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February 23, 2022

Do Dogs Need Carbohydrates?

  • Nutrition
  • Dog Health
  • Carbohydrates
  • Dog
Grey heeler dog sitting in kitchen with GO! SOLUTIONS CARNIVORE Lamb + Boar Recipe bag and bowl

Although carbohydrates are not considered essential nutrients in dog diets, and are often mistaken as “filler” ingredients, they are important in providing a readily available, highly digestible, source of energy. This energy can help fuel your furry friend’s fun game of catch, long walk around the park, or random burst of the “zoomies” around the house.

What Are Carbohydrates?

Carbohydrates are one of the three macronutrients that make up your pet’s food ingredients, along with fats and proteins. carbohydrates are an important category of ingredients which contain fibre, starches, and any essential nutrients

How Do Carbohydrate’s Work?

Numerous nutritional benefits have been associated with providing dogs with carbohydrates. For example, carbohydrates are a highly digestible and readily available source of energy. This means that more of the protein from your dog’s diet can be used for producing and maintaining body tissue, rather than energy production.

It’s All About Balance!

Your dog’s diet contains a balance of all three macronutrients. As a result, if the amount of carbohydrate decreases, the amount of fat and/or protein must increase in response. For this reason, including carbohydrates in your pet’s diet allows for more flexibility when creating recipes with different nutrient values. This could be especially beneficial in pets with certain health conditions that alter their nutrient requirements. For example, dogs with obesity issues can benefit from a diet lower in fat. Carbohydrates can help reduce the amount of protein while still providing your pup with enough energy!

Types of Carbohydrates

Carbohydrates can be classified as simple or complex, depending on their chemical structure and how quickly they can be digested by the body. Simple carbohydrates are easily digested and absorbed, contributing to the energy density, whereas complex carbohydrates are important sources of essential nutrients. Because they are more complex, it takes longer for the body to break them down and therefore they are less likely to cause quick spikes in blood sugar.

Complex carbohydrates have been studied in humans to improve digestion, prevent obesity, gastrointestinal cancers, and maintain blood sugar levels. Therefore, too many carbohydrates have been documented to contribute to weight gain – but does this mean your furry friend should avoid carbohydrates? Pawsitively not!

Carbohydrates Aren’t Bad!

It is commonly believed that consuming too many carbohydrates contributes to weight gain, however, it is the amount of energy versus the amount of energy consumed that makes pets gain weight. If your pet is consuming more energy than they are expending, this energy will be stored as fat, leading to weight gain.

Dietary carbohydrates provide less than half the amount of fat and the same amount of energy as protein, making it a relatively low energy nutrient, important for weight management.
Taylor RichardsMSc Student

Dietary fibre is a unique type of carbohydrate that cannot be digested by dogs, and therefore provides almost no energy. As a result, fibre can help reduce caloric intake, in addition to supporting digestive health.

Carbohydrates also provide functional benefits in pet foods. Carbohydrate content, specifically the starch component, play a large role in determining the shape, texture, and density of a kibble. Carbohydrates also improve the texture of wet food, which affects palatability of a diet, which is especially important in small breed dogs. For example, our Go! Solutions Wet Food Recipes in Tetra Pak Cartons for dogs have an irresistible shredded texture that your dog will go MUTTS over!

Grains are a common source of carbohydrates in dog foods.

Examples of grains include:

  • Oats
  • Barley
  • Rye
  • Corn
  • Rice
  • Wheat

There are also many great non-grain, complex carbohydrate sources for your dog.

Non-grain carbohydrate sources include:

  • Pulses (peas, lentils, beans, chickpeas)
  • Potatoes
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Tapioca

If you are interested in providing your dog with a healthy grain-filled diet, our Go! Solutions Skin + Coat Care Recipes for dogs maybe a paw-some option!

So, the next time you are playing fetch, or hiking with your furry friend, think about all the carbohydrates providing them with ENERGY!


Author icon

Taylor Richards

PhD Student - Companion Animal Nutrition

Taylor received her BSc in Honours Animal Biology, with a minor in Nutrition and Nutraceuticals, at the University of Guelph. She is currently completing her PhD in Companion Animal Nutrition in the Department of Animal Biosciences, also at the University of Guelph.