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Do Dogs Require Carbohydrates In Their Diet?

All dogs have been bred from their ancestral forbearers - wolves.  In fact in 2013 there were 339 recognized breeds of dogs which are divided into 10 groups based upon the dog's purpose or function, or upon its appearance or size. One physical aspect of a dog that has not changed is the digestive system they inherited from those early carnivores who hunted their own food.

All dogs, as their ancestors yet do today in the wild, produce energy from the proteins and fats they consume. That is why today most all dog foods ingredients begin with meat. This alone is a topic for discussion as many dog food producers add the weight of the meat to the list of ingredients before it is processed making meat the #1 ingredient. But the weight of the meat that is listed as the main #1 ingredient is reduced by as much as 70% - 80% after the water in the meat is cooked off during processing.  But we’ll cover that at another time.

Dogs, as their ancestors, only need 7% - 14% carbohydrates in their daily diet.  Yet some dog foods have a carbohydrate content of 40% to 70%. Why? Carbohydrates are far less expensive per calorie than calories derived from the protein or fat of meat products. So typically dog foods that are high in carbohydrates often have lesser amounts of whole meats and meat products such as meat meal. These added carbs might help your dog meet the daily energy levels needed to survive and be active.  But will your dog thrive, be healthy, and maintain proper energy levels from that as a puppy to becoming a senior dog on calories derived from carbohydrates?

Carbs in dog food is generally: barley (pearled), oats (or whole oats), Brown rice, whole wheat, whole corn, Potato (or sweet potato), Millet, and gluten. So what are the benefits of carbohydrates being added to dog food? Well it’s not really for the benefit of your dog although it does help to provide a source of energy. But for the dog food itself, carbohydrates are much cheaper than meat per calorie count.  They are essential in binding together the bite size kibbles which have become standard in most all dog food production. Plus the more carbohydrates added to a dog food helps prolong the shelf life of a bag of dog food.

So why should we be concerned about the amount of carbohydrates found in the food we feed our dogs? If you have an active dog that burns up a lot of energy, a limited amount of carbohydrates in their diet is generally fine. But if you have a less active dog, high concentrations of carbs can lead to over-weight or obesity. High amounts of carbohydrates can reduce a dog’s ability to absorb vitamin C.  And since carbohydrates are converted to sugar in a dog’s digestive system it can also lead to diabetes, or many other health issues.

So there are no real benefits for your dog as to the carbohydrates added to dog food? But it’s not that the carbs are bad for a dog as it does provide an added source of energy to their diet. The problem is the quantity of carbohydrates that are in the food you feed your dog. As for how much carbohydrates are acceptable in your dog’s food is a matter of how active or in-active your dog is, as well as your dog’s age.  For an active adult dog a moderate percentage of carbohydrates are acceptable.

The bottom line would be more calories from meats and fats and less from carbohydrates for a healthier dog.

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