L’importanza delle fibre nella dieta del cane e del gatto

The importance of fibers in the diet of dogs and cats

How many times have our parents reminded us of the importance of eating vegetables? The same thing would apply to our four legged friends. In fact, all the fibers found in vegetables and fruit take over a series of very important functions in our pets’ body, therefore helping to maintain the health of the intestine and of the whole organism.

Fibers are a part of carbohydrates, more simply known as sugars. In depths, carbohydrates can be divided into two main groups:

- Non-structural carbohydrates; these are found inside plant cells, either as very simple sugars such as glucose, fructose, lactose…etc, or as complex molecules such as oligosaccharides and starch. Once these substances are inside the organism, they are carefully broken down into smaller molecules (such as the starch breaking down into glucose), so that they can easily be absorbed by the intestine. During this process, the animal will have the important energy supply they need in their body.

- Structural carbohydrates; more commonly known as fibers. They include different substances such as cellulose, pectin, lignin, FOS and MOS that build up the plants cell wall reinforcing the cell and keeping them turgid. The only difference between structural carbohydrates and non-structural carbohydrates it that is it impossible for either humans or animals to digest them in the body. They can however be used by microbial flora in the intestine for the sustainability and health of the intestine itself.

It is impossible for any animal organism to digest these structural carbohydrates. Therefore, they are passively transported throughout the stomach and the small intestine until they reach the large intestine. In there, they come across many bacteria, fungi and beneficial protozoa. These are part of the microbial flora of the large intestine.

 Moreover, these microorganisms are essential in our digestive system both for blocking pathogens and viruses to take over and to maintain a healthy intestine. When the fibers finally encounter the microbial flora, the beneficial bacteria are able to ferment, producing beneficial substances for the body such as volatile fatty acids (acetic acid, propionic acid and butyric acid). These acids are absorbed by the cells that cover the large intestine in the body.

These cells use the volatile fatty acids as food, essential for their reproduction. When the large intestine lining is correctly working, it is able to remove the excess water inside of it. Due to this process, the body will save useful water which may be used in the body and will assure a correct consistency to the feces. All of this is very useful if the dog might suffer from constipation or diarrhea. Moreover, this mechanism will allow the dog to effectively empty its perianal glands. Due to the increasing amount of feces, the dog will prevent the irritation of these glands.

At the same time, the nutrition to the immune cells found under the intestine lining is assured. By doing this, the organism will be actively responsive to any pathogen or virus attack.

Other than all of these functions, fibers are essential for many other functions in our animal’s body. To fully acknowledge these advantages we must first understand in depths in which categories the fibers are divided into:

- Soluble fibres (pectin, FOS and MOS)

- Insoluble fibers (cellulose

 cane gatto sulla bilancia

Soluble fibers mainly include pectin, FOS and MOS. Pectin is stored especially in huge quantities in apples and in the white peels of citrus fruits. However, they can also be found in many other vegetables. On the other hand, FOS, are found in the asparagus, artichokes, onion, garlic, beans and bananas. MOS are used for the yeasts cell wall. Their most important characteristic is that they will inflate when they encounter water in the stomach and produce a jelly like product. This curious fact will symbolize a series of advantages

- The pet will reach satiety before; this peculiarity would especially be important for obese and problematic animals that tend to eat too much. The jelly like substance in the intestine will allow the dog to feel packed up with food for a longer period of time, reducing the amount of food they take in in a day.

- Slow down the absorption of substances in the stomach; the important substances present in the stomach will have a slower process into the small intestine, they will therefore be absorbed in a slower way. This is beneficial for diabetic dogs and cats as it avoids a blood sugar peak. This will maintain a constant blood sugar level, right after the meal.

FOS and MOS, have other beneficial properties in our pet’s body such as their important role as prebiotics. These are substances that are indigestible, but do help with the intestines health during their beneficial properties to the microbial flora in the intestine. We have talked about this in more depths in our article dedicated to prebiotics.

Insoluble fibers, on the other hand, are used more efficiently by herbivores such as cows, sheep and horses. These animals are adapted by having a very special adapted intestinal flora, this is not present in our dog and cat. However, a certain amount of insoluble fibers such as beetroot pulp is added to the animal’s diet to allow the food to flow better in the intestine. Our dogs and cats do not digest these carbohydrates nor they are fermented in their body. They apply a small pressure in the intestine wall to simulate an easier transit of the food. This characteristic is especially useful in case of constipation in animals.


For these reason mentioned above, it is essential for us to feed our dogs and cats the right amount of fiber every day. The majority of the store bought meals for animals are already full of the right amount of fibers, however it is also possible to give some extra fiber supply to your animal if needed, clearly assuring the quantity and the use with a skilled vet.

immagine L’alimentazione per i cani di taglia grande e gigante

Diet for big and huge dogs

When we talk about dog nutrition, we often do not take into account the fact that there is a large variety of sizes, from the Chihuahua toy to the majestic Great Dane. The great physicality influences the food needs of the animal, so much that most companies specializing in the sector have developed specific feeds for dogs of all sizes. In this article, we are going to see the correct diet for large and giant breed dogs.

What are the dietary needs of large and giant dogs?

Before we start, let's understand what are the sizes of dogs based on weight:

  • Toy breeds: these are the classic "handbag" dogs, weighing no more than 4 kg;
  • Small or mini size: dogs of “contained” size, between 4 and 10 kg in weight (Pekingese, Shih Tzu, Yorkshire Terrier, Pug, French Bulldog and many others);
  • Medium size: dogs with an intermediate size, weighing 11-25 kg (Beagle, Cocker Spaniel, Bulldog, Chow Chow, Shar Pei, Schnauzer and most hounds);
  • Large size: between 26 and 44 kg in weight (Boxer, Dobermann, Labrador, German Shepherd, Basset Hound, Golden Retriever, Dalmatian, for example);
  • Giant size: really very large dogs, with a weight exceeding 44 kg (Great Dane, Cane Corso, Bernese Mountain Dog, Neapolitan Mastiff).

As we saw in the article dedicated to the diet for small and toy dogs, there are precise differences in the shape and functioning of the organism of these "mini" animals. In the same way, there are some very important factors for large and giant dogs, at the basis of specific diets.

As often happens to us, the bones and joints of the limbs support a weight that in some cases exceeds the ideal one. In the long run, this can create serious problems, weakening the skeletal system. If we consider that giant dogs even exceed 45 kg, we will easily understand how important it is that bones and joints must be healthy in order to support the weight of the whole body.

When do the problems start appearing?

san bernardo

First of all, when they exceed the ideal weight the legs are no longer able to work well, experiencing a strong weakening, which progressively leads to the appearance of osteoarticular disorders, first of all the hip dysplasia.

Another important factor, which often is not taken into consideration by the owners, concerns the growth rate of the puppies. These dog breeds grow with impressive speed, quickly multiplying their size. Some studies have even shown that whilst a small breed dogs growth begins to slow down once it reaches 4 months of age, larger dogs can continue to "rise" even beyond 9 months of age. In particular, the long bones of the legs are those that stop stretching not before the dog is at least one year old.

In fact, for these dogs, the growth period - equivalent to our puberty - can even end up to 24 months of age, compared to 10-12 months for smaller dogs.

If the puppy's diet intake is too high, it only accelerates and intensifies the exuberant growth process even more.

The ideal diet

The home diet for large and giant dogs must take into account all the factors we have just mentioned.
pastore tedesco mangia croccantini

In particular, as regards to the rate of growth in the first months of life, it is very important to provide the animal with a controlled calorie intake. This means that by supercharging the puppy within the first year of life, we would meet both an overweight problem and disproportionate growth.

Therefore, the food must not simply be "light", with low fat, but must also be able to provide quality and highly digestible proteins.

In addition, one must also think about the health of bones and joints. Most of the specific foods on the market have a balanced integration of calcium, phosphorus, copper and zinc, all essential minerals for the skeletal system. However, contrary to popular belief, excess calcium in the diet can create serious problems, especially in dogs of this size. Reading the food labels, we should look for a percentage that does not exceed 1.2%. Furthermore, it is essential that calcium is present in equilibrium with phosphorus, in a ratio of about 1: 1. An integration with glucosamine and codroitin sulfate can be an excellent solution to support the joints.


immagine Le intolleranze e le allergie alimentari nel cane e nel gatto

Food intolerances and allergies in dogs and cats

Food intolerances and allergies are one of the most common diagnosis in our animal. Let’s further investigate what are they, how they show up and what are the remedies.

immagine L’alimentazione corretta per i cani di piccola taglia

The correct nutrition for small dogs

 Do you know that the right diet must also take into account the size of the animal? For this reason, the most important companies in the dog feeding sector are developing feed specifically designed for small dogs and toy size.

What do small dogs need?

For us humans the difference is not easy to see, considering that, apart from some small variations in height and physical appearance, it is rare to find very tall and very short people. In the world of dogs, however, all this is really common. Each breed or cross, in fact, has approximately a precise size, which allows us to distinguish between:

  • Toy breeds: these are the classic "handbag" dogs, weighing no more than 4 kg;
  • Small or mini size: dogs of “contained” size, between 4 and 10 kg in weight (Pekingese, Shih Tzu, Yorkshire Terrier, Pug, French Bulldog and many others);
  • Medium size: dogs with an intermediate size, weighing 11-25 kg (Beagle, Cocker Spaniel, Bulldog, Chow Chow, Shar Pei, Schnauzer and most hounds);
  • Large size: between 26 and 44 kg in weight (Boxer, Dobermann, Labrador, German Shepherd, Basset Hound, Golden Retriever, Dalmatian, for example);
  • Giant size: really very large dogs, with a weight exceeding 44 kg (Great Dane, Cane Corso, Bernese Mountain Dog, Neapolitan Mastiff).

As for toy and mini breed dogs, thanks to their small size, they can benefit from greater life expectancy than that of large and giant breed dogs. We speak of over 15 years for smaller dogs, compared to 10-12 years for the older ones.

This, however, does not mean that they require less care. Conversely, some health problems may appear more frequently in some dog sizes than others. In particular, in the field of toy and mini dogs, we find:

  • cane obeso sovrappeso dieta piccola tagliaFree radicals: a long life exposes even more to the risk of attack by free radicals, which we have all heard of above all through the advertisements of anti-wrinkle creams. In reality, free radicals act by damaging the cells, especially beyond a certain age, determining not only the aging of the skin, but also of the other tissues and organs;

  • Delicate teeth and gums: small breed dogs often have irregular teeth, as it happens especially for Pugs and Pekingese. This determines an accumulation of food residues in the spaces between the teeth, leading over time to the formation of plaque and tartar, the number one enemies of the health of teeth and gums. In addition to increasing the risk of caries and gum infections, this problem often also involves bad breath, which in some cases can become really annoying because of the bad smell that comes from the dog's mouth;
  • Overweight and obesity: smaller dogs have a higher metabolism than larger dogs. This means that they need more calories - or energy - to carry out daily activities. However, if on the one hand this amount of energy obtained through food is fundamental for the correct functioning of the body, on the other hand it also depends on how much is actually consumed through physical activity. When the intake of calories exceeds consumption, we come across overweight and obesity, with the related health risks;
  •  Small stomach: these dogs have small dimensions not only on the outside, but also on the inside. Even their organs, in fact, are smaller, starting from the stomach, which does not have the same filling capacity as other bigger dogs.
  • Small mouth: for such a small dog, it can be very difficult to take food from the bowl and nibble on croquettes for large breeds. In addition, the strength of the muscles in the jaws is not particularly developed, so they may also find it difficult to chew harder food;
  • Difficult tastes: dogs are not particularly known for being picky, unlike cats. Some toy and mini breed dogs, however, may exhibit this feature by selecting food based on their preferences.

What does for small dogs include?

Dog food or a balanced home diet for small dogs and toys must absolutely take into consideration all the factors we have just seen.

First of all, the calorie content must be balanced enough to support their high energy metabolism. However, if we talk about hyperactive dogs, accustomed to long walks and wild runs in the garden, we can allow ourselves the maximum dosage. On the other hand, we will have to consider a reduction in the ration for all the small lazy dogs who sleep most of the time.

carlino cane spazzolino alitosi

Due to the size of the stomach, the meal should be divided into small portions to be offered to the dog during the day. The risk of excessive unnecessary eating is around the corner. We might lead to vomiting episodes after eating too much food compared to the capacity of the stomach.

The food for this range of dogs is often enriched with antioxidant substances, very useful for counteracting the effects caused by free radicals on cells. This helps the body to live longer, avoiding tumours, infections and inflammations.

The problem of halitosis appears above all by following a wet diet, that is, with cans and pates. The croquettes, in fact, thanks to their roughness, manage to partially scratch the food residues and the plaque. In these cases, the use of specific products for oral hygiene may still be advisable, following the advice given in this article. In addition, dry foods for small dogs should also have an appropriate size for their mouth, promoting better chewing habits.


immagine Alimentazione casalinga o industriale?

Homemade or industrial food?

One of the most frequent questions that are addressed to the veterinarian concerns the choice between a home or industrial diet, as in wet or dry foods. Let's see the pros and cons of each of these food choices.

Over the years, there has been a great spread of the pet food industry. Croquettes and tins are now part of the daily diet of our animals. In fact, few people prefer to give the dog and cat leftovers from their meals or in some cases "home-made" food cooked especially for them.

All of this has been boosted above all by the growth of food information, starting from veterinarians, up to the commercials that pass before our eyes continuously on television, in newspapers and on the internet.

On the one hand, the spread of pet food has made it possible to prevent and treat some serious problems, which were simply not mentioned before. For example, food allergies now-a-days are one of the most accepted hypotheses underlying many conditions and health problems of our animals. This is why more and more owners are choosing specific foods.

At the same time, especially the owners of a higher age group, the supporters of the home diet or simply those who deal with stray dogs and cats, choose to integrate or completely replace industrial food with homemade food.

We start from a fundamental assumption, which owners do often not take into consideration. Dogs and cats are very different from us. It would seem obvious, but it is often important to reiterate it.

Their digestive system, although broadly similar to ours, has substantial differences.

Without going into details, we must take into account the distinction between omnivores and carnivores.

We are omnivorous, so we can eat animal and vegetable origin foods without distinction.

The dog and cat, on the other hand, are carnivores, so their feeding must be based on the consumption of meat and fish. In fact, this restriction currently applies more than anything to cats, which over the centuries have remained faithful to their category of carnivores in the strictest sense.

Dogs, on the other hand, who have always been a man's best friends, have fed on the owners' leftovers for so long that their palate and digestive system have gradually changed to adapt. For this reason, we don’t classify them as omnivores, nor as carnivores, but we say that they represent a category between the two.

Therefore, regardless of which diet you choose, you need to consider these important aspects.

Homemade diet

When we talk about home diet, we must pay close attention to the meaning of this type of diet.

"Homemade", in fact, is not simply everything you boil in a pot or collect from the leftovers of our table. Those who choose a diet of this type do it with great awareness, which is, that dogs and cats have specific and different nutritional needs than ours.

cane seduto a tavola mangia pollo vinoIf we ate unseasoned pasta every day, for example, we would face serious nutritional deficiencies, with strong consequences on our health.

The same thing also applies to our animals.

As for the dog, we must be able to guarantee all the nutrients he needs, through a balanced and well-studied diet. Therefore, we must be able to combine animal proteins, such as meat, fish and eggs, with all the other nutrients such as vegetables and cereals.

In essence, a nice plate of pasta with meat and vegetables can be fine, as long as it is nicely cooked, to encourage the digestion of starches, and unseasoned, at most with a drizzle of raw olive oil after the preparation.

For cats, the situation is more complex, because their diet must be based mainly on meat and fish, possibly supplementing it with cereals or vegetables, (if cat finds them appealing).

The fundamental aspect of all this is that dogs and cats need an appropriate integration of vitamins, mineral salts and amino acids. In cats, this is much more evident, because they are unable to extract vitamin A from food and need constant doses of taurine, an amino acid essential for feline health.

We should also remember that we must absolutely avoid foods that are dangerous for our dog and those that are harmful to our cat.

If we are unable or simply do not have the patience to dose supplements and food rations, we will probably have to rely on pet food.

Pet food

“I would never give my dog ​​any croquettes! Are you not aware that they only contain waste? ". This phrase is typical for home diet supporters.

In reality, those who say it, probably limit themselves to choosing cheap products only, and therefore of very low quality.
gatto mangia umido pet food

It is true that many industrial foods are by no means "rich in meat", as reported on the packaging, and that instead of that “prestigious” meat they talk about it is  slaughterhouse waste. It is also true, however, that if we want a quality product, we will have to pay more.

Some industrial feeds, in fact, are specially designed for all the nutritional needs of dogs and cats. A good or high quality feed actually contains meat or fish, in well balanced doses.

In addition, the croquettes and tins also have the right integration of vitamins, mineral salts and amino acids that must never be lacking in the nutrition of the cat, as well as the dog.

Indeed, pet food advocates focus on animal health. A food that can provide everything the dog or cat needs during the day is comfortable for the owners and healthy for the animal.

In addition to this important point, we must also consider the wide range of products on the market. Food for puppies, adults, the elderly, pregnant, sterilized, long-haired, short-haired and obese are up to date and there is no need to even search among the most expensive brands.

If we add the fact that feeds are now also studied to help animals with health problems, the benefits increase. This is how we can offer the right nutritional support to our friend with diabetes, food allergies, kidney problems, intestinal disorders and many other conditions and diseases.

In conclusion, for any diet you decide to go for, it is good to choose with awareness, always keeping into consideration the fact that health is always based on the well-being of the intestine first.


immagine I probiotici per cani e gatti: cosa sono e a cosa servono

Probiotics for cats and dogs: what are they and how do we use them

More and more often, we happen to hear about animal food and supplements, enriched with probiotics. Most of these products are also recommended by veterinarians, especially for dogs and cats that suffer from frequent episodes of diarrhoea or gastrointestinal complaints of various kinds. What are these probiotics and how do they work?

What are probiotics?

When we talk about probiotics we refer to a set of live bacteria that contribute to improving the health of the body, naturally starting from the intestine. They are nothing more than the classic lactic ferments that we hear so much about. The term "probiotic", in fact, derives from the Latin "pro" (in favour of) and from the Greek "bios" (life), so it literally means that its purpose is to improve our life.

stomaco cane gatto batteri fermenti lattici probiotici

Despite the fact that when we hear the word "bacteria", we inevitably think of something terrible, we must bear in mind that not all bacteria are harmful. Some of these, in fact, live without creating problems in our body, especially in the intestine, genital tract, urinary tract and even in our mouth and on the skin. The combination of these microorganisms helps us live better, precisely because they perform so many beneficial functions.

It can happen, that when you are taking antibiotics (in case of vomiting and diarrhoea) or if the immune defences are weaker than usual, that these "good" bacteria are reduced, benefiting the production of other bacteria that instead lead to infections.

This is why often our doctor, as well as the veterinarian for our pet recommend "thickening" the array of "good" bacteria present in our body, precisely taking these probiotics.

The term "probiotic" should not be confused with "prebiotic", which takes on a completely different meaning. In this case, in fact, we refer rather to substances present in foods, which cannot be absorbed by the body, but remain in the intestine to be used by the normal microbial flora, present in the digestive tract of each of us. For example, some substances such as FOS (fruit-oligosaccharides) are prebiotics, among which the most important is certainly inulin, a very useful fibre for the health of the intestine, since it literally nourishes "good" bacteria. Prebiotics (MOS and FOS) support the growth of probiotics.

This is why probiotics are often associated with prebiotics in specific food and supplement formulations. On the one hand, probiotics increase the number of "good" bacteria in our intestines. Prebiotic substances nourish them, to enhance their effectiveness.

What are probiotics used for?

The efficacy of probiotics manifests themselves in several different fronts, such as:

  • They strengthen the intestinal microbial flora;
  • They prevent the increase of "bad" bacteria;
  • The immune defences of the intestine increase;
  • They reduce the effects of inflammation in the stomach and intestines;
  • They check and repair the damage caused to the intestinal cells by inflammation, infections, trauma…

These general effects are therefore associated with a series of fundamental benefits, especially in the presence of certain conditions. In particular, the intake of probiotics is recommended in the case of:

  • Assumption of antibiotics, which can cause diarrhoea;
  • Gastrointestinal infections with vomiting and diarrhoea;
  • Weaning the kitten or puppy;
  • Inflammation of the intestine from stress;
  • Food intolerances and allergies;
  • Flatulence and meteorism;
  • Intestinal parasites

What probiotics should I use on animals?

As always, we must remember that before administering a product for human use to our animals, it is advisable to first hear the opinion of the veterinarian.

In the specific case of probiotics, in fact, not all the bacteria present in our intestine are necessarily present in our pet. Among those that we have in common with our four-legged friends we find above all acidophilic Lactobacilli, but also L. Sporogenes, L. Faecium and L. Rhamnosus, as well as Streptococcus Thermophilus and Enterococcus Faecium.
gatto compresse pillole sciroppo pasta fermenti probiotico

When we speak instead of probiotics intended solely for humans, we refer mainly to bacteria that are not acidophilic, which means that they cannot survive when they are in an environment with a very acidic pH. Our stomach produces a large amount of acidic juices, which bring the pH to very low values. In cats, however, these acids are up to 6 times more numerous than in humans, so imagine what could happen to an acid-sensitive bacterium when it reaches the cat's stomach.

In addition, another important factor to consider is that it can often be more appropriate to administer a powder or liquid probiotic (drops, syrups, suspensions, jellies) rather than tablets, because many bacteria tend to be damaged when pressed or shaken with too much force.

Our four-legged friends, with the passing of the years, can hardly tolerate the lactose present in food, so they can react to the ingestion of this sugar with diarrhea. In the same way, we must also pay attention to the presence of gluten, especially if our dog or cat has an intolerance or a food allergy. If in doubt, we must choose a product that is lactose and gluten free.

Specific probiotics for dogs and cats are always free of contraindications.

The only valid precaution is to avoid administering them to puppies under the age of 3-4 weeks or to animals with serious immunodeficiency, for example cats suffering from IVF, in the acute phase of infection.