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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.
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.
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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