If you own a dog at home, you may have realized by now that it can eat almost anything you serve it with – from protein-based, plant-based, or even carbohydrate diet. Dogs seem to have the stomach for anything edible. Contrary to what a lot of people think, dogs are not carnivores – at least, not in the truest sense of the term. Dogs do need meat and protein in their diet. But, unlike cats, for example, they can do very well on other types of diet also. Now, with the significant increase in the number of dog food brands that are opting for grain-free recipes, most dog owners are beginning to conclude that carbohydrates should either not form a part of a dog’s diet or should only form an insignificantly small part. Others think otherwise. This has led to the simple question; do dogs need carbohydrates? In this article, we will explore the importance of carbohydrates (if there are any) in a dog’s diet as we attempt to provide a final answer to the question. So, are you ready for an informative read? Good.
Do Dogs Truly Need Carbohydrates?
Before can we answer this question conclusively, we need to take a comprehensive look at what carbohydrate is in relation to dogs. Dogs make use of carbs as a good source of glucose. Glucose stored helps to fuel a dog’s body with instant energy. Aside from that, when glucose becomes metabolized, it is also a good source of heat. Glucose can also be used as the base for the building up of several important nutrients that a dog’s body needs. Carbohydrates can be separated into two different types – complex and simple carbohydrates.
Complex carbohydrates take a longer time to be digested by a dog’s digestive system as compared to the simple ones. Complex carbs can further be separated into two categories – fiber and starch. Before starch can be broken down by your dog’s digestive system, it needs the assistance of special enzymes that are secreted by the pancreas and walls of the small intestines. This is done before the carbs can be utilized by a dog’s body. Carbohydrate is usually found in grains, beans, peas, potatoes, as well as some vegetables. When it comes to fibers, they cannot be digested by enzymes. Instead, they are fermented in the intestines by certain intestinal microbes. Only plant foods contain fiber.
The most common type of carbs that are added to dog foods includes some types of vegetables, grains, and some root-based foods. Most dog foods also contain whole grains such as barley, brown rice, cornmeal, oatmeal, rye, wheat, millet, and so on. These are excellent sources of carbohydrates.
So, back to the question, do dogs need carbohydrates. The simple answer is no. Carbohydrates are not an essential part of a dog’s diet. A dog’s body has no need for dietary carbs. Most often, a simple diet that is rich in protein and even fat is more than enough nutrition for dogs. So, you may be wondering why a lot of dog foods contain carbs. Well, the answer is simply because carbs are available and offer a cheaper option. Plus, we have already indicated that dogs can digest basically anything. Thus, although they are not a necessity, carbohydrates are increasingly becoming a part of a dog’s diet. So much so that carbs are found in almost every dog food. Hence, the next question.
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What Percent Of Carbohydrates Does A Dog Need?
Some dog food recipes come with as much as fifty percent carbohydrates. Others contain no more than ten percent. Considering the fact that carbohydrates are not nutritionally important for a dog, how much of it is too much? For many veterinarians and animal food nutritionists, a dog does not need more than ten percent of carbohydrates in its diet. This includes both easily-digested carbs as well as carbs that slowly ferment.
Although a dog’s metabolism can digest almost anything, feeding it with excess carbs and fiber can result in rather undesirable effects. For example, there some types of fibers that can actually slow down the absorption of some essential minerals. Also, some fibers that ferment quickly have the tendency to significantly reduce the availability of important minerals. According to some nutritionists, the extra fiber present in a dog’s metabolism can end up diluting the amount of energy and nutrients to the extent that it will be difficult for a dog to eat enough of the food to make up for the lost nutrients.
Carbs For Homemade Dog Food
So far, we have focused only on carbs that come with ready-made dog kibble. So, let us shift our attention to the food dog owners prepare at home for their fur buddies. To repeat, it is not a bad idea to add some carbohydrate sources to your dog’s food. However, it is important not to overdo it. Carbohydrates do play some roles in your dog’s health. For example, carbs provide a source of energy that is readily available to burn. Humans digest carbs in the mouth. But dogs rely on their small intestines for that function.
Since carbohydrates offer a very versatile base to try out different homemade dog food recipes, what are the best carbs for homemade dog food? There are several sources of carbs you can add to your homemade dog food. These include; sweet potato, barley, whole corn, whole oats, whole wheat, and brown rice. Thus, the most common sources of carbs you can use at home for your dog’s food will be from cereal grain. This, of course, is with the exception of sweet potato. However, it is important to note that before you can feed any of the grains to your dog, you must make sure that you either grind them or cook them first. This is because a dog’s digestive system is shorter than that of humans and, therefore, will not be able to digest and absorb whole and raw grains. When they ground or cooked, it makes it possible for the dog’s small intestines to absorb and digest them easily. Always remember that when purchasing grains, make sure you opt for whole grains as this will contain the important nutrients and fiber that your dog’s metabolism can use.
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Carbs For Dogs With Allergies
There are some dogs and breed of dogs that have allergic reactions to certain ingredients in dog food. It is important to take such cases into consideration also as we tackle this carbs topic. Is it safe to add certain sources of carbs to your dog’s diet when you know that it has some allergies? If it is, what sources of carbs are safe? First of all, before we delve into the answer, you must be sure of what types of grains or sources of carbs your dog is allergic to. If your dog is allergic to any form of carbs, then it is best to keep them away from your fur buddy. However, your dog has other allergies, then that is a different matter.
Typically, dogs with allergies react to food with protein – whether plant-based or animal-based. If your dog is allergic to animal-based protein, carbs from whole grains and sweet potato may be safe. But if your dog is allergic to both plant-based and animal-based protein, then do not take any risks. The best thing to do is to have the input of a veterinarian nutritionist. This is because your vet nutritionist will be better placed to access the exact allergies your dog has and the right options for it. It is not advisable to take chances with your dog when it has allergies, as some allergies may be fatal.
Carbs For Dogs On Raw Diet
Mot dog owners add a lot of vegetables, fruits, and grains to the diet of their dogs. This helps to cut down the cost of feeding your dog a raw diet. However, how safe is this? As much as carbs are a good source of instant energy, there some downsides you should take into consideration. For example, as carbohydrate breaks down sugar, it can put a dog at risk of sugar-related sicknesses. That notwithstanding, unless your dog is allergic to some sources of carbohydrates or struggling with insulin release and indigestion, it is safe to feed only a minimum amount of carb sources such as sweet potato, barley, whole corn, whole oats, whole wheat, and brown rice to your dog. However, it is important not to make these a major part of your dog’s diet. Focus instead on raw meat, or freeze dried dog food. As mentioned earlier, dogs derive all the essential nutrients they need from protein and fat.
In conclusion, dogs do not need carbohydrates. Carbs are an excellent source of readily-available energy. But when it comes to a dog’s nutritional needs, protein and fat are enough. If you want to add carbs to your dog’s diet, make sure that it forms not more than ten percent. The same rule of thumb applies to dogs on a raw diet. Also, be sure that your dog does not have any allergic reaction to any carb food. Otherwise, consult your vet nutritionist for the diet best-suited to your dog.
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- Alexandra Rankovic, MSc, Role of Carbohydrates in the Health of Dogs, American Veterinary Medical Association
- John Hilton, Carbohydrates in he Nutrition of the Dog, National Center for Biotechnology Information
- Goce Cilev, Zhivko Gacovski, Comparative Analisys Of Dogs Nutrition With Dehydrated Food Without Additives And Those With Additives (carbohydrates And Calcium), Science & Technologies
- Lisa Rodier, Carbohydrates and Your Dog’s Digestive System, Whole Dog Journal