinarian before adding this prebiotic to your dog’s diet so he can decide the optimal dose for a healthy and well-functional digestive tract.

Have you ever given your dog a food that contains inulin or an inulin supplement? We are curious about the outcome! 

 

Author: Dr. Sandra

Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (DVM)

Meet Dr. Sandra, Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (DVM). Sandra combines her two passions—writing and veterinary medicine.
Dedicated to animal welfare, she is conducting research aimed at solving the problem of stray dogs. In addition to her research, Sandra has experience in the pharmaceutical industry and works as a veterinary advisor. Her main goal is to inform pet parents about dog health and to "translate" complex veterinary language into simple, easy-to-understand terms.

Join Dr. Sandra to learn more about pets and discover how simple advice can improve your dog's life.

The content presented here is for informational purposes and reflects Sandra's own opinions, expertise, and experience. It is not intended to replace professional veterinary consultation, diagnosis, or treatment. For personalized advice and care for your pets, always consult with your veterinarian.

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