Dog Food Nutrition Facts: Fats and Carbohydrates

Analyzing Dog Food – Facts about Fats and Carbohydrates

Why fats are important in dogs’ diet

Dogs love fat in their diet mainly because it adds more taste to the food, besides being very satisfying. But there are more valid reasons for fat’s place in canine diet. Fat is especially necessary for the following:

  • Brain function
  • Kidney function
  • Reproduction
  • Healthy coat
  • Vitamin absorption

Brain and kidney function, reproduction and absorption of vitamins that are fat soluble, as well as the health of the dog’s coat, may suffer if there’s lack of this essential nutrient.

Dog eating

However, many dog owners think they should not include fat in the canine diet. This comes from the belief that low-fat diets are best for people. But it has to be noted here that dogs are not known to develop cardiovascular diseases due to fat consumption. Severe restriction of fat in canine diets, on the other hand, is known to cause many problems such as itching and flaking skin, digestive troubles and listlessness in dogs.

But diets very high in fat can be just as damaging to the dogs. Fat of all types have double the calories of carbohydrates or proteins. The excess calories in the diet can result in obesity in dogs, particularly in house pets that lead a sedentary life compared to their working counterparts. Unless your dog is lactating or participating in high energy sports or activities, you should restrict the fat in their diet to a moderate amount. Special diets with very low fat content may be necessary for obese pets and those with certain medical problems like pancreatitis. However, puppies and pets that are underweight should have higher amounts of fat in their diet though.    

Carbohydrates – Their place in canine diet

Carbohydrates are instant fuel for the dog. They get digested rapidly in their digestive tract to provide glucose that every cell needs for energy. Most whole grain carbohydrates contain other nutrients and fiber too. Good quality carbohydrates form a part of high quality dog foods. They may include cereal grains such as barley, sorghum and millets besides wheat, rice, corn and oats that are more commonly used.

When these carbohydrates in dog foods are limited to small quantities and are not substitutes for protein, it can benefit the dogs. As a matter of fact, given their carnivorous nature, high carbohydrate content in the diet is not exactly suitable for dogs. They need not depend on carbohydrates to meet their energy requirements either, as glucose can be obtained from proteins in their diet through an efficient method of conversion. Compared to those having low to moderate amount of carbohydrates, obesity is more prevalent in dogs on high-carb diets. Besides, excess carbohydrates may cause other digestive troubles such as diarrhea, bloating or gas.  

Dog Food Analysis: What You Need To Know About Carbohydrates and Fat

Fat tastes great to dogs and helps to make meals feel more satisfying.  However the importance of fat goes beyond its palatability.  Fat is an essential nutrient in dog diets.  Dogs need fat for coat health, brain function, reproduction, kidney function, absorption of fat soluble vitamins and other important bodily functions.   Because of the popularity of low fat diets for humans, many dog owners wrongly believe that they need to eliminate fat from their dogs’ diets.  This, however, is not the case.  Unlike humans, dogs do not commonly develop heart disease or other vascular diseases from excess fat intake.  Moreover, dogs unnecessarily fed very low fat diets can develop itchy, flaky skin, become lethargic and dull and have digestive problems.

Like very low fat diets, extremely high fat diets hold peril for the majority of canines.  This is because fat contains more than twice as many calories as protein or carbohydrates.  Since obesity is an epidemic among sedentary house pets, owners need to be careful not to feed high fat diets to their dogs.  Even relatively small amounts of these foods contain too many calories for the average dog.  Most dogs do best on moderate fat diets.  Puppies, high performance dogs, lactating animals and underweight pets, however, may need diets higher in fat and calories than average house pets.  Additionally, obese dogs or dogs with health conditions such as pancreatitis might require special low fat diets.


puppy food

Carbohydrates provide quick fuel in the canine diet.  They are readily broken down by a dog’s digestive system into glucose, the main source of energy for all cells in the body. They also provide essential nutrients and fiber.  For this reason, most good canine diets include a moderate amount of excellent quality carbohydrates.  Some common carbohydrates in dog foods include wheat, corn, millet, rice, oats, sorghum and barley.  As long as these ingredients are fed in small amounts and are not used as cheap protein sources, they can be healthy and beneficial for most dogs.

Although carbohydrates have their place in a balanced canine diet, high carbohydrate diets are less than ideal for most dogs.  Dogs eating diets high in carbohydrates may be more prone to obesity than dogs fed moderate or low carb diets.  Additionally, dogs on high carb diets are more likely to suffer from gas, bloating and diarrhea.  Fortunately, dogs do not need to rely solely on carbohydrates to meet their energy needs.  They can also efficiently convert dietary protein into the glucose their cells need for fuel.