• Michelle Chen
  • Dog Nutrition and Member Service Specialist

  • 3 mins read time
  • Larch: The Best Kind of Natural Fiber to Boost Your Dog’s Gut Health

    Larch Arabinogalactan is a safe, effective and natural prebiotic that benefits your dog by supporting gastrointestinal and immune health. This FDA-approved prebiotic helps stimulate growth and activity of beneficial bacteria, leading to a balanced gut flora to ease food transitions and upset tummies. Its highly digestible fiber content helps with loose stool, constipation, and it is also great for keeping our dog’s anal glands healthy (especially for raw-fed dogs since the lack of fiber in their diet can lead to stools that are too small to express their glands). But what is it exactly and why should you use it? 

    First, a prebiotic is just dietary fiber which acts as “food” for probiotics or “good bacteria” by naturally fermenting as it’s being digested. But there are two types of fiber, soluble and insoluble and it’s important to distinguish the two. Prebiotics are soluble fiber.

    What makes Larch gentle on the digestive system is that it’s a soluble fiber similar to inulin from chicory root (found in many pet foods). Other food sources of soluble fiber include sweet potatoes, pears, and avocados! Soluble fiber dissolves in water and forms a gel like oats and chia seeds. It can firm up stool and because of it’s gel-like consistency, it can help constipated dogs pass stool easier. This is different from insoluble fiber like whole wheat. Insoluble fiber is NOT a prebiotic because it DOESN’T ferment. Insoluble fiber is indigestible, it stays the same coming in and going out. This is why dogs with high fiber diets have bulkier stools.

    This supplement is made from the Western Larch tree, a pine tree native to North America which is also a renewable resource! The Larch tree contains the highest concentration of Arabinogalactan, a fancy name for a type of polysaccharide sugar that forms non-starch fiber. This type of fiber is also found in many plants such as carrots, apples, and corn in small amounts. But our dogs would have to consume over a pound of these fruits and veggies a day to get an effective serving! That’s why many studies use Arabinogalactan from Larch to examine its unique beneficial properties. 

    Larch is very safe and has been widely studied and used to treat healthy and sick individuals for nutrition and medicine because of its unique immune-boosting properties. In addition to its use as a dietary fiber, it can also increase the activity of immune cells such as natural-killer cells (NK) and block tumor cell growth in the liver in humans. There are fewer studies in dogs but this study shows increase count for some immune cells such as white blood cells specifically in dogs, which can lead to a more responsive immune system to help with allergies, inflammation, and infection! Soluble fiber like Arabinogalactan has been shown to also lower glycemic index in both humans and dogs and lower cholesterol in humans

    This is good news since many pet parents haven’t had success with powdered probiotics (adding commercial, packaged “good bacteria” to the diet). In fact, studies have shown that probiotic supplements have misleading and incorrect labelling on their amount and efficacy. Generally, probiotics aren’t as beneficial in healthy individuals and dogs benefit more from dog-specific probiotic strains. Most probiotic products are a mix of strains, and these strains may not all be the most effective for our dogs. Probiotics are still important and beneficial, but it’s best to go with a fresh source to ensure that they are live, a reputable product that proves it has an accurate amount of probiotics (CFU or colony formint units) and if possible, a canine-specific probiotic. Prebiotics can be a better option because they help to improve your dog’s OWN beneficial bacteria by rebalancing the gut. 

    Because of its gut and immune boosting properties, Larch prebiotics will make a great addition to your pup’s diet. Use Larch for:

    1. Introducing new types of foods like a new chew
    2. Food and dietary transitions
    3. Rebalancing the gut after an upset tummy
    4. Keeping the colon regular
    5. Firming loose stool by absorbing excess water and adding bulk
    6. Ease constipation by helping stool pass easier
    7. Preventing blocked anal glands (common in diets with little fiber or in overweight dogs)
    8. Maintaining a healthy immune system and to help prevent illness

    Larch comes in a loose or capsuled powder form, making it easy to sprinkle or mix into your dog’s food. For dosing, follow the instructions depending on the product. For best therapeutic results, include live probiotics from fresh sources like raw goat’s milk or kefir for the Larch to provide food to! Since Larch is an immune-boosting supplement, it’s recommended to give your dog a break from them from time to time. For example, you can feed larch for 2 months then take a break from it for 2 weeks.

    As with all supplements, especially digestive aids and added fiber, make sure to introduce by adding small amounts over a longer period of time (7-10 days) while monitoring stool to allow gut bacteria to adjust to diet changes. Since Larch is a soluble fiber, it won’t interfere with drug or nutrient absorption but some products will also include insoluble fiber (like cellulose) which will affect absorption. Although soluble fiber is generally safer with less side effects than insoluble fiber, always consult with your veterinarian if your dog has health issues before adding supplements to their diet. Side effects from overdosing are mild such as gassiness.

    A healthy digestive system makes a healthy dog. Digestive care is so important because the system is home to the largest number of immune cells in the body, making it responsible for our dog’s ability to fight off illness. But tummy issues such as loose stools, constipation, vomiting, and gas are such a common complaint among dog owners that it’s no surprise that probiotics are a staple in many pet pantries. Plus, many commercial pet foods add probiotics in their formula but not in enough amounts and the high temperature extrusion process or high pressure processing (HPP) ends up killing and rendering them useless. Unfortunately, effective live probiotics are difficult to keep shelf stable. Instead, prebiotics which is soluble fiber can be a better and more successful digestive aid option. Larch, with its many beneficial properties can help to keep your dog’s own probiotics healthy or boost up added probiotics in their diet!