Dietary fibres and prebiotics belong to the plant fibres. These are the structural elements of plants, more precisely the cell wall components (crude fibre fraction). They mainly include celluloses, hemicelluloses and pectins, which can only be broken down by the microorganisms (bacteria) of the intestinal flora due to the β-glycosidic bond. The end products are lactate, short-chain fatty acids (acetic acid, butyric acid, propionic acid), CO2 and methane. The speed of the degradation process depends on the type of fibre, and a distinction is made between slowly and rapidly fermentable fibres. Cellulose and psyllium husks, for example, are hardly fermented at all in dogs and cats (due to the shorter intestinal passage compared to herbivores) and are therefore mainly used as dietary fibre. They therefore primarily stimulate the intestinal function and are good fillers. In addition, they have a high water-binding capacity and thus contribute to improving the consistency of the faeces.
Cellulose and Indianpsyllium can also be used symptomatically for constipation, diarrhoea or poor faecal consistency (e.g. colon irritabile). This applies equally to ready-made feed as well as home-made rations. Both are also excellently suited as supplements to low-fibre rations, e.g. elimination diets. Cellulose and psyllium are neutral in taste and smell and can be used in a daily dosage of 0.5 - 1 g/kg bw. The amount should be increased slowly at first and distributed evenly over the individual meals to give the intestinal flora time to get used to it. Depending on the amount, the amount of faeces may increase. Cellulose can be added directly to the wet feed or mixed with a little water, psyllium should always be pre-swollen with sufficient liquid.
Pectins, fructo- and mannan-oligosaccharides (FOS, MOS), inulin belong to the rapidly fermentable fibres and therefore predominantly assume a function as a nutrient for the good intestinal bacteria (= prebiotic) or serve to acidify the intestinal circulation to reduce the ammonia load in liver dietetics. The butyric acid produced during fermentation is also the main source of energy for the cells of the intestinal mucosa.
Prebiotics are naturally found in various plants, such as apples, carrots, chicory, bananas, pomace, soy hulls or beet pulp, which are often used in ready-to-eat feeds along with FOS and MOS.
Prebiotics are only metabolised by the "good" bacteria = probiotics (e.g. Bacteroides, Bifidobacteria, Lactobacilli, Streptococcus faecalis), while the "bad" bacteria metabolise them poorly (e.g. Staphylococcus aureus, E. coli) or even not at all (e.g. Proteus ssp., Salmonella, Shigella). A daily dosage of 0.5 - 1 g per kilo of body weight is recommended. Here, too, the amount should be increased slowly at the beginning and distributed over the meals.
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