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essential nutrition advice for your pet.

Carbohydrates: Key to a Balanced Dog Food

The Energetic, Unsung Hero

When comparing dog food options, there are many thoughts to keep in mind. There are numerous ingredients that are necessary to make a quality dog food, and here we will focus on just one category — carbohydrates. Carbohydrates typically make up anywhere from 30-70% of a dry dog food. They come from plants and grains and provide energy in the form of sugars. Carbohydrates have several important functions in a dog food.

Provide Energy

The most important function of carbohydrates is to provide adequate energy. Dogs are able to convert certain carbohydrate sources into simple sugars that are easily absorbed. Carbohydrates are broken down in the small intestine into glucose molecules. Glucose is the energy source that can be used by the majority of body cells. Glucose is required by the body as quick energy, and is also needed by the brain and nervous system for normal function.

Create Structure and Texture

Carbohydrates provide each of the dry kibbles with its structure and texture, allowing the food to be stored on the shelf for some time, and making it easier for the dog to eat. Starchy carbohydrates keep the animal from being hungry. This is because the fiber in some carbohydrate sources helps fill the stomach. The rough kibble surface also helps abrade the surface of the teeth, which reduces the amount of potential tartar build-up.

Beneficial Fiber

Fiber comes from grains and plants such as oat bran, the hulls of brown rice, beet pulp, pectin, and peanut hulls. Fiber resists breakdown in the small intestine, but some is fermented in the large intestine, helping regulate bacteria in the colon. Fiber is not a required nutrient for dogs, but it is included in most dog foods because it helps with weight control, colon health, digestion, and controlling blood sugar levels.

Where do Carbs Come From?

Common carbohydrate sources in dog foods are typically cereal grains. These grains must be ground up or cooked just enough to allow for the animal’s intestine to absorb it easily. This also helps improve the taste of the raw ingredients. Common carbohydrate sources will usually be listed in the first few ingredients on the bag of dog food and include: barley, oats, brown rice, whole wheat, whole corn, and potato (or sweet potato).

It's All in the Name

Good quality carbohydrate sources will usually include the word “whole” in the name, letting you know that this product provides important nutrients and fiber. This word indicates that the ingredient has been minimally processed and retains more of its nutrients and fiber. By taking the time to read the label and search for the key ingredients needed for a healthy and balanced diet, you will make sure to keep your dog energized and satisfied every day.

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  • Dog Food
    11/09/2012 08:54pm

    I love your site and find the contributing Vets very informative. It's a shame though that one of your sponsors is Hill's. Their dog food has been rated poor by Dog Food Advisor, Truth About Petfood and Dr. Lisa Pierson.

    I wouldn't recommend Hills food to anyone and would not feed it to my dogs. Otherwise, keep up the great work informing us.

  • 05/03/2014 08:16pm

    Hello, I agree with you about Hills. Everything my Vet told me to give my darling Diabetic (recently diagnosed with diabetes)
    Hills Rx W/D canned and Kibbles has made her sick. She will not eat W/D so I switched to Royal Canin Diabetic and she will eat some. I have looked at dozens of pet foods and they all have ingreedience that are not healthy. So I went back to preparing her meals most times.

  • Good to know...
    07/03/2014 09:36pm

    As a new dog owner, I'm grateful to know that Hills pet food is not something to purchase. Thankfully, my little pup prefers Iams. A piece of advice given to me by a pet store employee was to look at the first 5 ingredients of the dog food. If the ingredients are recognizable and are more natural, then there's a good chance that the dog food is of a higher quality.

    I'm also grateful to know that I'm doing good in what I feed my pet. Even though she likes Iams (the wet food, not the pate or dry kibble), I always add extra veggies and rice to it to give her a more balanced meal since the food is mostly meat. Knowing that she can consume oats means that the next time I make oatmeal cookies from scratch, I can give her a small cookie (without the raisins of course) for an occasional treat.

    She's a beautiful, healthy, and energetic little pup, and I'm glad to know that I'm doing right by her as far as her nutrition is concerned.