Carbohydrates play important roles in your dog’s body. Even though dietary carbohydrates are not considered essential nutrients for dogs, and are often mistakenly considered fillers, carbohydrates are important for providing a highly digestible, readily available energy source.
How Carbohydrates Work
During digestion carbohydrates are broken down to glucose, the preferred source of energy for certain body cells, including the brain. In healthy pets, blood glucose levels are very tightly controlled to ensure that a readily available supply of glucose is always available for body cells. If dietary carbohydrates are not provided as a source of glucose, the body will make glucose from other substrates, such as protein. Consuming carbohydrate in the diet allows protein to be spared for producing and maintaining body tissue, rather than being used for energy production.
It’s All About Balance
All dog foods contain a balance of carbohydrate, fat and protein. If one of these nutrients is decreased in a food, the levels of one or both of the other nutrients must increase.
Therefore, including carbohydrates in a pet food recipe allows for more flexibility to create recipes with different nutrient values. This is important for animals requiring less protein or fat in the diet, or for pets requiring specific mineral levels due to a health condition.
For example, some high protein ingredients are also rich in phosphorus. Thus, to control phosphorus levels, such as in diets intended for dogs with kidney disease, carbohydrates may need to replace some of the protein.
Carbohydrates Aren’t Bad!
There is a common myth that carbohydrates make pets (and humans) fat. However, it is the amount of energy consumed versus energy used that contributes to weight gain. Dietary carbohydrates provide the same amount of energy as protein and less than half of the amount as fat. Thus, as a relatively low energy nutrient, carbohydrates play a role in weight management. In addition, dietary fibre is a unique type of carbohydrate that dogs cannot digest. Because it is not digested, fibre provides almost no energy, so it can help reduce the number of calories consumed. It also helps support digestive health and aids in blood glucose control.
Carbohydrates also provide functional benefits in pet foods.
The shape, texture and density of kibble is dependent on the carbohydrate (starch) content of the food.
Carbohydrate also improves the texture of wet (canned or Tetra Pak) foods. This is very important, as mouth feel affects palatability, which is especially important for small breed dogs.
Grains are a common source of carbohydrates in dog foods. Examples of grains include oats, barley, rye, corn, rice and wheat. Non-grain carbohydrate sources include pulses (peas, lentils, beans, chickpeas), potato, sweet potato and tapioca.
More questions about carbohydrates? Call our Health and Nutrition Specialists at 1-866-864-6112.
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