Carbohydrates in Dog Food.

Carbohydrates in Dog Food.

Carbohydrates in Dog Food

One of the most important reasons for carbohydrates in a dog’s diet is to supply energy.

Carbohydrates are needed in a dog’s daily diet as they provide energy in the form of glucose and are a main source of dietary fiber. The body craves glucose, and if it is not available with carbohydrates, then it will take amino acids away from other processes in the body.

Carbohydrates also:

Generate heat in the body

Form the base for other nutrients

Can be converted into fat (some carbohydrates)

Growing animals and dogs that have high-energy needs should be fed a diet with at least 20% carbohydrates.

Fiber From Carbohydrates

Fiber, a form of carbohydrate, is very important for a dog’s normal gastrointestinal function and health. It keeps the colon healthy along with the microbes of the gut.

The measure of fiber is reported as crude fiber (the insoluble portions). Total dietary fiber is composed of both soluble and insoluble fibers.

Soluble Fiber

Soluble fiber retains water and generally makes a dog’s feces softer.

Common sources of soluble fiber are fruits and gums (gums also improve canned food texture). Gum is a term used for a group of viscous and sticky polysaccharides found in seeds and plants.

Many soluble fibers are also fermentable. Fermentable fibers can be used by a dog’s normal gut bacteria as an energy source. and They also produce short-chain fatty acids that can be used by cells in the intestines as an energy source (called prebiotics).

Insoluble Fiber

Insoluble fiber comes from grains in a dog’s diet. It generally increases fecal bulk but does not soften feces as it cannot absorb water. It is added in the form of cellulose.

Many fiber types used for supplementation are mixed fibers with mostly soluble fiber characteristics. High-fiber diets are sometimes used to manage medical diseases such as diabetes mellitus, as well as certain gastrointestinal conditions and weight management.

Sources of Carbohydrates
Carbohydrates can be broken down into three groups:

Simple sugars



All three play a crucial role in the daily diet of dogs.

Polysaccharides, also known as complex carbohydrates, can be further defined based on how they are digested in the body. Sugars can be found in fruits and honey. Corn, wheat, rice, barley, oats, and potatoes are all good sources of starch (a polysaccharide) for dogs.

Depending on the level of digestibility (slow, moderate, or fast), wheat bran, rice bran, apples, and guar gum are good sources of starch for dogs. For a healthy dog, there is no such thing as a bad source of carbohydrates, but you can define them based on how they are digested in your dog’s body.

The glycemic index ranks dietary carbohydrates based on how they affect the blood sugar (glucose). Carbohydrates that are lower on the index are considered for dogs that have glucose intolerance and may be used in certain medical conditions. There are a small number of clinical diseases that can be managed with these diets.

As always, these diets should only be used under the guidance of a board-certified veterinary nutritionist or your primary care veterinarian. If you are considering a nontraditional diet for your dog that is limited ingredient or without carbohydrates, it is very important that you speak with your primary care veterinarian or a board-certified veterinary nutritionist to determine what diet is best for your dog’s individual needs.

Many of these diets are used during food trials, but due to potential health risks should be used under the direct supervision of your primary care veterinarian or a board-certified veterinary nutritionist.

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